Remembering The Bite: All The Things You May Have Forgotten About Tyson-Holyfield II

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In many ways, Mike Tyson is one of the most storied heavyweight boxers in the history of the sport. At 20 years-old he became the youngest heavyweight champion of all-time, at just 21 the was the first man to unify the three major championship belts — the WBA, WBC and IBF — in the division. But despite all he accomplished, Tyson’s legacy may forever be The Bite.

On June 28th, 1997, Tyson entered the ring for rematch against Evander Holyfield in what was then the richest fight in boxing history.  Just three rounds later, the fight was over after Tyson bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear and was disqualified. Eventually he was suspended for a year and fined $3 million for his actions. The moment Tyson took a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear lives on as one of the most ridiculous and fascinating sporting moments of all-time, but some of the details surrounding it may have been forgotten. So, 19 years later and on Tyson’s 50th birthday, let’s look back at some of events surrounding The Bite that may have been forgotten.

Holyfield had some dirty moments of his own

Just 20 seconds into the first round, Holyfield was warned by referee Mills Lane for a shot that was a touch low, which was the first of his offenses. Holyfield often held Tyson’s arms long after Lane demanded he release the clinch, led with his head so much it caused a cut on Tyson’s right eyebrow after a clash of heads, was warned several times for low blows and even blatantly shoved Tyson to the ropes as Lane was breaking them up in the second round, much to the crowd’s delight. Obviously, Tyson was the dirtier of the fighters that night, but he was not alone, and Ring Magazine eventually called the fight the second dirtiest fight of all-time.

Tyson “won” the round

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Iron Mike was mostly battered and knocked around the ring the first two rounds of the fight, but he came out of the corner in round three with a renewed purpose and the vigor of a man trying to actually win the fight. He landed a thunderous left hook to Holyfield’s ribs and another to his cheek that represented Tyson’s biggest punches of the fight. In fact, Tyson was awarded the round by all three judges, except for the two points he was deducted for the push in the back and, you know, the bite. On the official score cards the round is scored 9-8 Holyfield, meaning Tyson was awarded the round but penalized for his various infractions.

Tyson came out of the corner without his mouthpiece

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Nobody really knows if The Bite was premeditated, but what’s undeniable is that Tyson came out of his corner without his mouthpiece. As the round began, Evander immediately noticed Mike was without his mouthpiece and told him, then gestured to Mills Lane all while Tyson’s trainer Richie Giachetti was also trying to alert Lane. When Tyson realized what was going on he immediately turned to the corner, almost as if he knew, and finally got the mouthpiece.

Tyson bit Holyfield with the mouthpiece

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In a Showtime special followup to the fight, it’s revealed in Zapruder-like film breakdown that Mike bit Hollyfield with his mouthpiece in. In fact, in a randomly impressive bit of coordination, Tyson spits the chunk of Holyfield’s ear out, and then spits his mouthpiece out afterwards, and the mouthpiece is what actually causes Lane to step in and interrupt the fight, not the bite.

There were two bites

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With all of the commotion of the first bite, include Mike’s demonstrative and exaggerated head movement when he bit down, it’s often lost on people that he actually bit Holyfield twice. With just 20 seconds to go in the third round, Mike chomped down on Evander’s left ear, though this time he didn’t take of piece of the ear with him. This time there was no stoppage, instead both fighters, clearly enraged, exchanged punches to the bell.

The fight was not immediately stopped

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It was only between the third and fourth rounds that Mills Lane made the decision to stop the fight after he was informed of the second bite. Initially he had looked to disqualify Tyson immediately after the first bite, but changed his mind when the ringside doctor said Holyfield would be able to continue. Instead, he issued a two-point penalty and let the madness continue. After the decision, chaos ensued, with Tyson taking swings at police officers in the ring and eventually making his way back to the locker room. For the live crowd, public address announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. didn’t announce the official result of the fight for a full 12 minutes, finally informing the crowd at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, “Referee Mills Lane has disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield on both of his ears.”

Teddy Atlas knew Tyson would do something crazy

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The night before the fight, former Tyson trainer Teddy Atlas — a man who infamously held a gun to Tyson’s head after he threatened to rape Atlas’ 11-year-old niece — told a group of reporters he believed Mike would look to get himself disqualified from the fight if things weren’t going his way. “He’s going to try to disqualify himself,” Atlas said according to Boxrec. “Either by elbowing, or throwing a low blow, butting or biting.” That’s Babe Ruthian stuff.

The fight was rebroadcast on ABC two months later

The fight was so huge that ABC later rebroadcast it against E.R. in primetime a few months later. While it didn’t draw bigger ratings than E.R., the rebroadcast was a hit, giving the network its best performance in the 10 p.m. Thursday time slot in over three months. It even drew rave reviews, with Steve Simmons from the Toronto Sun calling the broadcast “my definition of terrific sports television”

Tyson gave Holyfield his ear back

In true Mike Tyson fashion he eventually confronted the whole incident in the best way he knows how: with comedy. In a 2013 Foot Locker ad, Tyson knocks on Holyfield’s door, apologizes and hands him his ear in a gift box and they eventually embrace with a hug. In real life, Holyfield was given the nearly inch-long piece of his ear by a ringside attendant, wrapped in a latex glove before it was surgically reattached.