MIKE TYSON savaged Evander Holyfield’s ear 20 years ago today in one of the most shocking scenes boxing – and all of sport – has ever seen.
The Baddest Man On The Planet lived up to his nickname with sickening and repeated attacks on the Real Deal’s vulnerable lugholes.
On June 28, 1997 – during a fight billed as The Sound and the Fury – the sight of enamel ripping through flesh sickened fight fans and left the sport at rock bottom.
Iron Mike Tyson was no stranger to crime and controversy by the time he stunned even the most brutal and bloody sport – long before MMA was an athletic pursuit.
Aged just 13, a desperately poor youth facing a bleak future, he had notched up 38 arrests and was a willing student in the dark arts of burglary and street robbery.
But his most heinous transgressions were to come when he was at his most rich and powerful.
On June 27, 1988 he became the undisputed lineal heavyweight champion of the world after crushing Michael Spinks in one monstrous round.
But by March 1992 he had not only lost every belt to Buster Douglas in one of sport’s biggest upsets, he had also been sentenced to six years in prison for raping 18-year-old Desiree Washington.
Tyson returned to boxing in 1995 and need just two warm-up fights before taking the WBC title back off England’s Frank Bruno but he faced the first real test of his comeback on November 9, 1996.
Evander Holyfield had studied Tyson religiously but was almost flattened from the shorter man’s very first punch.
Holyfield saw the WBA champion dip to his left and expected a trademark left-hook from Tyson’s offensive textbook but the Brownsville bomber stunned him a right-cross.
That moment of genius was to be Tyson’s first and only moment of dominance. Holyfield used his superior height, strength and reach to frustrate and pummel his rival.
The illegal use of his head even opened up a raw gash on the convict that he was never to forget.
With 15 seconds of the seventh round remaining, Holyfield lunged forward and the pair cracked skulls once again with Tyson howling out in pain as he once again suffered at the head of the in-ring bully.
Holyfield tied-up, pushed around and prodded at Tyson until a barrage in the final seconds of the 10th round left him spark out on his feet but somehow upright.
But it took just seconds on the 11th for the referee to save Tyson from demolition.
The fallen hero had seven months to sit and stew on that result and performance, while abusing his mind and body with far more vigour than he was spending in the gym.
The roughhouse tactics Holyfield employed to disarm and embarrass the once impervious world champion were replayed on TV screens everywhere. Tyson could never face that shame again.
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But the rematch was – until the cannibalistic farce broke out – almost a carbon copy of the original.
Holyfield clinched and grabbed, butted and pushed, goading Tyson’s attacks in before countering them viciously like a bullfighter haunting a wild beast.
In round two another clash of heads tore open Tyson’s skin around his right eye as a suffocating sense of déjà vu riddled the impotent war machine.
The sight of his own blood trickling down his right cheek sparked a taste for Holyfield’s and he tried to walk out from his corner – after screaming to his team “he head-butted me” – without his gumshield.
The referee spotted the missing mouthguard and demanded Tyson install it and that seemed to spark a resurgence in the wounded animal who launched into one final legal assault.
But, with 40 seconds of the third round remaining, after another punch combination failed to fall the Alabama titan, Tyson’s face – while snuggled tight into Holyfield’s shoulder for another clinch – suddenly contorted into a twisted snarl.
Tyson had bitten into Holyfield’s ear for the first time. The stunned fighter leapt up in the air in almost cartoon fashion while Tyson stared on unperturbed, almost admiring his savagery before pushing the screaming fighter.
Blood gushed from Holyfield’s right ear as the camera caught unflinching Tyson perversely licking his lips and prowling the ring, hoping for a second bite at the cherry.
Referee Mills Lane took the wrong road by allowing the fight to continue and docking a clearly unhinged Tyson a mere two points.