On June 28th, 1997, the stage was set for Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield to fight for the second time in less than eight months.
The first fight between them ended up being one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. Holyfield, who had lost two of his previous four fights (one of which resulted in the first knockout loss of his career) heading into the matchup, dominated Tyson in 11 rounds to walk away with the WBA heavyweight title. Holyfield carried that momentum into the beginning of their second fight, billed as “The Sound and The Fury,” by getting the better of Tyson in the opening two rounds. It was what happened in the middle of the third round, however, that has since become known as one of the most shocking incidents in sports.
After getting headbutted by Holyfield – unintentionally, in the eyes of referee Mills Lane – and receiving a cut above his right eye, Tyson retaliated by biting Holyfield’s right ear. Tyson wasn’t immediately disqualified for his actions, but Mills deducted two points from Tyson. When Tyson bit Holyfield’s other ear at the end of the round, Mills decided to finally step in and end the record-breaking fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
“He butted me in the second round, and he looked at me and butted me again,” Tyson said. “No one deducted points. This is my career. What am I supposed to do? I’ve got children to raise. He kept butting me.”
Holyfield was worried at the time that his ear had fallen off entirely. According to The New York Times, it took 90 minutes of surgery and eight stitches to close his ear. He showed Fox 5 NY in 2015 that there is still a piece of his ear missing, although he feels no absolutely no pain.
“I thought my ear had fallen off,” Holyfield said. “Look at the bite. I’m missing part of my ear. I just couldn’t believe it — they have rules and regulations for this.”
There certainly are rules and regulations in place to prevent those sorts of things from happening. In addition to being disqualified from the fight, Tyson had his boxing license suspended and was eventually fined $3 million, which ended up being 10 percent of the $30 million he made on the night. He faced the possibility of a lifetime ban from the sport, but Tyson’s boxing license was restored 15 months later. He fought 10 more times in his career, with five matches ending in a victory, three ending in a loss and two ending in a no contest.
Tyson has since apologized to Holyfield for what he did. While on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2009, Tyson told Holyfield that it was “a pleasure” being acquainted with him and Holyfield responded with forgiveness. If there was any doubt that the two had buried the hatchet, they also recently starred in a humorous Footlocker commercial centered around Tyson giving Holyfield the missing piece of his ear back. Tyson even said in 2013 that he loves Holyfield and that he’s “forever linked with him for the rest of my life.“