"When Mike Tyson bit you on the ear, what was your reaction?" Letterman asked him. The world heavyweight champion, his right ear still held together by stitches, said: "The first thing that ran across my mind was to bite him back."
The only thing that held him back, he said, was the pain he felt from the unexpected attack.
"They usually hit you low or behind the head," he said, "but not biting. To do that, that's one of the lowest things you can do. That was the reason I jumped up and down and almost had a fit."
Was Tyson crazy, Letterman wondered? "No, not really," Holyfield said. "I think he lost his composure. What happened opened people's eyes about how much pressure can happen when things are not going your way. Anytime you're accustomed to winning and it comes to a point where you meet your match, something like that can happen."
Holyfield said boxers need a good temperament to succeed. "That's the only thing that keeps you from losing," he said. "To lose it like that, that's not normal."
Holyfield is heading for Africa, then plans on some rest and relaxation, watching his children running on the track. He will fight again, probably in November.
When he does, it will be without the tip of his right ear. Recovered temporarily, it was lost again on the trip to the hospital. "Someone stole it," Holyfield said.
That set Letterman to thinking out loud about the places Holyfield's ear tip might have wound up. "It would be a lovely addition to a charm bracelet," he said. "It might be floating in somebody's drink."
Then Letterman decided to live a little dangerously. He cocked his head ever-so- slightly, his right ear tantalisingly tilted toward Holyfield. "Go ahead," he said, fetchingly. "Take a bite."
For a tense moment, Holyfield moved towards Letterman, his mouth open, his teeth poised. Then, thankfully for all concerned, he pulled back.
"Were you thinking about it?" Letterman wondered. Holyfield, an honest man, grinned broadly. "Yes," he said, "I was."