Ten performances that shook the world: Boxing - Tyson bites the hand th at feeds as legend fades

A few hours before Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson met in Las Vegas last June for the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship I fell in with a man who thought it likely that Tyson would be disqualified.

This did not strike me as the way to bet but sensation was soon upon us. No longer fighting in accordance with precepts that were central to his violent advancement, unable to handle a contest so rough that both men received stern warnings in the first two rounds, Tyson lost all control and was disqualified on his stool at the end of the third for biting Holyfield's ears.

The extent of Tyson's folly was not immediately apparent. "What the hell is going on in there?" one veteran ringsider exclaimed when Holyfield broke from a clinch to stomp angrily around the ring. "Jesus, he's bitten a slice out of Holyfield's ear," another said.

On our feet, straining for a better view of quite extraordinary proceedings we were further shocked when Tyson charged across the ring to push Holyfield in the back. Astonishingly, Mills Lane, the tough little circuit judge from Reno who took over as referee when Mitch Halpern withdrew following a protest from the Tyson camp, allowed the fight to continue after indicating that he had deducted two points from the crazed challenger.

Before Holyfield could attempt the knock-out he now felt confident of delivering, Tyson bit him again. At the bell Lane first examined Holyfield then crossed the ring to inform Tyson that it was over. In the pandemonium that followed security guards and police wrestled with Tyson and his entourage and then plunged into the audience to make arrests. Shortly afterwards the MGM Casino was closed off after the firing of a shot.

Nothing in boxing's turbulent history had matched the disbelief caused by Tyson's pretty obvious emotional collapse. It was not just the aura of invincibility that had slipped from him but the notion of a street fighter's grim purpose.

With his warrior instinct, superior boxing skills and vast experience, Holyfield, as when stopping Tyson seven months earlier, was equipped to exploit the former undisputed champion's fallibility under fire, the confusion caused in him by violent transgressions that had led to imprisonment for the rape of a beauty queen.

If himself running the risk of retribution for rough house tactics, especially such dangerous use of the head that the challenger was stunned by a butt and cut over his right eye early in the second round, Holyfield put paid to Tyson's reputation as one of the greatest heavyweights in history.

An indefinite suspension by the Nevada State Athletic Commission is unlikely to end Tyson's career - a third match with Holyfield would unquestionably be the richest of all time - but the perception of him has altered.

A vivid memory is the rage in Tyson's eyes when fulfilling an obligation to Showtime, the American cable television network that put out the contest. Pointing to a gash in his right eyelid, Tyson snarled: "How much was I expected to put up with? He was butting me all the time. He butted me in the first fight. I was left with only one eye. My career was on the line. I've got kids to bring up. Who cares about me and my children? The referee wouldn't listen. I had to retaliate."

This from the ghetto fugitive who was programmed to spread terror throughout the heavyweight division.

For once conspicuous by his silence, Don King confined himself to a brief appearance on television. "Mike was ready to fight. I don't why they stopped it," he said lamely. The truth was that Tyson had been found out. No heavyweight has hit with more power or caused more consternation in the division, but he was only at his best when the going was good.

Suggested Topics
News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
Serge Pizzorno of Kasabian and Noel Fielding backstage at the Teenage Cancer Trust concerts
musicKasabian and Noel Fielding attack 'boring' musicians
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voicesVicky Chandler: Zoella shows us that feminism can come in all forms
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
nflAtlanta Falcons can't count and don't know what the UK looks like
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
High notes, flat performance: Jake Bugg
music

Review: Despite an uphill climb to see Jake Bugg in action, his performance is notably flat

News
The Putin automaton will go on sale next month in Germany
videoMusical Putin toy showing him annexing Crimea could sell for millions
News
news

Powerful images of strays taken moments before being put down

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Year 3 Primary Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are seeking a confident...

Learning Support Assistants-Nantwich area

£8 - £9 per hour: Randstad Education Chester: We are currently recruiting for ...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Primary Teachers-Northwich area

£85 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Primary Teachers- Northwich Ar...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London