The Meltdown: Making a meal of 'Real Deal'
ESPN.com reviews Mike Tyson's most significant fights over the past 20 years. In Part V, Tyson loses it and bites Evander Holyfield in their June, 1997 rematch.
Mike Tyson returns to the ring Saturday (9 p.m. ET, Showtime PPV) when he meets Kevin McBride at the MCI Center in Washington. It's hard to believe it's been 20 years since Tyson made his pro debut. He turned pro on March 6, 1985, knocking out Hector Mercedes in the first round in Albany, N.Y., and it's been quite a ride since inside and outside of the ring as he became one of the most famous athletes on Earth. ESPN.com takes a look back at some of his most significant fights in this five-part retrospective.
The November 1996 showdown between then-title holder Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield was a terrific fight that ended in shocking fashion with Holyfield, a big underdog, knocking out Tyson in the 11th round to win the title.
Naturally, there would be a rematch. And it was going to be huge Holyfield, then 33-3 with 24 KOs, would earn a record $35 million. Tyson, then 45-2 with 39 KOs, would make a not-too-shabby $30 million for what would, to that point, be the richest fight in history.
It would also go down as perhaps the most infamous.
|Tyson At 20|
• Rafael: Meltdown | Return | Upset |Apex | Crown
• Rafael: 20 topics | McBride | Fenech | Camp
• Graham: Nelson | Hosea/Scaff | Long | Jaco | Green
• Gallery | Vote | Torres: Respect | Bayless: Marketer
• Tyson KOs: ESPN360 | Oddcast: Rafael preview
The original rematch date of May 3, 1997, was postponed because Tyson suffered a cut over his left eye during training camp. But when it was finally a go for June 27 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a sellout crowd of 16,331 jammed the Grand Garden Arena to watch one of the most hyped events in sports history.
Another 1.99 million people bought the pay-per-view broadcast still the all-time record that generated about $125 million.
What the massive audience witnessed was a ghoulish and disgusting display from Tyson, who shocked even the most cynical person when he twice bit Holyfield, once on each ear, in the third round and was disqualified by referee Mills Lane.
Holyfield, 34, had retained the title, but lost a piece of his flesh, a roughly 1-inch chunk from his right ear.
Tyson, who turned 31 three days later, had been cut over his right eye in the second round and claimed he was retaliating for Holyfield's intentional head butts that went unchecked by Lane.
Tyson actually appeared to be winning the third round when Holyfield suddenly began jumping up and down, before walking away from Tyson with blood pouring from his ear.
"I thought my ear had fallen off," Holyfield would later tell the press.
Lane penalized Tyson two points and ringside doctor Flip Homansky examined Holyfield's wound before the fight resumed after a more than four-minute delay. However, with less than a minute to go in the round, Tyson chomped on Holyfield's left ear.
After the round, Lane disqualified Tyson, and soon the ring was filled with people. In the middle of the chaos, Tyson was charging after Holyfield, and he hit a police officer during the scrum. The bizarre and unsatisfying ending to the fight sparked a riot in the MGM that caused several minor injuries.
Tyson was unapologetic, telling the media, "He has a cut on his ear and he didn't want to fight. Regardless of what I did, he had been butting for two fights. I addressed it in the ring . What else could I do?"
Holyfield, who had to go the hospital following the biting, told reporters, "I truly believe fear itself causes people to do the easy thing. The quickest thing was to get out. If you think you can whup me, do it with the gloves on. You had a chance to fight. Why did you bite?"
Two weeks later, the Nevada State Athletic Commission voted unanimously to revoke Tyson's boxing license and fined him $3 million.
It was the most expensive meal he ever had.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
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