| TYSON: To face Clifford Etienne
Tunica (Mississippi): Mike Tyson cracked jokes and laughed at a news conference here announcing his first fight since losing to Lennox Lewis last June — a return to nearby Memphis next February.
In the same ring where British heavyweight champion Lewis knocked him out in the eighth round, Tyson will face fellow-American Clifford Etienne in a 10-round fight on February 22 at the Pyramid Arena in Tennessee City.
“I’m happy to be back. You must’ve loved my last show,” Tyson said with a laugh. “I’m just happy to be here.”
Tyson, 49-4 with 43 knockouts, will have a layoff of nearly eight months before fighting ‘The Black Rhino’, who fought a 10-round draw with South Africa’s Francois Botha in July — his most recent outing.
Former undisputed world champion Tyson was an angry and outspoken fighter before the Lewis fight, hyping it by making himself the bad guy in a showdown with the reigning champion that ended with Tyson beaten and bloody.
“For health reasons, I hope it’s different,” Tyson said. “This is going to be a different fight. I’m just happy to be here, I’m just glad you guys called me back.”
Tyson’s relaxed personality was far from what he showed last January in New York when he announced the Lewis fight. One that ended with Tyson and Lewis in a scuffle.
Tyson, noted for biting Evander Holyfield’s ear during a title fight, bit Lewis on the leg during the melee.
Contracts for the original fight allow for Tyson and Lewis to fight a rematch after one intervening fight, but the latter has said he will not fight Tyson again unless there is sufficient interest and money in such a match-up.
Lewis is expected to take on Ukrainian fighter Vitali Klitschko next March or April in defence of his World Boxing Association crown.
Etienne, an ex-con with a weak chin, is 24-1 with a draw and 17 knockouts. He said a stint in prison for armed robbery matured him, which prompted Tyson to proclaim once more his innocence about a rape conviction from a decade ago.
“I don’t know about him, but I didn’t do what they locked me up for,” said Tyson, who spent three-and years in prison after being convicted of raping a beauty pageant contestant in Indianapolis.
Between having his license suspended for 15 months for biting Holyfield’s ear and being jailed for assaulting a pair of motorists near his Maryland mansion, Tyson stopped Botha in five rounds on January 16, 1999 in Las Vegas.
Until the knockout at the hands of Lewis, Tyson had not lost in six bouts since his suspension.
Tyson’s bout with Etienne will be only his third in 28 months.