When Mike Tyson bit his way into the black books of Boxing: A trip down memory lane
If you follow a part of the universe of combat sports then I am sure you have an opinion on the recent Floyd Mayweather vs Conor McGregor boxing fight. You might be part of the “wonderful to see the Boxing and MMA worlds meet” camp or the “stop making combat sports a circus” camp, but one thing that cannot be questioned is that the fight attracted eyeballs. And in the world of combat sports “Buzz” is the keyword.
Roughly 20 years back another boxer generated a similar level of buzz, but for all the wrong reasons. Yes, I am, referring to the time when Mike Tyson literally bit his way into the black books of boxing.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane to precisely the 28th of June 1997. The MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas acted as the host for the second bout between Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield and Mike “Iron” Tyson. The rematch occurred seven months after their first bout for the WBA Championship which was won by Holyfield, a result described as an upset by many as Holyfield’s return to the sport after a brief retirement had been lacklustre, to say the least.
The second bout was promoted as “The Sound and the Fury” and was again for the WBA championship, only this time around Holyfield entered the square as the champion. Both Holyfield and Tyson had already cemented their place in history as two of the all-time greats and the fight was to be an important chapter in the bulging legacy of both men.
However, what followed was something which not even the harshest critics of the “Baddest Man on the Planet” Tyson could have predicted. The first couple of rounds were very similar to the ones of the initial fight between the two. Holyfield playing to his strengths and restricting Tyson's offensive repertoire.
But, roughly over half a minute into the 2nd, Holyfield head-butted Tyson above the right eye cutting him up. The incident enraged Tyson who had complained of similar headbutts from Holyfield in their first bout too. The referee judged the incident as “accidental”.
By the start of the 3rd round, Tyson was seething and this showed when he tried to start the round without his mouthpiece on. He started the 3rd well enough and looked to have turned the tide but with 40 seconds left on the clock he bit off an inch of Holyfield’s right ear spitting the cartilage on the floor. In deep agony, Holyfield pushed away Tyson only to be punched from behind.
Absurdly despite the blood loss, the doctors at ringside said that Holyfield was fit to continue the bout, the referee having deducted two points from Tyson’s total for the incident. Despite the leniency shown the match did not reach a conclusion as later in the round Tyson attempted to bite Holyfield again, this time on his left ear leaving him scarred.
Tyson was disqualified from the bout, fined $3 million and had his boxing license cancelled, which was reinstated a year later after an appeal. After the fight, Holyfield claimed that Tyson intentionally got himself disqualified because he knew he couldn’t beat him in a fair fight. Tyson later claimed that his biting was simply in retaliation for what he believed were intentional headbutts from Holyfield’s end.
The two men made up in 2009 in an appearance on the Oprah Winfrey show and are now friends. None the less, the incident which left a permanent blemish on the history of the “Noble Sport” lives on and remains one of the most controversial events in any form of competitive sport till date.