Italian songs tempt 'Iron' Mike Tyson

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The Independent Online

The organisers of Italy's most popular song festival are hoping to liven up this year's opening night with the presence of "Iron" Mike Tyson, jailbird and former heavyweight champion.

It is claimed the boxer has been offered €300,000 (£208,000) to appear as a guest at the San Remo Song Festival, which is followed live on Italian television for five nights running, and in the past has attracted up to 17.5 million viewers.

He is, however, not expected to sing.

Foreign film stars are routinely wheeled on to San Remo's glittery sets to add a little sophistication and cosmopolitan glamour. Iron Mike will bring his own trademark frisson of unpredictability.

The invitation was quickly criticised by one of the stars of Italian song, Iva Zanicchi, 65, twice winner of the festival and back this year as an opinionista, or commentator.

She told Corriere della Sera: "Mike Tyson? He's a negative personality and I would never have invited him ... as soon as I heard about it I asked myself, isn't he still in prison?"

Tyson, now 39, became the youngest world heavyweight champion, when he won the title at the age of 20.

In 1992 he was jailed for six years for rape and, since his release in 1995, has received two further convictions for brawling.