Boxing: ...And here are the headlines for 1999

Independent writers play the prediction game
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IF MIKE TYSON'S return to the ring against Franz Botha in Las Vegas on the 16th of this month dominates the boxing calendar, it cannot divert all attention from a contest between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis to unify the heavyweight championship.

Scheduled for 13 March, appropriately at boxing's most famous arena, Madison Square Garden in New York, it will be the sport's biggest event there since March 1971, when Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali squared up for the undisputed heavyweight title.

Various imponderables, however, make it unlikely that either man will have an edge in the betting when they are summoned to their corners.

Holyfield, who is putting up the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation belts against that of the World Boxing Council held by Lewis, must run an increasing risk with the erosion of time.

Lewis is the heavier puncher but none the less, doubts exist about his ability to overcome Holyfield's superior technique and handle the rough in-fighting that caused Tyson to lose his head and his boxing licence.

Unification of the heavyweight championship, however temporarily, will restore some sense to a sport beset by a ludicrous proliferation of international bodies and often phoney titles.

Tyson's reappearance after a 15-month suspension imposed by the Nevada State Commission for biting a chunk out of Holyfield's right ear is more of an event than a contest.

Botha is a cut above the hapless Peter McNeeley, who was served up to the former champion after his parole following three years in prison on a rape conviction, but, unless Tyson is completely shot, it ought to be a difficult task for him.