THIS DAY IN SPORTS: Not exactly boxing’s finest moment


This Day In Sports…June 28, 1997, 25 years ago today:

One of the most bizarre title fights in boxing history, as Mike Tyson bites off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their heavyweight championship bout in Las Vegas. Tyson’s transgression happened in the third round after Holyfield had dominated the early action. Referee Mills Lane deducted two points from Tyson but allowed the bout to continue. Later in the round, Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear, and Lane disqualified Tyson after the bell sounded. The event had been pre-hyped as “The Sound and the Fury.” Instead, it cam to be known as the “Bite Fight.”

Holyfield had upset Tyson seven months earlier, with referee Mitch Halpern calling the fight and stopping it in the 11th round. Halpern was slated to referee the rematch, but Tyson’s camp objected, and Halpern voluntarily withdrew. Lane, the legendary ref who had worked six previous Tyson fights and seven Holyfield bouts, was called in. Lane, whose day job was a District Court judge in Reno, had a lot to process in this one. It took 25 minutes from the time the melee ended for Lane to render his decision to disqualify Tyson.

At the time, it was the biggest pay-per-view fight of all-time, generating total revenue of $180 million (it’s now seventh, including UFC events). If fans knew in advance what was to happen, that number could have doubled. Afterward, though, Tyson had his boxing license revoked and was suspended from the sport indefinitely.Tyson was also fined $3 million and was ordered to perform an undetermined amount of community service. After an appeal in court, Tyson’s license was reinstated the following year. 

Tyson was the undisputed world heavyweight champion from 1987-90, while Holyfield is the only fighter ever to win the world heavyweight title four different times. The two boxers eventually made peace with each other. They appeared on Oprah Winfreytogether in 2009, and Tyson threw a figurative olive branch toward Holyfield. Holyfield accepted it and forgave Tyson, and the two are apparently friends to this day.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)


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