Boxing: ANIMAL HOUSE; Francis Warning as Tyson Reveals the Beast Inside

Article excerpt

HISTORY. Geography. Money. Politics. Law. Racism. Persecution. Psychology. Even Manchester United, Harrods and the price of high-speed sports cars.

Mike Tyson's big fight build-up has crashed all those matters and dozens more at a torrential rate of thousands of words per day for nearly two weeks now.

But until yesterday, there was one subject upon which he had muttered little more than a few reluctant and token lines in public.

Boxing.

Finally, though, as the circus at last stopped performing and the business of punching and hurting Julius Francis loomed seriously into view, Tyson revealed his game plan.

It surprised no-one, but still it claimed the attention of everyone in the way only Tyson can.

"I'm here for war. I am an animal in the ring.

"I am a ferocious fighter. That's who I am. You can't change it. I never doubt it."

"And by an animal I mean that particular word is the best to describe my approach to any fight.

"I will fight by the Queensberry rules, but I am going to blaze."

When Tyson talks like that, he usually means it. Which is why people's ears prick up.

Yet beside him sat Francis, clad in dark glasses and oblivious to Tyson's words because of the headphones blasting American rap music into his ears.

At one stage it seemed nobody was going to hear him speak.

He was fed up with being mobbed, fed up with questions, the people from his American television company said and he might not show.

Even that, of course, would have been a major story.

But eventually he turned up at the 21,000-capacity fight venue - the MEN Arena - for his first face-to-face meeting with Francis, the British champion regarded as a complete no-hoper in the 10-round bout.

And suddenly, the boredom and frustration that comes with knowing that the fight really is now just around the corner, surfaced in Tyson.

He said: "Fighting Julius Francis is the only thing that concerns me now.

"Perhaps we can have fun after but right now I have to work.

"I am in great shape and I look forward to being victorious. I just can't wait to go."

That, I'm afraid, is the full extent of what Tyson is prepared to let us know of his thoughts about the fight.

Perhaps that is because he too considers Francis a no-hoper and he can't think of anything else to say about him.

At least he didn't feign sleep as he has done at many of these set-piece occassions in the past.

"Everybody's talking but I've got to get into the ring," was another sign of Tyson's impatience with the build-up.

Ironically, every time until now that he met the British press, the PR men ordered 'boxing questions only, please' - only for Tyson to unburden his soul on every subject but the fight game.

There was more of it yesterday as a man from the BBC got the hard answer to whether Tyson understood why some people don't want him in Britain.

"If everybody loved me, I would be an enemy to myself," Tyson said.

"I have been wrongly convicted of this bizarre rape thing and that is why I am getting a lot of it. Yet no-one knows my situation.

"But I'm just here to fight. Thank you. And I don't care what you think anyway."

The lady from Channel Four get much shorter shrift from fight promoter Frank Warren when she uttered the dreaded words 'women's groups'.

"We're here to talk about the fight," snapped Warren. "Thank you. Next question."

The one reason that Tyson has caused such a sensation here is the memory of the destructive havoc he caused during his prime in the late 1980s.

The man himself, though, doesn't want to look back.

Asked for the umpteenth time whether he can ever fight with such ferocity now he is 33, he replied: "I'm just feeling great and doing great in the gym and I am looking forward to showing you all what I can do. …