Jul 11, 2013, 11:49 AM PST
On this week in 1997, the Nevada Athletic Commission dropped the hammer on Mike Tyson after a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear hit the mat in a title fight. In this edition of Throwback Thursday, we’ll take a look at one of the most vile acts in the history of organized sport.
While the unanimous vote to ban Tyson came on July 9, the fight took place on June 28, at Madison Square Garden. It was a $100-million mega-fight pitting Holyfield vs. Tyson for the second time with the WBA crown on the line. In their first fight, Holyfield was widely considered an underdog and he knocked out Tyson.
Tyson complained about Holyfield’s headbutting tactics after the first bout and when a cut was opened up over Tyson’s eye following a second-round headbutt in the rematch, he saw red.
The former champion left his corner in the third round without a mouthpiece, but was instructed to put it back in. He unloaded on Holyfield with punches and then near the end of the round, the first chomp occurred. The moment was documented by Sports Illustrated.
Holyfield got Tyson in a clinch, and Tyson rolled his head above Holyfield’s shoulder. He then bit Holyfield’s right ear, severing it. Holyfield pushed Tyson away and started hopping up and down in pain, spinning around in a circle holding his ear.
Shockingly, referee Mills Lane let the fight go on. Not shockingly (at this point), Tyson took another bite.
The fight resumed with 30 seconds left in the round. The two fought into another clinch. Tyson craned his neck around again and bit Holyfield’s left ear with 22 seconds left. Holyfield threw his hands around to get out of the clinch and jumped back as Tyson waved his arms in a “come on” motion.
Our Boxing Insider Ryan Maquinana will never forget the gruesome moment.
“Just a bizarre night,” Maquinana recalls. “I don’t even remember what happened before and after the fight anymore, but the image of someone’s ear cartilage tumbling to the canvas never leaves you.”
Chaos ensued after the fight was called. Tyson threw punches at anyone in his proximity as people poured into the ring. Tyson even went after a fan in the crowd after he was pelted with a bottle of water. The whole thing was witnessed live on pay-per-view at $49.95 a pop.
After the dust had settled — and the pieces of Holyfield’s ear were accounted for — Tyson, known for his wacky post-fight comments, told reporters that he was protecting his family.
What am I supposed to do? This is my career; I can’t continue getting butted like that. I’ve got children to raise and he keeps butting me, I gotta retaliate. Holyfield is not the warrior he claims he is. He got a little nick on his ear and he quit. I got one eye, he’s got ears, he’s not impaired.
Tyson actually got his boxing license back from the Nevada Athletic Commission just 15 months later. He would end up stepping into the ring 10 more times. None of those bouts were in Nevada, or against Holyfield. The two fighters eventually squashed their beef. They settled their differences on Oprah, and Tyson even helped Holyfield promote his BBQ sauce, sort of.
If that doesn’t make you hungry, I don’t know what does.
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