Boxing: Tyson battling to halt the slide

OVERWEIGHT AND deep in debt, Mike Tyson has a long way to go before he can even consider being a world-title contender again.

The embattled former heavyweight champion makes his latest ring return here on 23 October when he takes on fellow American Orlin Norris in a 12-round bout. Tyson appeared far heavier than his normal fighting weight of about 220lb and admitted, that during three months in a Maryland jail for assault, his size had soared.

Asked at a news conference on Thursday why he had allowed himself to blow up to some 280 pounds while he was in jail for assaulting two men after he ran amok following a minor traffic accident, he said: "Sir, have you ever been incarcerated? Why don't you go outside and hit somebody with a car and get incarcerated and see how fat you'd get?

"It's politically correct to put me in jail," added the 33-year-old Tyson, adding that no matter where he went, the thinking was that "if you don't put Mike Tyson in jail, you have a judicial malfunction with your court system."

Tyson was then asked if he took any responsibility for his past troubles? "I have to carry the weight of the fool alone," he admitted. "But I'm pretty cool. Listen, man, I have no one to blame but myself. Whoever created the words `woulda, shoulda...' Well, there shouldn't be any racism, shouldn't be any dysfunctional alcoholics that are reporters, a lot of things."

Once the most feared boxer and highest-paid athlete in sport, Tyson has seen his career undermined by indiscretions in and out of the ring. His drawing power has slid to the point where the fight with Norris will be televised on a cable network rather than pay-per-view and shown opposite the opening game of baseball's World Series because better fights took the better dates.

Norris, a 10-1 underdog, said: "I have a chance. It could be a very small chance but I have to slip into that window." He won the World Boxing Association cruiserweight title in 1993 but dropped the belt to Nate Miller in 1995. He moved up to heavyweight in 1996 and won four bouts before losing to the British contender Henry Akinwande in 1997.

Norris has won all three of his bouts since, but has fought just one round in two years.