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The Mike Tyson Chronicles: Evander Holyfield II

By Geno McGahee

This may be the biggest moment in boxing history, or more appropriately, the most infamous moment in sports history. It was the famous ear-biting incident that Mike Tyson has been linked to permanently and has had his reputation, what was left of it, dragged through the mud over it. There is no question that he bit both ears of “The Real Deal,” but this is a cause and effect situation. The event was called “The Sound and the Fury,” and we got both in the most memorable three rounds of boxing since Marvin Hagler defeated Thomas Hearns.

On June 28, 1997, everything would be settled. There was a lot of talk that Mike Tyson has underestimated Evander Holyfield going into their first encounter, leading to his second defeat. In pre-fight interviews, Tyson said all of the right things, noting that he was squared up and threw his right hand too wide, a problem that would be fixed going into this rematch.

I don’t think that Tyson wanted the immediate rematch, but Don King needed it. He needed to get Iron Mike back on top and beyond Holyfield. This was the most pressure ever put on the former “baddest man on the planet,” and he wasn’t dealing with it well. The respect for him as a person had long gone but now people had lost respect for his fighting ability and everything in his life depended on this one bout. When he lost to Buster Douglas, he had two confidence fights against Henry Tillman and Alex Stewart before taking on a real challenge like Razor Ruddock. He would not be given that luxury here. He lost to Holyfield viciously nearly eight months prior and he was going right back in against the same man. Only this time, Evander would step into the ring with the confidence and would try to pick up the fight right where the first one had left off.

Mike Tyson stood in the ring at the MGM Grand and looked at the floor as he paced around. A visible deep breath could be seen. He may have never been this nervous before. At 218 pounds, he was tremendously fit, but physical and mental are completely different categories and he wasn’t mentally fit to face another tough fight like this one without an easy one or two in between.

Tyson, 45-2, 39 KO’s, had little to no confidence. He didn’t even bring any false bravado to the ring. He just walked back and forth as the group of idiots behind him screamed at the top of their lungs, proclaiming just what their meal ticket was going to do. When Iron Mike raised his right glove half way into the air, you got the sense that this was the last place that he wanted to be.

Holyfield, 33-3, 24 KO’s, stood in his corner, brimming with confidence and the crowd erupting upon the mention of his name. They, as many, were duped into this good guy/bad guy confrontation. Holyfield had beaten up the bully…knocked out the villain in the first fight and he was there to do it again, but much of Evander’s career has been slight of hand. He is a magician as he convinces you of one thing and does another. His preaching is very hard to take seriously when you look at his private life and his unsportsmanlike conduct, but most people look the other way. Evander is a nice guy and that’s that. This, if anything was bad guy/bad guy.

If Tyson’s confidence wasn’t low enough, Mills Lane was assigned the bout, and although I consider him to be one of the greatest referees of all time, I do have my reservations with a man that stated that Holyfield was his favorite fighter refereeing a bout with him in it on this level. Even if there was no subconscious favoritism, it was still another thing that Tyson had to deal with, but you can throw out the immediate rematch, questionable referee, blind crowd support, and idiots that distracted Tyson…the in the ring action would be the determining factor in what became the “fight bite” or “the bite heard around the world.”

Fifteen seconds into round one, Holyfield bashes Tyson in the face with a head butt. Holyfield got some separation with his jab as Iron Mike used some upper body movement in an attempt to avoid it. Tyson opened up with a two hook combination but neither of them landed. He was starting to get warmed up. Holyfield would answer with more head butts, his favorite illegal tactic and one that he was proud to display over and over again. At minute mark, he flagrantly smashes his head into both sides of Tyson’s face, neither infraction mentioned by Lane.

The head butts prove to be a smart tactic as they begin to discourage Tyson from coming inside, and making him easy prey for the jab of Holyfield. A low blow leads to a two hook combination by Evander, stunning Tyson and driving him into the ropes. Tyson would survive and rally back with some body work, but this was a big round for Evander, winning on my unofficial card, 10-9.

Following the pattern of round one, Holyfield begins the round with another hard head butt, right in front of Lane’s eyes, but once again, nothing said. Some posing leads to some more head butts from Evander, finally prompting Mike to complain. Tyson was now bleeding from the right eye from what was determined to be an accidental head butt. At this point, the storm was starting to build inside of Iron Mike. Not only was he in a tough fight, but he was getting fouled left and right and nothing was being done about it. Evander was making a street fight out of it.

Holyfield would now press, hitting Tyson low and using more head butts. Tyson’s complaints would go in one ear and out the other and Evander, realizing that he could do basically what he wanted to do, took full advantage. He probably could have grabbed a ringside chair and beat Tyson down with it and nothing would have been said.

With 46 seconds left in round two, Tyson would show the signs that he was losing it, as he tried to break Evander’s arm. This would lead to a warning to both men to cease the dirty tactics. Despite the continued dirty tactics, Evander clearly won the round, 10-9, leading to a 20-18 advantage at this point.

One thing that is never brought up concerning the bite is the fact that Iron Mike left his corner at the beginning of the third round without a mouthpiece. He had planned to do this from the start of the third round, realizing that he wasn’t going to win and that he had a night of getting bashed in the face over and over again by head butts, perhaps causing enough damage to end his career. All of this nonsense piled on top of the outside pressure brought him to the boiling point and the infamous third round.

Tyson comes out strong in the third, landing some hard body shots and missing some attempts to the head of Evander. Tyson, for the first time, was really on the attack…some desperate attempt to win this fight the right way. With 90 seconds left in the round, Tyson pushes Holyfield to the ropes and drives a forearm into his throat, leading to one of the most unusual moments in boxing.

Tyson would get close, and bite the left ear of Evander, prompting “The Real Deal” to jump up and down complaining. Tyson would shove his opponent from the back, propelling him into the ropes. Mills Lane elected to disqualify Tyson but was overruled. This is the WBA Heavyweight Championship and this is Mike Tyson, the biggest draw in boxing. He deserved another chance, and he got the other chance and he got the other ear of Evander. The first ear cost him two points. This ear cost him the fight and Tyson was fighting mad, throwing punches at the air and being restrained.

There was even a point where Tyson told his corner that he wanted to walk over to Holyfield and shake his hand and they said, more or less, “go ahead.” Of course, he tried to attack him, but was restrained again, and the craziest moment of boxing history had taken place, but it wasn’t unprovoked and it wasn’t an innocent person getting battered. This was a retaliation.

Now, of course, they have to interview John Horne, the co-manager of Mike Tyson. Needless to say that he was not helping his case with his rants and raves and showed his intelligence when he said: “Evander got a little nip on his ear that don’t mean nothing.” That’s the guy that I would want as a manager. Oh, and he also went on to say that: “He (Evander) jumped around like a little bitch.”

Now, Don King has his say so and remarkably, he was 100% correct, stating that “the head butts were there” and that “there should have been points taken away.” I thought that it was amusing when Jim Gray informed John Horne and Don King that it was determined that all of the head butts in the first encounter between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were initiated by Tyson. He forgot to mention that Tyson tried to bring a baseball bat into the ring as well. If we are living in the land of make believe, we should at least have some fun with it.

The end result would be a suspension for Iron Mike, and really the end of his career as a top heavyweight. He now had three defeats on his record and would never again hold the most prized thing in all sports: The Heavyweight Championship. The rest of Iron Mike’s career would be a feast of mismatched opponents and mental breakdowns. The media created a monster and Tyson had no problem giving them what they wanted. They often referred to Mike Tyson fights as train wrecks and some certainly were. I cannot excuse the bite, but I understand why he did it.

History is written by the winners and most would tell you that Mike Tyson bit both of Holyfield’s ears because he was losing the fight and panicked. Although this might be partially true, it was not the root cause for this situation. Boxing is a rough sport and any fight can be your last, especially when you are getting head butted directly into the face over and over again. After three rounds, both of Tyson’s eyes were badly cut and this was not from punches. Had the fight gone on, his fighting career may have ended that night and perhaps, he may have even lost his sight.

Evander Holyfield would go on to avenge a loss to Michael Moorer, lose twice (although one was ruled a draw) to Lennox Lewis, and regain a heavyweight title with a bogus decision win over John Ruiz. Amazingly, he fights on, in search of a fourth heavyweight title and if he can only find that chin of one of the champions with his head, we may just see it happen.

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