'White Buffalo' Botha shows colourful character

LOGAN SAVORY
Last updated 05:35 13/04/2013
Francois Botha
JOHN HAWKINS/Fairfax NZ
BIG PERSONALITY: Francois 'The White Buffalo' Botha tucks into a bluff oyster during his visit to Invercargill.

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South African boxer Francois Botha was in Invercargill yesterday. Logan Savory caught up with the charismatic fighter and chatted about his career, which stretches back to 1990 and includes 61 professional fights.

As a boxing enthusiast, 40 minutes talking with Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha was fun.

In his own words, he says he talks plenty of "s..." It's what gets him fights; he's good at promoting bouts with the talk.

But in between all that promotional talk there's an interesting story.

Say the name Francois "The White Buffalo" Botha and most Kiwis and Australians will associate Sonny Bill Williams with him.

The 44-year-old lost to the rugby-league-player-cum-boxer in a controversial fight in Brisbane in February, with allegations of bribery, drugs and the cutting of rounds chucked about.

But there's more to this guy than just 10 rounds with Sonny Bill. In fact, that's at the smaller end of the scale as to what he's seen and done in the boxing game.

Since the fight with Williams he's signed to fight 21-year-old rising New Zealand heavyweight Joseph Parker in Auckland on June 13, and was Invercargill yesterday to talk with The Southland Times as part of promotion for the fight.

He talked at length about his career - his time under promoter Don King, his fights against the likes of Mike Tyson, his paydays, the lot.

Francois Botha has seen and done plenty in the mystical world of boxing.

In 1990 he shifted as a youngster from South Africa to the United States to chase his boxing dream.

"I left South Africa with a thousand dollars in my pocket. I left my son alone in South Africa with his grandma. I didn't know where I was going to live and I ended up in Texas."

He started out in the United States chopping wood for $5 an hour before his big break came.

After an 18-zero record he got the chance to take on Mike "The Bounty Hunter" Hunter, a well-respected and well-ranked boxer.

Botha won and the doors started to open. He went from struggling to pay any bills to being wowed by what professional boxing can do for someone's bank balance.

"All of a sudden I started to get calls from Don King," he said.

"Don King signed me and gave me $50,000 cash; I felt like a rich guy.

"I can still picture me today holding all that money."

It was just the start of it for Botha as the paydays started coming.

He's fought some of the biggest names in boxing - Lennox Lewis, Evander Holyfield, and Wladimir Klitschko.

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His biggest payday was in 1999 when he got $3 million to fight Mike Tyson, a fight he lost when he was knocked out in the fifth round.

He estimates he's racked up more than $9m in earnings in his career but, like many other boxers, has lost it all.

Living the high life and taking a dive in the stockmarket has seen much of his money dwindle over the years.

Botha says he is now back on his feet and living comfortably. He doesn't need the money from fights like his next against Parker but is keen to pull on the gloves a couple more times before he steps away from it for good.

He wants to beat Parker and then line up David Tua in one final bout before he stops throwing punches himself and steps into training his son, Marcel.

Marcel will fight on the undercard to the Parker-Botha fight in June, something that Botha senior says is pretty special.

"It's going to be a first. It's going to be one for our [family] collection. The Buffalo can say me and my son have fought together. I can wrap his hands, I'll get him ready in the locker room, he goes out and fights and comes back and helps get Dad ready and he can be with me in my corner."

- The Southland Times

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