Boxing: Fury at Tyson's `Botha to die'

MIKE TYSON has shocked the boxing world by saying that he "expects Francois Botha to die" in their fight in Las Vegas later this month.

During a press conference on Tuesday night, Tyson's anger got the better of him once again as he gave short answers and ended with an obscenity- ridden rant. The American former heavyweight world champion and the South African Botha meet on 16 January in Tyson's first fight since being banned for biting Evander Holyfield's ear in 1997.

In his most outspoken statement, Tyson said: "Absolutely, I am going right at him and I expect him to go down cold. I expect him to die."

Tyson's return to the ring already promises to be short-lived. He pleaded no contest on assault charges stemming from an August traffic accident in Maryland, and faces up to 20 years in jail.

Asked if he thought he would be able to avoid trouble that long, Tyson said: "I don't know anybody who stays out of trouble for 20 years. I may not live for 20 years."

The uncertainty has clouded Tyson's boxing future, but talk has inevitably moved on to the prospect of Tyson meeting the winner of March's unification bout between Holyfield and Lennox Lewis.

"It is one fight at a time, one fight at a time," Tyson said. "Let's just get through this one, then I will answer questions about the next."

Even before his first fight back from exile, Tyson has run into trouble, and the backlash against him has started. Henry Cooper, the former British heavyweight champion, said: "I just can't understand why boxers persist in making these statements. Tyson is not a kid anymore and he knows that people do get killed in the ring. If it happens, it only fuels the anti- boxing arguments."

"Money is the god now," Cooper added. "When I went into the ring I wanted to prove I was the better fighter, not to kill someone. Fighters seem to think they have to make statements like these to sell their contests, but I don't recall Joe Louis saying anything like that.

"There used to be a certain dignity within fighters, each pitting their skills against the other. Sadly, those days are long gone."

The veteran British promoter and former fighter Mickey Duff echoed Cooper's views, and claimed Tyson should have his licence to fight removed. "Statements like these are detrimental to boxers and boxing and only add more weight to the anti-boxing lobby," he said. "I had 69 professional fights and I never wanted to kill anyone.

"It is particularly unfortunate coming so soon after the death of Jerry Quarry. It is bad for his memory. People are entitled to be allowed to earn a living, but sometimes they go too far."

Britain's former world flyweight champion, Charlie Magri, reacted with disgust to Tyson's words. "If you want boxing to survive, you will have to do it without Mike Tyson," he said.

"He was good for the game at one point, but the sooner he has his licence taken away the better.

"Boxing is all about winning on points and knocking people out - not killing them," Magri added. "Tyson is just a bully and, whenever he fights people who are not intimidated by him, he loses."