June 28 1997. One of the most infamous dates in boxing history... the day Mike Tyson took a bite out of Evander Holyfield’s right ear during the third round of their WBA heavyweight title rematch.
This date goes down in sports history as one of the most controversial moments ever witnessed in the ring. Now known as “The Bite Fight," it's the day Tyson turned to a more interesting method than a regular right hook to take down his opponent. After the attack, Tyson was disqualified from the fight and also suspended from boxing - in his roller-coaster career this was by far the strangest chapter.
In November 1996, Holyfield had beaten Tyson and become heavyweight champion in their match at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. This loss crashed Tyson's reputation as the most intimidating force in heavyweight boxing.
Tyson had a meteoric rise to with his astonishing 37-0 streak, 33 of which were won by knockout. This record made him the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing and with that came unmatched media attention alongside great respect from the entire sporting world.
At that time, a normal stint in the ring with Tyson usually saw complete domination and swift knockouts too - like his 91 second match against Michael Spins in 1988.
But everything changed in 1990, when Tyson lost to underdog, Buster Douglas, in a fight in Tokyo. Douglas went on to lose the title to Evander Holyfield, at which point hoards of fans began calling for a Tyson-Holyfield showdown. Although the fight was likely to go ahead, it all fell to the wayside when Tyson was charged with rape and eventually served a prison term in Indiana, putting his career on hold.
While Tyson was behind bars, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield became the big name in boxing, though he was never quite as dominant as 'Iron Mike'. In the years between 1990-95 many title fights ensued and belts were passed around between a number of people. Holyfield quickly lost the title to Riddick Bowe in 1992 but regained it a year later in their rematch fight. He then gave up the belt once more, five months later, to Michael Moorer.
Once Tyson was released from prison in 1995, he quickly returned to the ring and began seeking the title once more. A year later, he took a share of the heavyweight championship, which had been broken up due to dropped titles as a result of various disputes.
He finally faced Holyfield on November 9th, 1996 as the WBA and WBC champion. It was clear from the start that Holyfield would not go down easy and after 10 long rounds of back and forth, 'The Real Deal' landed a barrage of hits that left Tyson barely able to stand. The fight was called short as Tyson's legs began to buckle and Holyfield earned his third title reign.
Tyson was quick to claim 'dirty boxing' from the new champ and a rematch was soon scheduled. Tyson's team also challenged the same referee, Mitch Halpren, returning to ring with them, so back-up referee Mills Lane was chosen as a last-minute replacement.
The rematch began just as the last did, with Holyfield proving himself to be a worthy contender. It was clear that he took control early on - strong combinations were joined by an unintentional headbutt that left Tyson with an open cut by his eye.
By the end of round 3, Tyson was losing control and in a moment of madness, bit a chunk out of Holyfield's ear as they were clinching. Somehow, this only cost Tyson two points and a warning, after a review from Mills Lane and the standby physicians. The fight resumed and Mike Tyson bit Holyfield's ear once more just as the round ended, cementing this day in the annals of sports history forever. Mills Lane quickly disqualified Tyson and requested that security restrain him in his corner.
What followed was a boxing licence ban and a $3 million fine for the act, along with an underwhelming run of final bouts until his career came to an end. Out of his last ten fights, Tyson won just five, along with two others declared 'no contest'. In his closing attempt to be crowned champ in 2002, he lost to Lennox Lewis while Holyfield continued fighting until he was almost 50.
It seems June 28th 1987 was just the start of Tyson's boxing downfall, and Holyfield continued to outshine him for years to come. Luckily for Iron Mike, this date also secured his everlasting fame and he continues to be an influential public figure, hosting and starring in some of the most popular podcasts and creating new businesses to this day.
Tyson has since commented on the act:
I bit him because I wanted to kill him. I was really mad about my head being bumped and everything, Tyson said. I really lost consciousness of the whole fight. It took me out of my fight plan and everything.
He hasn't shown much remorse either - when asked if he would do it again, he stated:
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.
Though it will forever remain in the history books as the most bizarre and outrageous act ever seen in the ring, Tyson and Holyfield have since hashed it out and only seem to laugh about it all.
Now, Tyson even sells cannabis gummies shaped like Holyfield’s ear through his company ‘Tyson 2.0’ - they even have the chunk missing, so we're pretty sure they're all made-up.