On June 28, 1997, one of the most bizarre and infamous fights in boxing history took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
As heard in Episode 37 of History of the 90s, the heavyweight title fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield was a rematch of a fight six months earlier between the pair that left Iron Mike dazed and bloodied in a shocking upset. The rematch was advertised as “The Sound and the Fury” but it will be remembered in history as the “Bite Fight.”
Here’s how things went down:
After the first two rounds, Holyfield was easily winning. Tyson complained to the ref that Holyfield had headbutted him in the second round leaving a big gash above his right eye. The ref ordered the fight to continue.
As the third round was about to begin, Tyson came out of his corner without his mouthpiece. The ref sent him back to his corner to insert it, which he did and the fight resumed. Then with 40 seconds left in the third round Tyson spit out his mouthpiece and bit a chunk out of Holyfield’s right ear. Holyfield stomped up and down and was visibly angry and in obvious discomfort. The ref penalized Tyson two points but allowed the fight to continue.
But within 20 seconds Tyson bit Holyfield again, removing the top of Holyfield’s left ear. The round ended and this time the ref called things off. Tyson was disqualified from the match.
Chaos erupted inside and outside the ring. Holyfield’s corner man started screaming at Tyson, which triggered Tyson to charge Holyfield’s corner. A police officer was knocked over in the mayhem. Security guards pulled Tyson off but then minutes later Tyson stormed Holyfield’s corner again.
When Tyson and his group finally left the ring they were booed and pelted with hot dogs and beer by the crowd. Tyson and his handlers made a brief attempt to jump into the stands, which caused a another mini riot.
The MGM grand was forced to close for a several hours after the fight because of reported gunfire. Gamblers fearing for the lives jumped under black jack tables and behind slot machines.
Later Tyson said he bit Holyfield in retaliation for that head butt that cut him above the right eye. Tyson said, “what am I supposed to do? This is my career. I’ve got children here.”
Two days later Tyson apologized for what he called the worst night of his career. He asked to be forgiven for snapping in the ring and doing something he never should have done. Holyfield accepted his apology. But it wasn’t enough for boxing officials.
The Nevada State Athletic Commission revoked Tyson’s boxing license and fined him $3 million dollars for the biting incident but the ban wasn’t permanent. Tyson was entitled to reapply after a year and he did just that. A little over a year after the Bite Fight, Mike Tyson was allowed back in the ring. He retired in 2005 while Holyfield hung up his gloves in 2014.
But we may not have seen the last of Tyson and Holyfield. In May 2020, Holyfield said he would be game to face Tyson again “if he wants to.” In response Tyson said a rematch between the two would be “awesome for charity.”
For more about the bite fight and the tumultous career of Mike Tyson, check out Episode 37 of History of the 90s available on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Google Play and anywhere else you stream audio. You can also listen at on the Curiouscast website.