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Evander Holyfield

Tyson II: “The Bite”

June 28, 1997 — Las Vegas

It is generally considered one of the most bizarre incidents in all of sports.

Evander wasn’t supposed to beat Mike “The Baddest Man On Earth” Tyson the first time they fought. Oddsmakers had it anywhere from 17:1 to 42:1 against him. Even when Evander knocked Mike out in the 11th round, fans thought it was a fluke. A rematch was set up, and Evander’s $33 million paycheck was the largest amount of money paid to anyone for a single appearance, ever, for anything. The gate for the fight at the MGM Grand is still the second largest in Las Vegas history, exceeded only by the second Holyfield vs. Lewis fight.

Again Evander was the underdog, but contrary to “expert” predictions, he won the first two rounds. Obviously rattled, Mike came out for the third round without his mouthpiece and had to go back for it, but his corner had settled him down and he began throwing solid punches and staying in his game. Which made what happened next even more surprising.

About forty seconds into the round the two fighters clinched and Tyson worked his face around to the right side of Evander’s head. Then he then clamped his mouth onto Evander’s ear and bit down as hard as he could. It took ref Mills Lane a few seconds to figure out why Evander jumped four feet into the air holding the side of his head. Lane stopped the fight and called in the ring doctor, who drew back in surprise when he saw what had happened: Tyson had bitten off a piece of Evander’s ear.

Lane was ready to disqualify Tyson but Evander, streaming blood, begged him not to. “Let me knock him out!” Lane consulted with the doctor and a fight commissioner and let the fight continue after deducting two points from Tyson and warning him about further violations.

Thirteen seconds later Tyson bit Evander’s other ear.

Evander jumped away again but, knowing the warning Lane had issued to Tyson, quickly got back into fighting position to show he wanted to keep going. But it was too late. The angry and disgusted ref disqualified Tyson and awarded the victory to Evander.

There was a near riot in the arena. Tyson tried to go after Evander and had to be restrained by over a dozen security guards. Fights broke out among the audience and it would be reported later that shots had been fired outside the MGM Grand. Evander, sensing that his people were getting ready to mix it up with Tyson’s, quickly hustled his team down to the locker room. Once there, he gathered them in a prayer circle, told them he forgave Mike and that they should, too. In so doing, he very likely prevented a full-scale riot.

Evander retained his WBA crown but it was “The Bite” that became one of the biggest sports stories of the twentieth century.

© 2011 by Steeplechase Run, Inc. All Rights Reserved — Posted by permission of the author