Botha Francois Botha


Born: Sept. 28, 1968, Witbank, South Africa

Height: 6'2" Weight: 230

FIGHTS: 36 WINS: 36 LOSSES: 0 DRAWS: 0 KOs: 21

As a little boy in his native South Africa, Francois Botha began his pursuit of the heavyweight championship at the age of six after watching Muhammad Ali fight George Foreman in the legendary "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire.

"Muhammad Ali was the best there ever was," said Botha. "After watching him beat Foreman, I said to my dad, 'One day, I am going to win the heavyweight championship of the world.' That's when my dreams started."

At the age of seven, Botha took up boxing, but lost his first five fights. Botha almost gave up right then and there and contemplated another career. However, instead of giving up, as many children would have done, Botha persevered and his hard work soon paid off.

"I distinctly remember losing those first few fights," recalled Botha. "You might say that it was a rather inauspicious beginning for someone who was looking to become the world heavyweight champion someday. Of course, I was extremely discouraged. People thought I would quit, but in my heart, I never thought of giving up."

After finally plowing ahead to his first boxing victory, the South African fighter was so elated that he slept with the winner's trophy. Botha would eventually go on to compile an amazing amateur record of 378 wins and only 25 losses, while winning an impressive 28 amateur titles in South Africa.

At age 13, Botha won the first of his three junior South African light heavyweight championships. With a big right hand in the first round, Botha knocked his challenger out cold. Ever since then, Botha, with the strong right hand in his arsenal, unleashes bombs on his opponents whenever he gets the chance.

"Winning my first junior light heavyweight title was a very big honor, especially in your own country," explained the 28-year-old Botha. "It was a great first-round knockout: one devastating right hand resulting in a very fast knockout. It felt great. Whenever you win you feel great, like celebrating every time. I remember my dad promised me a motorcycle if I won, so there was definitely something to fight for. I remember getting that and a hunting rifle. I was very excited about that."

Botha began his professional boxing career on February 11, 1990, in Johannesburg, South Africa. Continuing where he left off as an amateur, Botha floored John Van Zyl in the first round to score his first pro victory and establish himself as one of the world's most promising up-and-coming heavyweights.

Moving to the United States later that year, his third professional fight took place in Biloxi, Miss. on April 27, 1990. All that Botha remembers about that night is being extremely scared, not knowing what to expect from the all-American crowd. In spite of his fears, Botha earned a four-round decision and continued to build confidence and experience in his new-found country.

"When I first came to America, I was very scared," remembered Botha. "At my first fight in Biloxi, when the ring announcer said, `Francois Botha from South Africa,' my heart began dancing up and down. I was afraid that people would not accept me because I was from South Africa. I envisioned them saying, `He's from South Africa. He's a racist.' But, that wasn't the case. People all over are crying for a white heavyweight champion, including blacks as well. In fact, many black people have come up to me many times offering their support. Even in South Africa, black people were my biggest supporters, even when I was starting out."

The most interesting moment in Botha's career came on November 19, 1992 in Oklahoma City, Okla., when Botha defeated three opponents in one night. Botha, who had already fought eight times that year, dispatched opponents Art Hooks, Russell Rierson and Mike Jones all by first-round knockout. The three fights were officially sanctioned by the Oklahoma State Boxing Commission and count on his professional boxing record. Taking whatever steps were necessary to gain recognition in the boxing community, Botha figured it could not hurt him to continue winning, whether he did it once a year or three times in one night.

Originally known as "The Tiger" in the amateur ranks and later on as "The Bomb" because of his fiery temper, Botha now goes by the moniker of "The White Buffalo." Declares Botha, "The white buffalo may be extinct in today's day and age, but there is one left."

Botha realized his dream on December 9, 1996, in Stuttgart, Germany, when he squared off against No. 1 contender and native son Axel Schulz in front of a capacity crowd of Schulz supporters. Botha pounded Schulz early and often staking himself to what amounted to an insurmountable lead in carving out a unanimous decision over the game challenger. The unruly crowd voiced its displeasure by throwing bottles and glasses into the ring. He emerged unscathed and with the one prize he's always treasured: the heavyweight championship.

However, a month after the fight, Botha's drug test came back positive for steroids. Though Botha claims it was prescribed by a doctor to help rehabilitate an injured arm, eventually Botha was stripped by the IBF of his belt, with a stipulation he would fight the winner of No. 1 and No. 2 contenders Michael Moorer and Axel Schulz.

Whenever he steps into the ring, Botha uses the same pre-fight routine which he has used to maintain his undefeated record and a solid knockout ratio. "I usually think back to opponents that I've beaten, or to things that I've been through in the ring," remarked Botha. "I think of the guy trying to prevent my family from eating, or of him hitting my children. That gives me the aggression I need. What gives me the confidence is the shape that I'm in. I never look at my opponent in the ring. Most of the time, I don't even know how he fights. I know I can fight against any kind of style since I spar against a variety of styles. My favorite style is a guy that comes right at me. Then I don't have to go looking for the knockout. He comes right into it."

With his current stature in South Africa, Botha has assumed the role of representative for South African civil rights activist Nelson Mandela. Botha has vowed to achieve his dream not only for himself, but also for Mandela and all of the people of South Africa. Mandela, who was a fighter himself, hopes to be at ringside for Botha's first title defense.

He considers himself African-American because of his South African background and his current American residence, even though he is white-skinned. He will be the first to tell you, "I'm white, but I can fight."

When not sparring or training for his next fight, "The White Buffalo" enjoys gourmet cooking, fishing and playing golf in his spare time. "Fishing is a great hobby," said Botha. "It takes concentration, and it's just like boxing -- you never know what you're going to get, or when you're going to get it."

Botha is managed by ex-fighter Sterling McPherson and jointly trained by Aaron Snowell and Panama Lewis.

Botha resides in Newport Beach, Calif., with his wife Elsje, and their children, son Marcel and daughter Cecilia.