On This Date in Sports June 28, 1997: Mike Tyson's Chomp

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

In perhaps the most bizarre moment in the history of boxing, Mike Tyson is disqualified after biting Evander Holyfield twice in the third round. The fight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was a rematch for the heavyweight title won by Holyfield in November. The fight was clearly going the same way, leading a frustrated Tyson to bite a chunk out of Holyfield’s ear.

By the time Mike Tyson stepped in the ring for his second fight against Evander Holyfield, his reputation as the most intimidating force in the history of boxing was long gone. When his career began, Tyson was a Hurricane winning his first 37 fights, including 33 by knockout, to become the youngest heavyweight champion in the history of boxing. A typical Tyson fight saw him dominate his opponents, often scoring quick knockouts, like a match against Michael Spinks in 1988 that lasted just 91 seconds. That was until 1990 when an unknown Buster Douglas knocked Tyson out in Tokyo.

After upsetting Tyson, Buster Douglas lost the title to Evander Holyfield. Fans began clamoring for Tyson and Holyfield to square off in the ring, but any match was put on hold as Mike Tyson faced rape charges that eventually led to a prison term in Indiana. While Tyson’s career was on hold, Evander “The Real Deal” Holyfield became the star of boxing, though he was never dominant as he lost the belt to Riddick Bowe in 1992. A year later, Holyfield regained the title in a rematch with Bowe but lost the belt to Michael Moorer five months later.

Mike Tyson got out of prison in 1995 and resumed his boxing career; a year later, he regained a share of the heavyweight championship, which in subsequent years had been broken up with titles dropped for various reasons due to disputes over who was number one contender. With the WBA and WBC championships around his waist, Mike Tyson finally faced Evander Holyfield on November 9, 1996. From the start of the fight, Holyfield showed he would not be intimidated by Iron Mike Tyson and took control as he scored an 11th-round knockout to earn a third title reign.

The rematch ironical billed as the “Sound, and the Fury” was set right away, as Mike Tyson claimed Evander Holyfield fought dirty in the first fight. The Tyson camp protested Referee Mitch Halpren being used again, so Mills Lane came in as a last-minute replacement. Early on, it was clear the second fight was going in the same direction as the first fight as Holyfield took control early. Tyson suffered an open cut on his eye due to an unintentional headbutt. By the time the third round ended, Mike Tyson was losing control as he bit a big chunk out of Holyfield’s left ear. The fight was temporarily stopped as doctors checked Holyfield’s ear. After consulting with in-ring physicians, Mills Lane deducted two points from Tyson and sent a warning after initially considering ending the fight. When the fight resumed, Tyson tried to take a bite out of Holyfield’s right ear as the round ended. Following the round, referee Mills Lane ended the fight as Mike Tyson was disqualified. Mayhem broke out following Mills Lane’s ruling as Tyson had to be restrained by security in his corner.

Following the fight, Mike Tyson had his boxing license suspended for a year, as he was fined $3 million. The final years of his career would feature a series of bizarre moments: Tyson won just five of his last ten fights, with two fights declared no contest. He would fight for the heavyweight championship one more time, losing to Lennox Lewis in 2002, who had taken the title from Holyfield in 1999. Holyfield remained a title contender for years as he continued fighting until he was nearly 50.

The third man in the ring, Mill Lane, got his share of fame after the fight, as the Superior Court Judge later retired and became a TV judge. A former boxer, Lane also played in the MTV Claymation series “Celebrity Death Match” and had a best-selling autobiography, “Let’s get in on!” based on his famous catchphrase before suffering a debilitating stroke in 2002. Like Holyfield and Tyson, Mills Lane would earn induction into the Boxing Hall of Fame.