June 28, 1997: Mike Tyson’s Infamous Ear-Biting Incident

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June 28, 1997: Holyfield–Tyson II — Mike Tyson is disqualified in the 3rd round for biting a piece off Evander Holyfield’s ear.

Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II, billed as “The Sound and the Fury,” took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The referee officiating the fight was Mills Lane, who was brought in as a late replacement when Tyson’s camp protested the original selection of Mitch Halpern (who officiated the first fight) as the referee.

The Fight:
The fight began with Holyfield dominating Tyson. Holyfield won the first two rounds. At 2:19 of the first round, an overhand right from Holyfield stunned Tyson, but Tyson fought back immediately pushing Holyfield backwards.

Thirty-two seconds into round two, Holyfield ducked and, in doing so, head butted Tyson and opened a large cut over his right eye. However, trainer Richie Giachetti believed the cut happened in the first round.

Tyson had repeatedly complained about head-butting in the first bout between the two. However, after reviewing replays, Mills Lane said that the headbutts were unintentional and unpunishable.

As the third round was about to begin, Tyson came out of his corner without his mouthpiece. Lane ordered Tyson back to his corner to insert it. Tyson inserted his mouthpiece, got back into position, and the match resumed. Tyson began the third round with a furious attack.

With forty seconds remaining in the round, Holyfield got Tyson in a clinch. Tyson rolled his head above Holyfield’s shoulder and bit Holyfield on his right ear, avulsing a one-inch piece of cartilage from the top of the ear, and spit out the piece of ear on the ring floor.

As Holyfield shrieked in pain and jumped in circles, he managed to push Tyson away, at which Lane called for a time-out. As Holyfield turned to walk to his corner, Tyson shoved him from behind. Lane sent Tyson to a neutral corner as an enraged Holyfield gestured for Mills Lane to look at his bitten ear, which was rapidly bleeding.

The fight was delayed for several minutes as Lane debated what to do. Lane’s original decision was to immediately disqualify Tyson, but after the ringside doctor determined that Holyfield was able to continue despite the massive bite, Lane announced he would be deducting two points from Tyson and the fight would continue. Bobby Czyz, who was calling the fight with Steve Albert for Showtime, said, “I wonder how this would have played in Mitch Halpern’s eyes,” to which Albert replied, “Oh my goodness, that’s a thought, Bobby.”

As Lane explained the decision to Tyson and his cornermen, Tyson asserted that the injury to Holyfield’s ear was the result of a punch. “Bullshit… If you do that again I will disqualify you.” retorted Lane. The fight was resumed.

During another clinch, Tyson bit Holyfield’s left ear. Holyfield threw his hands around to get out of the clinch and jumped back. Tyson’s second bite just scarred Holyfield’s ear. Lane did not stop the fight this time, so the two men continued fighting until time expired. The men walked back to their respective corners when the second bite was discovered, after which the fight was halted.

After the fight was stopped, Tyson went on rampage at Holyfield and his trainer Brooks while they were still in their corner. Mills Lane told Tyson’s corner and relatives that he was disqualifying Tyson for biting Holyfield.

To protect Holyfield, security surrounded him in his corner. Tyson took swings at the people in his way, but was taken back to his corner by security. Then they interviewed Mills Lane, who was the center of controversy according to Mike Tyson’s close friends and families attending the event. A frustrated Mills Lane said he knew the butts were unintentional through his experience, and told Tyson to not bite anymore; Tyson asked for his disqualification by disobeying the order, he said.

Holyfield left the ring seconds after the interview, which gave the fans and audience the hint that the fight was over.

Exactly 25 minutes after the brawl ended, announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. read the decision: “Referee Mills Lane has disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield on both of his ears. The winning cause is disqualification and the WBA Champion is Evander ‘The Real Deal’ Holyfield!” Holyfield won the WBA boxing championship, prize, money and trophy because of Tyson’s disqualification.

It was believed by many that Tyson was upset that he could not intimidate Holyfield, and was himself so scared that he deliberately disqualified himself. However, the following week, it was confirmed to be retaliation for the headbutts.

During an interview, Tyson was walking back to his locker room when a fan from the stadium tossed a bottle of water in his direction. Tyson, his instructor, and a pain manager climbed over a temporary railing and up into the stands to make obscene gestures to the crowd. Tyson had to be restrained and he was led off.

When interviewed about his championship and the incident with Tyson, Holyfield kindly said he has already forgiven Tyson for biting him, due to his Christian beliefs.

Nevertheless, Tyson was sentenced with a permanent suspension from boxing. Tyson was also fined $3,000,000 and had to serve many hours of community service. After one year of sorrow and an appeal in court, Mike Tyson was allowed to continue boxing and his license was official again. When Tyson and Holyfield retired from boxing, they befriended each other and are now close friends.

Aftermath:
As a result of biting Holyfield on both ears and other behavior, Tyson’s boxing license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and he was fined $3 million plus legal costs. The revocation was not permanent; a little more than a year later on October 18, 1998, the commission voted 4–1 to restore Tyson’s boxing license.

One of Tyson’s former trainers, Teddy Atlas, predicted before the fight that Tyson, unable to cope with fighting a man whom he could not intimidate, would deliberately get himself disqualified.

In the 2008 documentary Tyson, the boxer claimed he did it as retaliation for the headbutting.

On October 16, 2009, on the The Oprah Winfrey Show, Tyson apologized to Holyfield. Holyfield accepted his apology and forgave Tyson.

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