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Boxing legend Tyson shows his soft side in Africa

JOHANNESBURG - Former heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson, once nicknamed "The Baddest Man on the Planet", isn't about to set foot in any hotspots on his first trip to Africa.

Tyson, whose career has been marred by controversy, including a prison term for rape and the infamous ear biting incident in a title fight with Evander Holyfield, says he has mellowed.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Mike Tyson attends a news conference in Johannesburg January 29, 2008. (REUTERS/Mike Hutchings)

"I would like to go wherever they're not having any war," he told Reuters in an interview. "I would love to go to Kenya but right now they are having a civil war there."

Kenya has been in turmoil since a disputed Dec. 27 election which triggered widespread tribal and ethnic bloodshed, not a civil war. About a dozen people were killed in there on Tuesday, bringing the toll to more than 850 since the vote.

Tyson is in South Africa to help raise funds for a children's charity at a gala banquet, where one of South Africa's most controversial figures, Jacob Zuma, will be keynote speaker.

Zuma, leader of South Africa's ruling ANC party, has also had brushes with the law. He was acquitted of rape charges in 2006 but is due to go on trial in August for racketeering, money-laundering and other charges tied to an arms deal.

News that Zuma would welcome Tyson angered some South Africans.

But Tyson says he's no longer a bad boy and is not interested in boxing despite earning the fearsome title "Iron Mike" in the ring.

But he is still fighting demons.

"I am my own worst enemy in anything I ever did," he told a press conference before the interview.

Tyson served three years in an Indiana prison following his 1992 rape conviction. In 1999 he was sentenced to jail for assaulting two people following a traffic accident and in 2006 he was arrested for possession of drugs.

"I feel so old," said the 43-year-old Tyson. "I'm just happy to be remembered."

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