Keeping Score

Fifteen Years After ‘Bite Fight,’ Tyson and Holyfield Enjoy Twitter Bromance

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JEFF HAYNES / AFP / Getty Images

Evander Holyfield reacts after Mike Tyson bit his ear in the third round of their WBA Heavyweight Championship Fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, NV, June 28, 1997.

Back in 1997, when you witnessed Mike Tyson bite off a chunk of Evander Holyfield’s ear in a heavyweight mega-fight, you always knew that 15 years later, the fighters would mark the anniversary of this horrible event by making jokes about it on something called Twitter.

On June 28, 1997, Tyson disgraced himself — and his sport — on that crazy Saturday night in Las Vegas. Do you remember where you were at that moment? I was a summer intern at WFAN, the New York sports radio station. A bunch of us were watching the fight on a studio TV with overnight host Tony Paige, a boxing expert, who was about to go on the air. I’ll never forget Paige jumping around the basement studio, apoplectic, when Tyson went cannibalistic. Paige had seen a lot of fights, and this was like nothing he’d ever seen.

As Steve Wulf wrote in TIME, in a story headlined “Heavyweight Chomp”

The rematch between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson was billed as “The Sound and the Fury,” borrowing a line from Shakespeare’s Macbeth. How fitting then that Saturday’s World Boxing Association heavyweight championship fight at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas turned out to be not only a tragedy but also a tale told by an idiot, signifying nothing.

The idiot was Tyson. The former champ and eternal bully, having already lost the first two rounds, decided to retaliate for an accidental head-butting cut over his eye by biting part of Holyfield’s right ear off with 40 seconds left in the third round. The reigning champ jumped up in pain and walked away in anger, blood streaming from the ear. Tyson then ran after Holyfield and shoved him in the back before referee Mills Lane intervened. During an ensuing four-minute delay, a physician examined Holyfield and determined that he could continue, while Lane deducted 2 points from Tyson’s score and warned him another bite would get him disqualified. “I told Tyson, ‘One more like that and you’re gone,'” Mills recalled later. Sure enough, when the fight resumed, Tyson bit Holyfield on the left ear, and when the round was over, Lane disqualified him. Bedlam followed as Tyson tried to get at Holyfield and struck a police officer.

Tyson, who obviously had “eaten on the insane root that takes the reason prisoner,” said afterward, “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 was taken to Valley Hospital after the fight to surgically repair the ear, addressed Tyson by saying “I truly believe fear itself causes people to do the easy thing. The quickest way 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?” has posted an engaging  oral history of the whole affair, here.

As you enjoy your summer barbeques this weekend and into the 4th of July, rest easy, knowing that it seems like Tyson, whose one-man show is headed for Broadway, and Holyfield have made amends. You see, Holyfield had a barbeque sauce brand, Real Deal BBQ Sauce. And on Friday morning, @holyfield, which has 32,000 followers, tweeted


Well, that missive is a brilliant bit of marketing on the ex-champ’s part, because Tyson has an exponentially larger Twitter following than his once-bitten former opponent – almost 2.3 million strong – and he fired back with:


A little food for thought from the boxing ring, I guess. Thanks, Twitter, for uniting Tyson and Holyfield on the 15th-year anniversary of their fight, just like we always pictured it.