A Brief History
On June 28, 1997, the rematch between heavyweight boxers “Iron Mike” Tyson and Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield for the WBA Heavyweight Championship became a footnote in bizarre sports history, befuddling fans and ring professionals alike.
Billed as “The Sound and the Fury,” this exciting boxing match would pit the 2 best heavyweight fighters of the day in a rematch, seven months after Holyfield, a former heavyweight champion, had won the belt again by defeating then defending champion Mike Tyson with an 11th round stoppage. Eagerly awaited by a large pay-per-view audience, the world of boxing fans eagerly awaited to see if Holyfield’s previous victory was a fluke or “The Real Deal.”
The fight started badly for Tyson, with Holyfield winning the first 2 rounds, and accidentally opening a cut over Tyson’s right eye with an inadvertent head butt. Tyson complained about head butts in the first fight, and was irate over having been cut over his eye, a potentially fight losing injury. Tyson came out for the 3rd round without his mouthpiece, a sure clue that what was to follow was no accident. The referee noticed the missing mouthpiece and ordered Tyson to get his mouthpiece and put it in his mouth.
Tyson came out strong in the 3rd round, but when Holyfield tied up Tyson with a clinch, Iron Mike made infamous boxing history by chomping down on Holyfield’s right ear, biting off a 1 inch chunk! In an equally bizarre move, referee Mills Lane called a timeout, deducted 2 points from Tyson, and called for the fight to continue! (Seriously, the fight should have been stopped then and there and Tyson disqualified.) The remainder of the 3rd round continued, and Tyson again bit down on Holyfield’s ear, this time the left ear. Apparently the referee did not see this infraction, though Holyfield again flailed about to get away from the mad dog biting him in a boxing ring. Between the 3rd and 4th round, the second bite was discovered and Tyson was disqualified.
When referee Lane stopped the fight, Tyson went ballistic and tried to attack Holyfield, but was restrained by his handlers and blocked by ring security. Tyson raged and swung wildly, until subdued by security. While Lane explained the disqualification to Tyson’s handlers, a restless and wondering audience wondered what the heck was going on. Holyfield left the ring and headed for the locker room, giving the fans a clue that the fight was over. Only after a 25 minute wait after the fight was over did announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr. tell the fans the fight was over due to disqualification.
The ever classy Mike Tyson (this description is sarcasm for people with no sense of humor) was heckled on his way to the locker room and had to be restrained from charging into the stands after jeering fans. Tyson claimed the bites (which he did not deny) were retaliation for the alleged head butts.
Tyson was of course suspended from boxing (permanently, or so they said) and was fined $3 million. A year later Tyson was reinstated and allowed to box again (though exactly why is a mystery to this author). A whopping 12 years after the incident, Tyson apologized to the maimed Holyfield, who accepted the apology, having publicly announced forgiveness for Tyson shortly after the bizarre fight.
No stranger to criminal activity, Tyson was convicted of rape in 1992 and sentenced to 6 years in prison, though he was paroled early and went back to boxing. In 1999, Tyson was again assaulting a boxer in the ring, when he attempted to break opponent Francois Botha’s arms while in a clinch. Tyson was then convicted of assaulting 2 motorists from a 1998 incident, and sentenced to another year in prison. Tyson’s bad boy antics continued in the ring, with punching an opponent after the bell, continuing to punch another opponent after the fight had been stopped, and refusing to take a post-fight drug test after yet another fight.
In 2002, Tyson was setting up to fight Champion Lennox Lewis, and got into a brawl at a press conference, later threatening to “I want to eat you children.” Tyson’s bizarre behavior continued when he got a massive Maori tribal tattoo on his face prior to a 2003 bout. Bankruptcy and other shenanigans continued, and for some unknown reason Mike Tyson became a Hollywood celebrity and was frequently at Hollywood events such as Roasts, appeared in movies and television. (Why he not a pariah instead of a celebrity is baffling to us at History and Headlines.)
Tyson was stopped in 2006 for driving under the influence and felony possession of drugs, and pleaded guilty in 2007. (Probation and community service despite his prior record.) Iron Mike was again arrested in 2009 for a fight with a photographer, but charges were not filed. In 2011, Tyson was roundly criticized for crude sexual and racial references about former Alaska governor Sarah Palin. Still, somehow Tyson remains somewhat popular with appearances in public, the media, music and print.
Question for students (and subscribers): What do you think of Mike Tyson? Should this character be shunned, or should the public continue to patronize his appearances? Should Hollywood celebrities shun him, especially women as he has a history of sexual and domestic violence? (Alleged by former wife Robin Givens, and admitted by Tyson.) Tell us what you think of Citizen Tyson whether you tend to support him or not in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Willis, George. The Bite Fight: Tyson, Holyfield and the Night That Changed Boxing Forever. Triumph Books, 2013.
Willis, George. Twice Bitten: The Untold Story of Holyfield-Tyson II. Mainstream Publishing, 2014.