No one is sure exactly what happened to Evander Holyfield’s ear. I mean, everyone knew that Mike Tyson bit off a chunk of it during their rematch in 1997, forever known not as Tyson-Holyfield II, but instead as Bite Fight.
It’s hard to know what they’ll call Tyson-Holyfield III, which Tyson says is on for May 29 in Miami. A day earlier, Holyfield’s people said the fight wasn’t on because Tyson was so greedy he wouldn’t even agree to a $25 million payday. This is just pre-fight buildup. They’ll fight.
But whatever happened to the piece of Holyfield’s ear that Tyson bit off? Some people say ring ref Mills Lane picked it up and kept it as a souvenir. He denied that. I believe him. He sold his shirt from that night, covered in Holyfield’s ear blood, to a souvenir dealer for $200 and regretted it later because he should have gotten more. What does he want with Holyfield’s ear, which would have brought in a fortune?
Some say an employee of the resort found it in the ring afterward, picked it up and took it to Holyfield’s locker room. They took it with Holyfield to the hospital to try to re-attach it, but somehow lost it in the ambulance.
Tyson is a carnival act now, which is sad because young people don’t know that he once was the most fearsome champ since Jack Dempsey. Back then, he was only part-carnival act. Holyfield might actually still think he’s going to be the champ again. Boxing should be embarrassed to have this fight now.
Also, I’m embarrassed that I can’t wait for it.
We can use a fun carnival act now. It’s not as if the usual sports, other than football, are resonating in particular. Today is a day off in the NCAA Tournament, where the story is that athletes who want to be paid a share of the billions of TV dollars the NCAA is getting might be considering a boycott or something. Or, we could talk about Deshaun Watson’s allegedly violent and degrading massage habits.
No thanks. Imagine Tyson-Holyfield actually getting $25 million for that fight (Chomp Night in the Everglades?). If that’s true, and pay-per-view buys and gambling plays would still be enough for everyone to make money, then it says something about us as a society. I’m not sure what that is, but it’s the same thing that now has me clearing my calendar.
You can never be sure about boxing’s numbers, but Tyson fought an old-man exhibition against Roy Jones Jr. in November and it supposedly drew 1.6 million pay-per-view buys at $49.49 apiece, generating $80 million.
If that’s true, then it matched the number of buys for Tyson-Holyfield I, which was actually one of the great fights of all time.
Tyson-Holyfield I had been planned and put off for years. Tyson scared everyone to death and was considered unbeatable. He beat Trevor Berbick by knocking him down three times with one punch. (Look it up on YouTube!). And then in what was basically a warmup fight for Holyfield, Tyson lost to some guy named Buster Douglas. Then Tyson went to prison for three years after a rape conviction.
When they finally did fight, Holyfield arrived with one thing no one had had against Tyson: Fearlessness.
He stood in front of Tyson and bullied him around for the win. Then came the rematch. Holyfield head-butted Tyson in the second round, cutting him over his right eye. At the start of the next round, Lane made Tyson go back to his corner because he had come out without his mouthpiece.
We probably should have known something was up. Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear and then there was a delay to figure out what was happening. Tyson said he had punched Holyfield in the ear. “Bulls—’’ Lane said quickly, pointing in Tyson’s face.
And then they went back to fighting. And Tyson went back to biting. The fight was stopped.
People thought Tyson was out of control, which served to hurt his image but build his carnival brand, which was then all he had left. In a press conference before fighting Lennox Lewis, Tyson bit Lewis in the thigh.
A third fight won’t sell big because of the amazing Tyson-Holyfield I. It’ll sell because of Bite Fight and Tyson’s image-resurrection in the Hangover movies, where no one had the nerve to tell him he can’t sing.
Tyson and Holyfield did a Foot Locker commercial too, where Tyson rings the doorbell at what is presumably the mansion of Holyfield, who answers.
“I’m sorry, Evander,’’ Tyson says. And he holds out a small ring box and says, “It’s your ear . . . I kept that in formaldehyde.’’
I went to Tyson’s last fight before his Jones Jr. exhibition. He fought a no-name guy and was so bad that he sat down in the ring and just quit fighting. That was 2005.
I also went to one of Holyfield’s later fights, against former Olympian Larry Donald at Madison Square Garden. Holyfield had old-man hands, meaning he looked great but couldn’t let his hands go. That was 2004.
So Tyson was quitting in 2005 and Holyfield couldn’t throw a punch in 2004. And now, Tyson, who’s 54, and Holyfield, 58, are back at it again.
What an embarrassment. I can’t wait.
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