Mike Tyson chomped on Evander Holyfield’s ear during their 1997 rematch, a bout retrospectively dubbed “The Bite Fight.”
Holyfield dominated the opening rounds of the fight and, in the middle of a clinch in the third, could be heard screaming in pain.
Tyson, who had bitten a chunk of his ear and spat the cartilage on the floor, was given a two-point penalty deduction. Though the fight was allowed to continue, Tyson bit Holyfield on the other ear and was disqualified.
The infamous fight has become of interest 23 years later as the two fighters have talked-up a potential trilogy bout in a non-professional, three or four-round exhibition setting.
Speaking to Chris Mannix on the Sports Illustrated boxing podcast, Holyfield recalled how “mad” and “upset” he was at the first foul.
“I realized that I was gonna bite him back,” he said, according to Boxing Scene.
Holyfield said he held back for three reasons:
His trainers had warned him pre-fight that Tyson might “do something”
His grandma had told him “they always catch the person who do it the second time”
It may have finished the sport of boxing for good
“[At] the point of me knowing that I was gonna bite him back, my corner guy named Tim Hallmark, because his papa had told us that in the match that this guy gonna do something to you and, you know, for me not to lose my cool and all that. He told me to keep my mind on the Lord.
“And so, I told my trainer, Tim Hallmark, to remind me if that do happen,” Holyfield, a born-again Christian, said.
“And he kept calling and telling me, ‘Keep your mind on the Lord.’ I didn’t wanna keep my mind on the Lord. I wanted to bite him back.
“Then all of a sudden it came across my mind what my grandmama said – they always catch the person who do it the second time. So, I decided not to bite him back. And he bit me again. Yeah, he bit me again. Then, you know, Mills Lane, he stopped the fight and all that.”
Not retaliating saved boxing, Holyfield said
Holyfield told Mannix that doing “the right thing … saved boxing.”
He said: “I believe if I would’ve did what I wanted to, I was gonna bite him right there in that face. And I told Mike that, and he said, ‘You really was?’ And I said, ‘I was.’ I said, ‘But Tim kept hollering to me to keep your mind on the lord.’
“And I said I thought about that what would’ve probably happened to the game of boxing if the two best fighters biting each other, goring each other, and you know, the game may be over.
“We wouldn’t even be talking about the game now.”
Tyson has since given many reasons why he bit Holyfield.
These have included being “crazy a little bit,” feeling like he “wanted to kill him,” and “pissed off that he was such a great fighter,” The Guardian reported.
Though Holyfield didn’t bite Tyson, he did bite someone in 1980 …
The LA Times reported in 1997 that Holyfield fouled an opponent in the amateur ranks 17 years before “The Bite Fight.”
Holyfield was knocked down by Jakey Winters. Of the incident, Holyfield said: “I bit him on the neck.”