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Friday, 31 May, 2002, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Psychology of the big fight
Julius Francis, in training for his fight with Mike Tyson in 2000
Francis has seen Lewis at close range

If all boxers were forced to wear medallions with their shorts, shoes and gloves, there may not be a massive complaint.

It has always seemed that no boxer can be too macho, have too big an ego or an overdose of pride and courage.

But beyond the bombast and trash talking, there has always lurked a dark fear behind the face of virtually every boxer.

Some of Muhammad Ali's most entertaining pre-fight rants were born out of fear, particularly the insults directed at Sonny Liston in 1964.

Evander Holyfield, who has defeated a figure as intimidating as Mike Tyson, admits that as an amateur, he was scared when he fought a man with a moustache.

While fighters have their own mental approach, sometimes the enormity of an occasion can change things totally.

In 1988, defending champion Tyson was minutes away from fighting Michael Spinks in what was then the richest bout in history.

Feeling the stress of a difficult year - a turbulent marriage to Robin Givens, the death of his manager Jim Jacobs - Tyson was in a surly mood.

When Spinks' manager Butch Lewis came into the Tyson dressing room to examine the champion's bandages, the surliness turned into rage.

After 91 seconds of action in the ring, Spinks was a helpless figure on the canvas, while a hyped up Tyson looked like he still had nervous energy to spare.

It would seem with that evidence that antagonising Tyson before a fight is the last thing anyone should do, but a leading neuro-psychologist believes Lennox Lewis should do exactly that.

"If Ali had faced Tyson he would have spotted his weakness straight away, he would have wound him up from the first time they met," said Keiron O'Driscoll.

"He would have known just what buttons to press and by the time they got into the ring Tyson would have been so full of rage and frustration that he would have been chewing the ropes.

"Ali would simply have got Tyson to go berserk and then just picked him off.

"Lewis won't be able to do that as well as Ali could have done, but Lewis is a consummate professional and if he takes good advice he could easily do a similar job on Tyson."

Whether Lewis will be sufficiently in control of his own mental powers come the first bell is no guarantee.

According to Julius Francis, a one-time opponent of Tyson but also a regular sparring partner of Lewis, the champion has shown signs of stress in previous camps.

"The only time I can say that he felt tension was just before he fought Oliver McCall the second time," Francis told BBC Sport Online.

Lewis had been knocked out the first time he fought McCall and the second meeting was for the vacant World Boxing Council title.

"Lennox was very tense and tight and wound up about that fight and everyone in the camp knew that.

Francis feels that Lewis will enter his next fight with a sense of trepidation.

"He fears Tyson because of his reputation as a puncher and a fighter and as a very aggressive person."

A look at the Lennox Lewis-Mike Tyson fight

Lewis stuns Tyson

Our man in Memphis

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