7:05 pm ET, Mon, Aug 2, 1999
NEW YORK (AP) Francois Botha has shed the extra weight and the
***iness that cost him a victory over Mike Tyson. Now he's trying to rid
himself of the same label shared by many white fighters.
"I'm the only real white heavyweight out there that can do it and win the
title,'' Botha said Monday after a workout. "I'm more than just a great
Botha is the latest of the recent white heavyweights, a group that has
included Gerry Cooney, Tommy Morrison and most recently Peter McNeeley,
hyped to take over the prized boxing division. He couldn't take advantage of
a prime opportunity when he was knocked out by Tyson in January, but Botha
has another chance to move into the upper echelon when he faces Shannon
Briggs on Saturday night.
Briggs and Botha (39-2, 24 knockouts) will fight in Trump Taj Mahal at
Atlantic City, N.J. The winner may get a shot at Tyson, or a second chance
in Botha's case. The loser probably won't be mentioned in the same sentence
as the word heavyweight champion again.
Briggs (31-2, 25 knockouts) is a Brooklyn, N.Y. native who was hyped as the
next great heavyweight before losing to unheralded Darroll Wilson in 1996.
He rebounded to win a decision over George Foreman in 1997 before being
stopped in the fifth round by WBC champion Lennox Lewis in 1998.
Botha is from South Africa and actually held the IBF heavyweight title for a
month after defeating Axel Schulz. He had his title taken away after he
tested positive for steroids.
"He's never faced a guy like me,'' Briggs said. "I'm not Mike Tyson looking
for one punch. I'm faster and my footwork is better. He'll be lucky if he
makes the third round. He'll be really lucky if he sees the sixth round.''
Briggs did run into Botha a couple of times in Big Bear, Calif., where they
both trained last month, and Briggs couldn't believe the reaction.
"I saw him fishing one day and then I was running another time and I heard
someone yell, `Hey Shannon' and waving to me and I couldn't believe it.
What's wrong with this guy? Doesn't he know I'm training to kill him?''
While Briggs can trash talk with the best of the fighters, Botha has taken a
new approach after squandering a possible victory over Tyson.
"I've got to stay focused, not like I did against Tyson,'' Botha said. "I
was seeing the victory and I blew it. I'm in better shape than I was back
then. I lost a lot of body fat and am all solid muscle now.''