Botha: 'The Buffalo knows he's going to win'

MATT RICHENS
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2013
Francois Botha
DAVID HALLETT/Fairfax NZ
'THE BUFFALO': South African boxer Francois Botha, in Christchurch to promote his June 13 fight with Kiwi Joseph Parker.

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It's hard to know whether to like Francois Botha or loathe him.

The South African boxer, who refers to himself in the third person as Buffalo, is everything those sick of boxing's over-hype detest, wrapped up in one, ridiculously confident giant of a man.

He lost to Sonny Bill Willians in controversial circumstances in February, is set to fight rising Kiwi hope Joseph Parker in June, and yesterday said he would "kick David Tua's a..." next.

He oozes a confidence that on the surface seems put on; an act. Yet he's also clever, charming and really hard not to like.

The big friendly giant talks a good game, belittles Parker as "Baby Joseph" at every chance - Parker is younger than Botha's son Marcel who will fight on the undercard - and constantly refers to how good the Buffalo is.

He knows it's an act, we all do, but Botha has also convinced himself he speaks the truth.

He genuinely believes he is the best and he believes he's going to teach "Baby Joseph" a lesson on June 13 in Auckland.

"Half those guys that fought Mike Tyson, they'd lost in the locker room because they were so scared.

"I wasn't scared when I fought him, I knew I was mentally strong, I've always been mentally strong because of my faith. They said after I fought Tyson how strong I was."

Botha was knocked out by Tyson in the fifth round.

The hype, the talk and the self promotion could easily be seen as annoying, but they're the reasons the fight promoters, Duco, signed him up.

"It's because I sell," he said frankly yesterday in Christchurch as part of a media blitz to promote the fight.

"If I didn't say anything, it would be boring and I wouldn't be here would I?

"People say I talk bulls... and maybe I do, but it's true too. I'm not going to say 'May the best fighter win' and have any doubts because then you lose.

"The Buffalo knows he's going to win. I'm going to kick his a..., then I'm going to kick David Tua's a..., then the next guy's a.... I'll kick everyone's a...."

Then in the next breath, Botha's nice again; engaging, genuinely interested in the Christchurch rebuild and the February 2011 earthquake.

He even gets out pictures of his children and shows off tattoos that adorn his massive biceps.

His children Marcel and Cecelia are on his left arm surrounded by small red hearts, while wife Elsje gets a bigger heart on his right.

"I've got my whole family on me, so when I take my shirt off for a fight, I've got them all with me, supporting me."

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Botha walks a tightrope between the man and the boxer and sometimes even he gets the pair confused.

It's a switch. One that's on more than it's off in public life.

In the 30 minutes Botha spent talking to The Press, nearly a dozen punters approached him to wish him well.

One said: "Knock Sonny Bill Williams out next time mate. You won that fight, we all know it".

Botha agreed, waved and said he'd love another chance to fight Williams, but the former All Black was "running scared".

It's that publicity Duco have jumped all over and wisely so.

Botha's giant diamond encrusted watch, cool shoes, bandana, shiny rings and sunnies say showman and his words back it up.

As does his record.

The 44-year-old has fought a whopping 61 professional boxing, 11 kickboxing and one mixed martial arts fights in a career dating back to 1990 - two years before Parker was born.

He's fought some of the best including Tyson, Michael Moorer, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko.

He lost to all those big names, but his 61 fights, 48 win, 29 by knockout, record is impressive.

"They got lucky," he then says bizarrely, referring to every one of his losses.

"Tyson got lucky, Lewis got lucky. Just because you lose to a guy doesn't mean they're a better fighter.

"None of those guys are better fighters than the Buffalo. They all just got lucky. They just got the Buffalo on an off day. See, no-one beats Buffalo twice."

So of course he thinks he's going to beat "Baby Joseph".

Before then he's got eight weeks of training.

"You won't have a fat Buffalo," he said, patting his ample belly.

"But you don't want a skinny Buffalo. If you have a skinny Buffalo, he's sick. The Buffalo will be fit and raring to go.

"Baby Joseph is a good fighter, his tremendous amateur career shows that. I'll treat him with respect. But then I'll beat him. He's a much better fighter than Sonny Bill Williams.

"I went into the fight [against Williams] at about 30 per cent prepared. These Duco people are very good, like Buffalo, they're good genuine people, but they made one big mistake. They gave Buffalo two months to get ready. I'll be far better prepared than I was against Sonny Bill Williams. Look out."

And as arrogant as he sounds, his friendly pat on the back and beaming smile somehow make up for it.

- The Press

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