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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 10:44 GMT
Rhino ready to roar
By Sanjeev Shetty

Following his battering at the hands of Lennox Lewis last summer, Mike Tyson desperately needs a convincing victory to repair his image as a ring king.

In fighting Clifford Etienne, a man once floored seven times in a single fight, Tyson's camp have taken what is considered a very small risk.

Even if Tyson is as badly underprepared as reports suggest, he still is heavily favoured to knock out Etienne.

Nicknamed the Black Rhino, the 30-year-old has rebounded from adversity to position himself for what could turn out to be less than 15 minutes of fame.

A native of Lafayette, Louisiana, Etienne claims to have been a talented American footballer who was recruited to play for a number of schools.

Born: 9/2/1972
Record: 24 wins, one defeat, one draw, 17 knockouts
Best wins: Decisions over Lamon Brewster and Lawrence Clay-Bey

While he excelled at basketball and amateur wrestling, Etienne's choice of career became irrelevant at the age of 17 when he was convicted of armed robbery and sentenced to spend 40 years in jail.

Etienne, like many successful boxers before him, found that prison was the making of him - he converted to the Muslim religion and took up boxing.

He served 10 years of his sentence before being released and decided that professional boxing would be his most profitable way to make a living.

In boxing, young prospects gain respect by fighting regularly, facing fellow contenders and pleasing the crowd.

Etienne soon gained a reputation for all three of those qualities.

With a bustling, aggressive style that reminded fans of the legendary Joe Frazier, Etienne won his first 19 contests.

His successes included impressive decision wins over undefeated fighters such as Lamon Brewster and Lawrence Clay-Bey.

But his run, which had taken him from unknown to undefeated contender in three years, ended when he fought another unbeaten fighter, Fres Oquendo.

The Puerto Rican floored Etienne seven times in eight rounds, each time an overhand right doing the damage.

Refusing to accept the defeat as anything other than a temporary setback, Etienne returned to the ring in a quest to improve his understanding of the trade.

A decision win over fringe contender Terence Lewis last year was followed by a hard-fought draw with former Lewis and Tyson victim, South African Francois Botha.

Impossible task

It was the Botha contest which showcased Etienne's strengths and weaknesses - floored twice by right hands, he got up on both occasions and fought back even harder.

Unfortunately for Etienne, Tyson hits much harder than Botha and for that reason, the 'Black Rhino' is a massive underdog for what will be the biggest fight of his career.

Perhaps aware that he needs all the advantages he can get, Etienne has hired Buddy McGirt as his trainer.

McGirt has rapidly emerged as one of the best cornermen in the sport, having changed brawlers such as Arturo Gatti into fluid, stylish boxers.

But it will be an almost impossible task to turn a relatively inexperienced fighter such as Etienne into the moving and jabbing type of fighter that gives Tyson problems.

And Etienne is apparently reluctant to go ahead with the fight after an on-off saga which would test anyone's patience.

As evidenced in his bouts with Oquendo and Botha, Etienne is vulnerable.

But he will not give up without a fight.

Links to more Boxing stories


Tyson sets return date
20 Nov 02 |  Boxing
Etienne issues Tyson challenge
13 Feb 03 |  Boxing

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