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Saturday, 22 January, 2000, 02:22 GMT
Training, preparation and shopping

It may be no Louis versus Schmeling, Ali versus Liston - or Ali versus anyone for that matter.

It is not even of the magnitude of Tyson versus Douglas - but the heavyweight bout between "Iron" Mike and Briton Julius Francis has certainly captured the headlines.

'Your name's not on the list. You're coming in.'

A fortnight before he meets (and presumably beats) his underdog opponent, Mike Tyson flies into Heathrow's Terminal Four.

Despite calls for him to be denied entry, the convicted rapist decided not to cash-in his Concorde ticket.

With the help of Team Tyson - the boxer's 30-strong entourage - and the police, the fighter was whisked through the press maul.

One tabloid journalist was injured during the scrum. At least fight promoter Frank Warren was said to be "delighted" with the welcome.

Tyson pays up: He wood, wooden he?

Refreshed after slumbering in the 750-a-night Grosvenor House Hotel, the former heavyweight champ gets down to business, shopping.

Perhaps hoping to buy his way into the nation's hearts, Tyson hits London's top shops like a one-man Marshall Plan.

One of the luckier recipient's of the pugilist's largesse is artist Willard Wigan.

Some three months in the making, Mr Wigan's 5ft-tall wooden sculpture of "Iron" Mike pleased its subject.

The price tag? A seemingly extravagant 20,000.

Lock down: Tyson has the run of the shops

Perhaps feeling guilty for exercising his credit card more than his body - the day begins with a run.

Those fearing Tyson would repeat his law-breaking ways in the UK are vindicated.

The fighter flouts a Royal Parks regulation by entering Hyde Park in the dead of night.

The possibility of a 200 fine fails to dent his enthusiasm to spend.

After upstaging George Michael at the airport, Tyson is granted a lock-in at Gucci - leaving Spice Girl Mel G to wait in the cold.

"Run, Mike! It's the parkie!"

Doors (and fences) shutting in his face does not chill Tyson's ardour for the UK.

He may be the shopkeeper's best friend, but the royal parkkeepers remain unconvinced.

He is told point blank that his nightly presence in Hyde Park is simply beyond the pale.

Talk of going walkabout in Brixton is also opposed by council bosses in the south London district.

Despite these niggles, the big-hearted big man confides with the press that he would quite fancy living in London full time.

Well, you always say that when you're on holiday, don't you?

"Is it time for my close-up?"

If you thought 20,000 was a lot to spend on souvenirs, you ain't seen nothing yet.

With presumably little to fear from muggers, Tyson concludes his treetrunk wrist is naked without an outrageously (even offensively) expensive timepiece.

Set to earn 5m from his Manchester bout, Tyson takes time out from his feverish preparation to browse one of London's most exclusive jewellers.

It is true that money can't buy you taste. Around 500,000 can get you a fat diamond-studded watch though.

"Mike Tyson has left the building!"

What does Mike Tyson have in common with Muhammad Ali? A reputation as one of sport's great ambassadors?

What does he share with Nelson Mandela? Years of wrongful imprisonment?

Well, all three have at least all visited the vibrant London community of Brixton.

As part of the shamed star's "charm offensive", he defies council chiefs and struts the streets.

Locals welcome the "rude boy" with considerable gusto. Team Tyson heavies and the police provide a protective cordon around his watch.

The fighter is later convinced to withdraw to the safety of a local police station.

Tyson joins the Brixton walkabout club and interrupts a funeral at a London mosque all in a single day.

Ali and Mandela are left playing catch-up.

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See also:
22 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson praised after walkabout
20 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson's heavyweight spending spree
20 Jan 00 |  Sport
Tyson's fight for the right
18 Jan 00 |  UK
Team Tyson: Iron Mike's minions
19 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson runs into fresh trouble
16 Jan 00 |  UK
Tyson flies into Britain

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