Mike Tyson seemed offended yesterday that some critics have called his heavyweight fight against Kevin McBride Saturday night at MCI Center nothing more than a "fiasco." Tyson, the former two-time heavyweight champion, hasn't won a fight of consequence in more than a decade and has lost two of his last three bouts.

"The people are not here because I'm a circus," Tyson said during the pre-fight news conference at Howard University. "They're here because I'm an icon. I'm an international star. If anyone mentions Mike Tyson's name and they don't know my name, they're from another planet."

But the news conference in the Blackburn Center Ballroom certainly resembled a circus at times, with Tyson verbally sparring with the manager of his opponent, a man heckling Tyson's manager from the crowd and female boxers Laila Ali and Erin Toughill exchanging multiple verbal jabs. To top it all off, promoter Rock Newman compared Tyson's struggles to those of Malcolm X and former Supreme Court justice Thurgood Marshall.

"This is about the future," Newman told a roomful of reporters and fans. "This is about who ascends and who descends."

Tyson, who turns 39 on June 30, will try to end his fall from the most feared fighter in the world to a seemingly over-the-hill boxer who was knocked out by unknown Englishman Danny Williams in the fourth round of a fight on July 30.

The result of that fight seems to have bolstered McBride's confidence, or at least his manager's spirits.

"I've basically been hearing Mike Tyson is coming back for years now," said Rich Cappiello, who walked to the podium wearing a suit and dark sunglasses. "He was coming back last year. He was coming back the year before. When is he coming back? I think he's had his day and his day is gone."

At that point, Tyson yelled to Cappiello: "You're going to get Kevin killed. You better stop. I'm going to gut him like a fish. Go sit down. . . . Tomato can."

When McBride, an Irishman who will be paid $150,000 for the fight (Tyson gets $5.5 million, plus a portion of the pay-per-view revenue), stood in front of the microphone, he said it was his "dream come true" to fight Tyson.

"I'm going to shock the world," McBride said. "I'm going to win. I'm a contender, not a pretender."

When Tyson was asked by a reporter from a Swedish newspaper what he planned to do after retiring, the fighter said he hoped to become a missionary in Bosnia, Rwanda or Indonesia.

"No one's ever had the life that I've had," Tyson said. "Regardless of what you might think, that it's been grim and gloomy, I've had a tremendous life. You can't even conceive of my life. And that was when it was crazy."

Mike Tyson, left, and Kevin McBride size each other up at a rambunctious news conference at Howard. Mike Tyson laughs at his news conference, during which he said he would "gut" Kevin McBride "like a fish" and that he hopes to become a missionary.