'The bite' now defines Holyfield

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 12:06 PM ET

Ten years ago last night, Evander Holyfield became - forever - boxing's Man of the Ear.

In the second round of his heavyweight title defence against Mike Tyson in Las Vegas, Commander Evander initiated a head-butt that opened a three-inch cut over Tyson's right eye. Since there was no indication that it was deliberate, Holyfield wasn't penalized.

NO MOUTHGUARD

Tyson charged out of his corner for Round 3 without his mouthguard and was ordered by referee Mills Lane to retrieve it before the action resumed. The challenger rushed Holyfield, catching him with a solid right followed by a quick combination.

Then, with 40 seconds left, Holyfield tried to clinch and Tyson responded by rolling his head above the champion's shoulder and chomping hard on his right ear, severing a quarter-inch chunk. Holyfield immediately pushed Tyson away and began jumping up and down in pain.

Lane called for a timeout and Holyfield turned to walk to his corner, but Tyson chased him down and pushed him into the ropes.

The action was delayed for several minutes while a doctor examined the injury. Tyson was penalized two points when the round resumed with 30 seconds left, but not 10 seconds later he craned his neck and put the bite on Holyfield's left ear.

Incredibly, Lane did not stop the fight this time. At the bell, both men went to their corner, but then Tyson tried to get at Holyfield and his trainer, winging punches at everyone - including a police officer - who got in the way.

It was at that point announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. jumped into the ring and read the historic decision: "Referee Mills Lane has disqualified Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield on both of his ears."

It was one of those freeze-frame moments in sports history that everybody remembers.

A decade later, thanks to plastic surgery, Holyfield now bears an uncanny resemblance to Star Trek's Mr. Spock. But for millions of his former admirers, "the bite" has also become the one moment that years from now will define Holyfield's entire incredible career.

Tomorrow night in El Paso, Texas, the only four-time heavyweight champion in history will face former fringe contender Lou Savarese in a 10-rounder comically being hyped as Road to the Championship. They have identical records of 41-8-2.

Holyfield, who's banked more dollars from boxing than any fighter in history, is 44 and approaching his 400th round as a pro (he's sitting at 392). He still looks good and punctuates interviews with the same laconic detachment as when he collected championship belts like neckties, but the smouldering fury that made him so watchable has long been muted.

Earlier this week, when asked by a reporter if memories of the bite still spur him, Holyfield replied: "People ask me all the time if I was mad. Why be mad? I made $35 million that night. I wish he'd bitten off the other one for another $35 million."

ANOTHER NOTCH

That statement could be a subtitle for tomorrow's travesty. Another payday, another notch, another opportunity to stoke the illusion.

Savarese, 41, was nearly decapitated by Tyson in one round in 2000. Now he's once again serving as cannon fodder for a guy who seems determined to do everything he can to make us forget a career that once was one of the most inspiring in all of sports.

And that really bites.


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