BOXING: Tyson makes British debut in Manchester

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The Independent Online
FRANK WARREN confirmed last night that he will promote Mike Tyson's first fight in Britain at the MEN Arena, Manchester, on 29 January. Tyson is expected to earn $8million (pounds 5m) for the fight.

It is likely that the current British heavyweight champion, Julius Francis, who has not yet signed but has agreed in principle to the deal on offer, will meet Tyson and receive pounds 350,000. However, Francis's promoter, Panos Eliades, who has not put on a Francis bout since June 1997, could ruin the Woolwich boxer's chances by preventing him from taking part.

Eliades, who had put together a rival offer for Tyson's services and was thought to have the sympathetic ear of the boxer's main representative, Shelly Finkel, before Warren secured the contest, is unhappy. Francis, Warren claimed, was linked with Tyson before Eliades was involved. The selection process has placed Frank Maloney, who manages both Francis and Lennox Lewis, the world heavyweight champion, in an awkward position as he works for Eliades.

Maloney, who is in Cyprus promoting a show, said yesterday: "I will do the best for my fighter. That is what a manager does and that is too often forgotten. I will get Julius as much as I can and I have no problems fighting for Warren."

It will be Tyson's first fight since his bizarre no-contest encounter with Orlin Norris in Las Vegas on 23 October. Tyson struck Norris after the bell to end round one, the bout was terminated in chaos and six days later the Nevada Commission agreed to pay the boxer's pounds 9m purse but advised him to "take his act on the road". Warren made contact within 48 hours. "The deal could have been done three weeks ago but Eliades got in the way," claimed Warren. "It has not been a problem to put the fight together with Tyson. The problem has been the spoiling tactics of others."

In early November, executives at the MGM in Las Vegas, where Tyson has fought since 1995, held discussions with German promoters and at the same time Warren received assurances from Tyson's representatives that the fight would be in Britain. The Millennium Stadium in Cardiff was mooted for 15 January but Warren started to run out of time.

During the week of the Lennox Lewis and Evander Holyfield fight, Warren had an agreed short-list of opponents, with Brixton's Danny Williams and Francis at the top. Warren promoted Francis's last three British title fights; he has also provided the last two opponents for Tyson.

"The fight was made in principle and the tickets could have been on sale two weeks ago but then I started to read stuff about Germany and Wembley," said Warren. "I still knew I would get it: as a promoter you get fights by putting together the best deal. It is that simple."

It will be Tyson's first fight outside America since he lost the unified world title to James "Buster" Douglas in Tokyo in 1980 but not his first in Europe. In 1984 he fought as an amateur at the Tammer tournament in Finland. Warren is still waiting on Finkel to return one document but Jay Larkin, senior vice-president at the US cable television channel Showtime, insisted there are no major reasons why the fight will not take place. Larkin has been Warren's main advocate. The fight will be live on Sky.

"I could have done an exclusive deal with Tyson last year but I had the [promoter Don] King problem and my money was tied up. This will be a great start to 2000," added Warren, who split with King in 1997 but was forced to pay the infamous promoter a settlement. Tyson is suing King for $100m in lost revenue.