Mathis no threat to Bruno-Tyson

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The Independent Online

Buster Mathis Jnr does not stand out in a crowd. He is no heavyweight giant, no man mountain and seemingly will pose no danger to Frank Bruno's date with Mike Tyson in Las Vegas on 16 March.

Because Mathis measures up to everything Tyson needs in his second comeback at the Philadelphia Spectrum on Saturday, an engagement given the thumbs down in November and knocked out of New Jersey because of Don King's promotional block in Atlantic City now finds a home in the City of Brotherly Love.

The last thing Tyson needs at this delicate stage of his new ring career is to run straight into one of the big breed of heavyweights such as Lennox Lewis or Riddick Bowe - or Bruno - without proving something to himself.

It would not have worried the old Tyson. But the new Tyson needs to get back into the ring once more to feel the right fighting vibes before facing Bruno - despite the memory of their previous meeting in February, 1989 when Iron Mike was world champion, Big Frank was not and it was over in five rounds.

And while Mathis has fast hands, he does not hurt at this level - as a record of just six stoppages in 20 fights illustrates - so Tyson can take comfort in the fact that his chin will come under no serious siege, or have to prove his spell in jail has not diluted his punch resistance.

He realises, too, that the 89-second farce against Peter McNeeley in August, after four years out of the ring, is no preparation on which to mount his bid to sweep up all the world titles for the second time in his life, hence the urgency to for ge head with the Mathis fight. Lewis says: "I get the impression that Tyson is very uncertain. He can now see a new generation of really big heavyweights, like Bowe and myself, since he went inside. I think he's got a problem with his confidence - he knows there are big punchers around these days."

Tyson is likely to find Bruno a different proposition than when they first fought - a fighter buoyed by his possession of the long-awaited World Council title, a stone and half heavier, six years wiser and a league higher in confidence.

"I wasn't mentally right the first time," said Bruno, who will be at ringside on Saturday to begin the promotional sell for his March defence. "Now I'm confident I can knock Tyson out."

Tyson, meanwhile, is talking a good fight on behalf of his opponent from Grand Rapids, Michigan, saying Mathis is "pretty elusive".