Wednesday, November 29

Why Mike Tyson Bit Evander Holyfield’s Ear, Explained


  • In a shocking turn of events, Mike Tyson bit off Evander Holyfield’s ear during their infamous rematch, known as ‘The Bite Fight.’
  • Tyson’s frustrations stemmed from headbutting incidents in their first fight, causing him to lose control and attack Holyfield.
  • Despite the chaos and controversy, Holyfield remained the WBA Heavyweight champion, and Tyson was disqualified for his actions.

25 years ago seems like a lifetime away. However, that hasn’t stopped boxing fans from still reeling over the heavyweight boxing’s most infamous rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. While everyone was lost in the fight and not expecting what would happen next, Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear in front of the disbelieving crowd. Fans then didn’t know why or what even triggered this famous athlete to lose control in such a matter. Nonetheless, he did.

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The fight took place on the 28th of June 1997 in Las Vegas, and was originally known as ‘The Sound and the Fury,’ but since Tyson decided his stomach was missing an ear, the fight is now better known as ‘The Bite Fight.’ Tyson and Holyfield had fought each other seven months earlier, so this bizarre fight was actually a rematch.

A Scenario Before The Tyson and Holyfield Fight That May Have Led To The Biting FiascoNov 6, 1993; Evander Holyfield (right) and Lou Duva (left)

When the fight was signed, Mitch Halpern was given referee status for the match, even though he was the referee from their first match. Tyson’s management flatly refused this assignment, with the formal reason being that they believed (although never confirmed), that both fighters had clashed heads several times during the course of the first fight and Halpern ruled them all as accidental.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled against the Tyson camp; however, Halpern willingly withdrew from the fight days before because he felt his presence would just end up being a distraction. The status was then given to Mills Lane, who had already worked six previous fights featuring these legends.

What Happened During The Tyson and Holyfield Fight That Led To The Bite

Mike Tyson
Photo Credits: Joe Scarnici/Handout Photo and Joe Camporeale USA TODAY Sports.

As soon as the match began, Holyfield had the upper hand. He won the first three rounds, and at 2:19 of the first round, he stunned Tyson with an overhand right punch. 32 seconds into the second round ducked under a right punch from Tyson before the two unintentionally clashed heads, which resulted in a large cut over Tyson’s right eye. This was a major contributing factor Tyson attacked Holyfield the way he did. Tyson had repeatedly complained about headbutting in the first bout between the two fighters. However, upon review of the replays, referee Mills Lane stated that they were unintentional and non-punishable.

Just before the third round began, Tyson came out of his corner without his mouthpiece, which was already a sign that Lane tried to keep his eye on. Lane ordered Tyson back to his corner and told him to put the mouthpiece back in, and then the match resumed with the third round. With forty seconds to go Holyfield got Tyson in a clinch, and within seconds Tyson rolled his head above Holyfield’s shoulder and bit off a one-inch piece of his right ear, and spat it out into the ring apron.

What Did Tyson Say About Why He Bit Holyfield’s Ear

Nov 28, 2020; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Mike Tyson (black trunks)
Credit: Joe Scarnici/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports.

Tyson was very forthcoming in an interview with Fox News about why he did what he did.

I bit him because I wanted to kill him. I was really mad about my head being bumped and everything. I really lost consciousness of the whole fight. It took me out of my fight plan and everything.

It seems as though Tyson’s frustrations stemmed from the fact that Holyfield dominated the opening rounds of the fight and may have come out on top had the fight gone the full distance.

Did Tyson Bite Holyfield Twice?

Tyson initially bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear and was only given a two-point deduction. However, moments later, Tyson bit Holyfield on the other ear and only then was disqualified for his actions. Fox News also asked Tyson if he would ever commit such an egregious act again.

I hope not. I say, ‘No, never ever again.’ But I might do it again. Well if he does what he was doing to get bitten, I would bite him again. Yeah.

The Events That Led To The Aftermath Of The Fight Against Tyson and Holyfield

Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson.-1
Photo Credits: V.J. Lovero and Lynn Millspaugh/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports.

Holyfield leaped into the air in pain, bleeding profusely from the first wound. Lane stopped the action, however Tyson still managed to rush Holyfield from behind and shove him into his corner. Lane was eventually able to separate the two men, and delayed the fight for a few minutes while he decided what to do. Lane asked Marc Ratner, the chairperson of Nevada’s Athletic Commission, to join him in the ring apron and informed him that he was going to disqualify Tyson and end the fight.

While all the chaos went on, ringside physician Flip Homansky was performing his own check on Holyfield, which is when Lane decided to defer to him. Homansky cleared Holyfield to continue the fight, and so Lane decided to allow the bout to continue, but not before penalizing Tyson with a two-point deduction. However, 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,” Lane retorted.

Lane’s comments around Tyson’s excuses seemed to be accurate. During another clinch, Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear. Holyfield threw his hands around to escape the clinch and jumped back. At least Tyson’s second bite just scarred Holyfield’s ear.

At the time of the second bite however, Lane did not stop the match, and both combatants continued fighting until time expired in that round. The men walked back to their respective corners, and when the second bite was discovered, the match was officially over and Tyson was disqualified.

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Tyson and Holyfield Post-Fight Drama

When the match was stopped, Tyson went on a rampage toward Holyfield and his trainer Tommy Brooks while they were still in their respective corners. Lane told Tyson’s corner that he was disqualifying Tyson for biting Holyfield. To protect Holyfield, security surrounded him in his corner, and Tyson was taken back to his corner by security.

Lane was interviewed and said that the bites were intentional. He had told Tyson not to bite anymore, and said Tyson asked to be disqualified for disobeying that order. Holyfield left the ring seconds after the interview, which gave the fans and audience the hint that the match was over.

Holyfield told the press afterward that Tyson bit him because he knew he was going to get knocked out, and he chose to lose in a disqualification instead. Reporters then interviewed Tyson’s instructor, who was upset about Lane’s decision. He said that he believes they will have to explain the disqualification because he did not agree with it, but it is what it is. He further went on to say that he knows Tyson has a cut on his eye – almost like he was hinting towards that being ignored.

Twenty-five minutes after the brawl ended, announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. announced the final decision which resulted in Holyfield remaining the WBA Heavyweight champion.

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