WIFE-batterer, rapist, legend, humanitarian, nutcase.

Just a selection of descriptions we heard about "Iron" Mike Tyson following the news he was coming to York on a sightseeing tour.

Having sat in his hotel lobby for several hours waiting for the former champion boxer to wake up, I can add a new one: big sissy. I can say that now there are thousands of miles between us.

He'd already given me headaches when I was assigned to cover his visit to York. Here is a blow-by-blow account of what actually happened.

There had been several hurdles to overcome. One was created by bosses at Jorvik Viking Centre, who suddenly decided they could not "accommodate" Tyson and a few friends on a cold Monday morning in November.

Forgive me, but don't Jorvik make a living out of celebrating the Vikings - some of the most vicious, raping pillagers of all time?

Myself, York tour guide Keith Mulhearn and a Roman soldier called Ainsley pressed on regardless.

We had arranged to meet Tyson's entourage at his hotel, near Pontefract. "Team Tyson" were to then follow us back to York in their stretch limousine for the tour, taking in the Minster, Bar Walls and York Dungeon.

The boxer's Doncaster friends, who had arranged a speaking engagement in the town for him and Frank Bruno, said I could grab an interview on the way round. Much depended on his mood, they added, with a note of caution.


Tyson's managers and muscle-bound security personnel were a polite but wary bunch. We were told at 9.30am their man was still good to go, but had not yet risen from his slumber. It was clear that none of them really fancied waking him. Understandable, I thought.

The hotel foyer was crowded with some of the heavyweight's dedicated followers.

One guy proudly showed me his stomach which was enveloped by a tattoo of Tyson's snarling mug.

The boxer's devoted friend, Andy Booker, who was credited with persuading him to visit in the first place, also stripped to reveal the extent of his worship.

"Team Tyson For Life" was written in bold letters on his back, accompanied by the tattooed signature of his idol.

"I've loved having him here," the Askern newsagent told me.

"The highlight was taking him to my local pub. It was packed."

Andy had originally suggested the York visit to Tyson because of his love of history, and an admiration for infamous figures like Dick Turpin. Keith had arranged for a man dressed as the notorious highwayman to greet Tyson in a torture chamber at the dungeon.

At 10.40am word reached us that the undisputed king of the knockout was finally awake - and demanding porridge.

"We don't have any," was the receptionist's panicked response to his aides. "Try again Miss," they seemed to be saying. No is not an option for Iron Mike. Off she went then to the shop to get his oats.

From what my eavesdropping ears could also gather, Tyson had the sniffles and was feeling unwell. Not an issue for the "baddest man on the planet", though, surely?

Apparently so, according to his manager, who also sported a rearranged nose like the rest of the Tyson crew.

"Mike is not well and needs to rest," he explained. "If he goes to York he wants to do it properly."

Keith and Ainsley were particularly gutted by the news.

Forget my exclusive interview being floored, they were both hit hard in the pocket after taking a day off to handle the tour.

Dozens were also left disappointed at York Minster, Tyson's scheduled first stop. Those waiting to greet him included two Roman centurions, York's town crier, John Redpath, and Elvis impersonator Eddie Vee in a limousine.

One female fan had even brought Mike an appropriate gift. A box of chocolate ears.

As for me, I never did get to meet him - but I still got my ear bitten off when I returned to the office.

An irate woman rang to complain that York, in any case, should have closed its gates to Tyson.

"The man doesn't deserve all this attention," she told me.

"What about the Vikings madam?" I should have responded.

But by then I was all punched out.

Updated: 10:45 Friday, November 25, 2005