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Frans Botha-The White Buffalo


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Along with Corrie Sanders, Francois "Frans" Botha was the only South African heavyweight of note in the late 90's and early 00's. Although he never won a world title, he fought for it against Lennox Lewis, who was then the WBC and IBF champion, and also Michael Moorer and Axel Schulz. He also fought Mike Tyson and gave him hell before being knocked out suddenly. His best performance however came in between those two fights, when he took on Shannon Briggs and gave him a beating, but was unjustly robbed with a draw in the end. Botha was a hard-working, tough and aggressive fighter, but he lacked the big punch and therefore had to work extra hard. Later on in his career, he ventured into kickboxing and MMA, but was largely unsuccessful there. 

Francois Johannes Botha was born 28 September 1968 in Witbank, in the northeast South Africa. He stands 6'2 or 188 cm tall and has an equally long reach. Botha was blessed with a strong physique, despite not being a tall heavyweight, and could always take a good punch and had good stamina for his pudgy build. He relocated to Newport Beach in South California to start boxing seriously and turned pro on 11 February '90. He would remain undefeated for a long time, fighting in both USA and his home country. On 22 September '92, he defeated the skilled Mike Hunter by MD 8 after being down in round one. After going 35-0 and defeating a few more semi-names, he was matched against German hope Axel Schulz for the vacant IBF title, which had been stripped from George Foreman after he refused to give Schulz a rematch, following a controversial decision. It was on 9 December '95 in Stuttgart, Germany, that Botha, after 12 hard rounds, was proclaimed the winner and the new IBF champion by a split decision. However, only a few days after the fight, Botha tested positive for steroids and was stripped. 

Despite talks of him fighting Michael Moorer for the title, it was Axel Schulz who first got the chance, especially since many thought he had deserved to get the decision. After Schulz lost to Moorer, Botha got his chance and fought him on 9 November '96, at MGM Grand. Botha was down in round 3 but got up and made it a fight, until the 11th round, when he was down twice and barely made it out of the round. He was then stopped against the ropes only 18 seconds into round 12. He earned 1 million for his trouble. In his next fight on 10 May '97, he won the NABA title by stopping James Stanton by KO 10. He made one defense of it against Lee Gilbert and won by UD 12, before vacating the title. After scoring two first-round knockouts against easy opponents, he was then chosen as Mike Tyson's opponent in his first bout after the very controversial 1997 Holyfield-Tyson 2 fight. 

Tyson had been out of the ring for 2 and a half years and was back with a grudge. The two warriors faced off on 16 January '99, at the MGM Grand. Botha weighed in at 234 and Tyson a trim 223. However, it was Botha who got off to the best start in round one and frequently beat Tyson to the punch, landing frequently. As the round came to a close, Tyson and Botha were in a clinch and Tyson would not let go of Botha's left arm, as if he wanted to break it. Botha hit him a few times with the other one, but it wasn't until security came that order was restored. Tyson the beast lost 2 points for this transgression. Botha proceeded to dominate until late in the 5th round, when he allegedly told Tyson "Is this all you got?" and Tyson then unleashed a big right hand that put Botha down and out. At that time, Botha was rated at nr.2 by IBF and this made him immediately get another big fight, against Shannon Briggs. 

Shannon the Cannon was somewhat taller at 6'4 but it was the punching power that was the big difference here, as Briggs was a known ko artist. However, according to himself, Briggs was not in the best shape for the fight, having torn his left bicep before the fight and having a stomach ulcer. The fight happened 7 August at Taj Mahal Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City and after the first 2 rather even rounds, Botha took over and gave Briggs a beating. Briggs had a resurgence in round 8 and he put Botha down with two left hooks. Botha still came back and closed strong for the remaining two rounds and in the end, only one judge had Botha ahead while the other two scored it a draw. A stinking decision and Briggs himself later admitted he was lucky to get a draw. However, that would not be the only time Botha would get robbed against an American hot contender. 

Next year, Botha beat Steve Pannell by an impressive TKO 1 and then signed to fight his second biggest opponent-Lennox Lewis. Lewis held the WBC, IBF and IBO titles, having surrendered or vacated the WBA title just before his previous fight. The fight was in London Arena, Millwall, on 15 July and Botha was simply chanceless against the 6'5 Lewis and his deadly right hand. The first round was cautious but near the end of it, Botha was staggered by an overhand right to the head. He was then knocked out late in the second round by a left jab-right hand-left uppercut-right hand combination and counted out at 2:39. This loss held him away from big fights for a couple years and he won 4 fights, one against then-promising David Bostice on points and 3 by knockout, before fighting Wladimir Klitschko for his WBO title, 16 March '02 in Stuttgart. It was his first return to the Hans Martin Schleyer Halle arena since the Schulz fight, 7 years back. Once again, Botha put up a fight but was simply overpowered by the 6'6 Ukrainian powerhouse and knocked out in 8 rounds. Botha tried to make it a physical fight and early on he succeeded in keeping the much taller Klitschko at bay, but after the fifth round he began taking a lot of leather. In the 8th, his knees were first buckled by a straight left and he was then hit with a brutal combination and knocked out.

In his next fight on 27 July in New Orleans, he took on the dangerous puncher Clifford Etienne, who was the same size but weighed in 11 pounds less. Early on, Botha was the better man and he also put Etienne down in the fifth and sixth rounds. However, late in round eight, Botha was hurt and wobbled with a flush straight right and Etienne then jumped him as he retreated to the ropes and started punishing Botha. As the bell had been moved farther away than before, the referee Elmo Adolph did not register it (neither did Etienne) and the round went on too long, with Botha falling thru the ropes. Since none of them heard the bell, referee would not issue a penalty for Etienne and after the fight went its 10 scheduled 10 rounds, this became crucial. One judge had Botha ahead by 95-93 and the other two had it 94-94: a draw. Had Etienne been penalized, then Botha would be the winner, of course. 

It was nevertheless a bad decision and the crowd booed it. This made Botha retire from boxing for 5 years and instead he started kickboxing in K1. Despite losing 12 fights and only winning 4, curiously he managed to defeat the legends Peter Aerts (KO1!) and Jerome LeBanner (RTD3). He had his last kickboxing match in 2015. He came back to the boxing ring in 2007 and won the minor WBF title by beating the 6'5 Aussie Bob Mirovic by UD. In 2009, he also defeated the 6'7 German contender Timo Hoffmann in what was considered an upset, dropping him once and winning by SD. On 10 April '10, he fought Evander Holyfield (who would have been his opponent before, had he defeated Michael Moorer for the IBF title) and was stopped by the older but still more game and in shape Holyfield by a TKO 8. In 2011, he was also knocked out by Michael Grant in the 12th. He kept fighting till 2014 but lost all the rest of his fights. Last one against Andrzej Wawrzyk, by TKO 5. He was also stopped by a green Joseph Parker by TKO 2.

His final record therefore is 48 wins with 29 ko's, 11 losses and 3 draws, two of them controversial. Botha also had one MMA fight in 2004, losing by armbar submission in 1 round to Yoshihiro Akiyama. It is safe to say that boxing is where his true talent lay. Today, he lives in Durban, South Africa and a documentary about his life and career is waiting to be released. Frans Botha was a strong and tough guy, a macho fighter, who wasn't afraid to take on anyone and always put up a good fight and only against Lewis was he truly destroyed before he could put up a true fight. The boxing crowds loved him because of his fighting style and machismo and he had a long career if not that successful, but eventful. Thank you.

Exclusive Interview With Francois Botha: In My Era, The Best Fought The Best



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--- Yeah, Tyson and spectators were shocked when Botha was easily handling him. BTW, might want to check that time lag of Tyson between Ruddock and Botha.

The Vegas fight with Vander was a defense of some Where's Waldo World Title Botha had won that fans called the Geezer Belt since they both were pushing 50. After winning the belt, yupsir, Vander went into his dreary drone mode of wanting to consolidate all the belts that he never did in his prime.

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