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Evander Holyfield

Going Up Against Iron Mike

But for Holyfield a new rivalry was beginning, one that would lead to one of the most bizarre incidents in boxing history. In November 1996, Evander Holyfield went up against Mike Tyson, fresh out of prison, for the World Boxing Association championship. The fight was highly controversial, and many felt that ex-con Tyson should be banned from boxing altogether. Others felt that Holyfield was risking serious injury going up against the man they still called Iron Mike. But Holyfield was confident, announcing calmly, "I will beat Mike Tyson. There is no way I cannot, if I trust in God." His faith was justified, and throughout their match Holyfield withstood the punishment of Mike Tyson's punch. And he gave as good as he got. He managed to knock Tyson senseless in the second round, and again in the sixth round. In the eleventh round, Tyson collapsed against the ropes. Holyfield had again entered exclusive company. Alone with Muhammad Ali, he had become a three-time heavyweight champion.

But the surprise of that upset was nothing compared to the pandemonium of the Tyson-Holyfield rematch in June 1997. Once again, Holyfield showed a determination to take the fight to Tyson, enraging the already frustrated ex-champ. In the third round, Tyson spit out his mouthpiece and bit down on Holyfield's right ear, drawing blood. Incredibly, the referee deducted two points and let the fight continue. Before the round was up, Tyson had latched onto Holyfield's left ear, this time biting off a piece. "There is no way to reconcile what was happening with human behavior, or even boxing," wrote Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Hoffer. This time, the referee finally called off the match and disqualified Tyson. Holyfield was actually quite calm in the hospital while getting his ear sewn up, telling reporters stoically: "It was told to me by the prophets that the fight was going to be short, but that there'd be some distractions."

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