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Poignant Passages: The Passing of Wife Gerry, Mike
Tyson Biting Evander Holyfield's Ears, and the Author's
Vision Problems Are the Subjects in Reprints of Three
of Jim Murray's Classic Columns. | JUNE 29, 1997 |
JIM MURRAY

Tyson's a Two-Bit Fighter

August 18, 1998|JIM MURRAY

LAS VEGAS — Well, Mike Tyson didn't need a new referee. He needed a rabies shot.

He has been hailed as having the fighting style of a wild animal.

He sure has. He proved it here Saturday night. He tried to bite Evander Holyfield's ear off Saturday. Twice. Referee Mills Lane disqualified him before he tried to bite his nose off.

America's Wolfman made a mockery of the Marquess of Queensberry rules. He made a mockery of sportsmanship. He took pugilism back to the cave.

He is one disturbed young man. He should not be allowed to fight again. Unless it is against a hungry grizzly.

It had to be seen to be disbelieved. We've all heard of a "hungry" fighter. But never one who tried to eat his opponent.

The funny thing is, they might have spotted Tyson the first bite. Even though part of Holyfield's ear was missing, the ref just deducted a couple of points. But when Tyson chomped down again in the next round, they decided to get him out of there before he bit off more than he could chew.

It was such a shocking bit of cannibalism, they decided to halt the proceedings before Tyson tried to put him in a pot. I guess people in the dawn of history settled matters that way. But today only dogs and mosquitoes get forgiven for biting. Prizefighting has rules. No kicking, choking, shooting, knifing--or biting.

Mike Tyson was unregenerate to the last. He had been butted, he insisted. "My career was on the line!" he exclaimed. He was entitled to retaliate, he felt. Removing an ear seemed to him to be a suitable reaction. For a mad dog, perhaps. But for a licensed pugilist?

Even Tyson's manager didn't seem to get the point. "A little nick on his ear don't mean nothin'," he screamed at the press. "My fighter had a three-inch cut."

Even Evander Holyfield was incredulous. You encounter a bear, a leopard, you protect yourself against a bite. But how do you stop a clinching opponent? "I thought my ear had fell off! Blood was all over!"

It was boxing's lowest moment. There are many things wrong with the manly art of self-defense, but we always thought those mouthpieces were in there to protect the teeth of the wearer, not the ear of an opponent.

"He spit the mouthpiece out when he bit me!" Holyfield revealed.

The heavyweight championship was awarded once in history on a disqualification, is our recollection. But that was when Max Schmeling lay on the floor and refused to get up after being hit low by Jack Sharkey. He was awarded the title even though the low blow was unintentional.

Tyson's foul was so intentional, he repeated it. Maybe he liked the taste of Evander's ear. We are at a low point in our history. Our prizefighters bite each other, our ballplayers spit in your face. Mike Tyson has been suspended "temporarily" by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. He gets a hearing as to whether his purse--a mere $30 million--should not be held up.

That may be the most expensive dining-out in history if the commission tries to make the "fine" stick.

Why did Mike Tyson do it. Well, that may be like asking a Doberman pinscher why it does it.

As this is written, newsmen are asking principals whether Holyfield will give Tyson a return match. Give Tyson a return fight?! What would Evander have to do--put ketchup on his ears?! Mustard on his nose?!

Mike Tyson should be allowed to fight only a thing that can bite back. His fighting days should be over.

Biting is a tactic of the overmatched. Mike Tyson was getting properly beaten up. Defeated partisans think up horror weapons. They bring in secret weapons. That's what Tyson did. He burst his moorings and began to assault the world in the ring.

I don't know what he could do to restore his dignity and professionalism. Become a vegetarian, for starters. But, I would think, given his history, he is the last guy in the world I would want to bite back.

It's not funny, it's a sad story. Ask Evander's plastic surgeon.

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