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A Bite to the Finish

Tyson Disqualified in a Bizarre Scene

Boxing: Holyfield keeps his title, but not all of his right ear, after Tyson bites him twice during third round.

June 29, 1997|TIM KAWAKAMI | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LAS VEGAS — Mike Tyson drew blood Saturday night, and the stain of his actions might never be washed away, for him or the sport he once ruled.

This wasn't history, it was hysterics, and one of the ugliest, saddest moments boxing has ever seen, cutting deep and bathing everybody involved with its senselessness.

In what was billed as the biggest fight in boxing history, Tyson twice spit out his mouthpiece and bit Evander Holyfield during clinches in the third round, apparently in retribution for a second-round butt by Holyfield.

The first bite took a chunk out of Holyfield's ear and the second, coming only 23 seconds later, caused referee Mills Lane to disqualify him in this World Boxing Assn. heavyweight title fight at the end of the third.

"He spit out his mouthpiece and bit me on the ear," said Holyfield, who reacted furiously both times he was bitten, the first time drawing a savage push into the ropes from Tyson while Holyfield's back was turned.

Lane penalized Tyson two points (one for the bite, one for the push) after the first bite--which occurred with 33 seconds left in the third--then warned Tyson he would disqualify him if he bit Holyfield again.

After giving Holyfield about four minutes to recover, with blood streaming from his ear, Tyson bit him again in another clinch with 10 seconds left in the round.

Holyfield, who won the first two rounds on all three judges' cards, said it was clear Tyson acted out of desperation in a fight he knew he could not win.

"It doesn't show any courage when you foul and try to get out of it," said Holyfield, who headed to Valley Memorial Hospital after the bout.

Said Duane Ford, who was one of the judges: "He bit a hunk out of his right ear, and he spit it on the floor."

The disqualification triggered a chaotic scene in the ring, when Tyson and Tim Hallmark, Holyfield's cornerman, started screaming at each other, triggering Tyson to charge Hallmark and Holyfield and knock over at least one police officer hired by the hotel for security.

Tyson, who was being controlled by Holyfield in the three rounds that took place, was pulled back by a swarm of security guards. But minutes later, the fighters were still in the ring, and Tyson unsuccessfully charged at the Holyfield corner once again.

When Tyson and his group finally left the ring--about a minute after Holyfield had left to cheers--they were booed raucously and pelted with liquid from the seats above the MGM Grand Garden arena walkway.

After the group was hit with a thrown bottle of mineral water, security had to flood the area to prevent a mini-riot after Tyson and his handlers made a brief attempt to jump into the stands.

Witnesses say Tyson made it a few steps into the stands, and swung at several crowd members before being pulled away and into his dressing room.

Half an hour after the disqualification, Tyson scoffed at the seriousness of his actions.

"Holyfield's not the tough warrior he says he is," Tyson said. "He got a little nick on his ear and he quit. Holyfield didn't want to fight."

Tyson's camp has complained that Holyfield purposely butted Tyson in their first fight in November.

Saturday, Tyson (45-3) said he acted in retaliation for a second-round clash of heads that opened a cut over Tyson's right eye.

"He butted me in the second round and he butted me again," Tyson said. "No one took points from him. What am I supposed to do? This is my career, I've got children to raise.

"Regardless of what he did, he butted me for two fights. Look at me. Look at me. I'm going to go home and my kids are going to be scared of me. I addressed it in the ring."

Tyson's $30-million purse is being withheld pending a Nevada State Athletic Commission hearing, said Marc Ratner, the commission's executive director.

The hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.

Holyfield, who raised his record to 34-3 and received $35 million for the bout, said Tyson simply looked for an easy way out.

"Fear causes people to do things to get out of it," Holyfield said.

Said Lane: "On the first foul, I took two points away, and [he told Tyson], 'If you bite him again, I'm going to disqualify you.' How many times do you want a guy to get bit?"

Tyson, who came out clearly trying to avoid the reckless charge that led to his defeat in the first fight, bobbed and weaved--but looked visibly frustrated after his jabs and hooks missed Holyfield repeatedly.

Lane, who replaced Mitch Halpern as the referee after a protest by Tyson's managers caused Halpern to bow out, was pressed into action early when the fighters clinched 39 seconds in the fight.

As in the first bout, Holyfield looked bigger and stronger than Tyson, shoving him aside when he wanted to and landing the harder shots despite Tyson's best defense.

A left hook-left hook-straight right combination at 1:45 of the first caused Tyson to stop in his tracks and shake his head.

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