An oral history Tyson-Holyfield 'bite fight' (cont.)
Atlas: We made (Tyson) into a demigod; we made him into a monster. I always thought that he was a monster as long as you allowed him to act like a monster. When you stood up to a monster it wasn't a monster anymore. We didn't know what Tyson wasn't.
Tyson: I still believe that I could have beaten him. I know that I'm using my conditioning as an excuse, but I still believe that I could have beaten him. I was in jail for four years and he was out fighting for four years. Regardless of losing or not, he was fighting, he was sharp. He never got stale.
Atlas: The greatest talent of Tyson was not his left or his right, it was his ability to look, hold on, embrace and take advantage of somebody else's weakness. When your best talent is thriving on weakness to be strong, you have a problem. By the end, he was a game quitter: a guy that doesn't allow himself to fall down, but not to fight back. He takes punishment but with the hope of getting out of there. That's a game quitter. He can't overrun him with power, he can't intimidate him. Now he's got a real situation on his hands.
Tyson: He was butting me a lot that night, and I [momentarily] blacked out a lot in the first fight. At that point, I really can't defend myself. I was taking a tremendous amount of heavy arm punches because I don't know where the hell I am at. He's not hurting me because I can hear the punches, but I can't get myself together. He had me off-balance. Boom! Boom! Boom! Then I'd reset, Pow! Pow! Pow! He rings my bell again. Boom! My bell is rung.
King: Everybody was shocked. It was a shock to the world when he came out and beat Tyson. He knew how to use every part of his body. He was a magician like Siegfried and Roy. Now you see me and now you don't. He was fearless. It was an amazing thing.
Tyson: I went 11 rounds and took a beating with a 3 1/2-, 4-year layoff. Imagine if he fought me that type of layoff and I was at the top of my game. That's what happened with the great Larry Holmes when he tried that with me, right? That's what happens when you go up against a champion and you are not prepared. If you don't put the work in for a consistent amount of time, you are not going to perform with the same magnitude that you once did.
Dubbed "The Sound and the Fury", the rematch was arguably the biggest heavyweight title fight of the decade. Don King spiced up the weigh-in with a memorable introduction, celebrities poured in to the MGM Grand by the dozens and scalpers sold tickets for as much as $12,000 apiece. The world focused on this fight. Nobody could envision its ultimately shocking conclusion.
Jim Gray, Showtime ringside reporter: When Tyson first lost to Buster Douglas, people said he lost because he was out of shape, because he was in Tokyo, because it was a throwaway fight, and that the count was bad. There were 40 issues from that fight. So everybody kind of blew off the Douglas fight. Nobody expected that Tyson would lose to Holyfield. So when he lost to Holyfield, the rematch was being built up back in the days of the Ali fights. It had commanded that kind of attention.
King: Going into the first fight, they were two gladiators going into the center of the ring with a mutual respect. The second time, there wasn't any. It was total acrimony. Tyson now is lean and mean. That fight had a lot of activity and back and forth with the acrimony and vilification that was taking place. It was a tough scuffle to keep them from fighting before they got in the ring.
Ratner: The commission thought that Mitch [Halpern] did a real good job so we put him in the second fight. Well, once we announced that Mitch was going to be the ref again, the Tyson camp vociferously complained and wanted a different ref. They had an emergency meeting of the athletic commission and there was no reason to take Mitch out. The commission decided to keep Mitch in.
Steve Albert, Showtime play-by-play announcer for both fights: Tyson had his issues with Mitch as a result of what happened in the first fight because Tyson thought that he was repeatedly fouled with Holyfield's head-butting and holding. That probably wasn't far from the truth.
Bobby Czyz, former Light Heavyweight and Cruiserweight Champion/ Showtime color commentator: [Holyfield] did it regularly. He did it in the first fight. He did it against me. He elbowed me and butted me. It's part of his way. He comes in and does it slick. We know the game. Evander Holyfield uses his elbows, forearms and whatever he need to do to win.
King: Tyson complained that Evander had three arms. He said Evander could use his head better than anybody in the business. [Tyson] felt he could use it as a third fist or third arm. That's what his complaint was to me so we expressed that to everybody, and wanted to get back together again so that would be curtailed. It would be more of a level playing field because Holyfield had magnificent structure in his body, always well-conditioned, and he had awesome power of control on his body that he could move himself from harm's way. That was the biggest obstacle going on at that time.
Ratner: Mitch to his credit didn't want to be the focal point of this fight and turned it down. That is how Mills Lane became the ref. Lane was a real character in his own way, a law and order type referee, a judge in real life. If Tyson didn't want Mitch, [Holyfield's] camp certainly didn't want Mills Lane. They wanted Richard Steele. But Mills got the assignment.
Atlas: The day of the fight, [late New York Daily News boxing writer] Jack Newfield was having his garden party. All these people that like to pool their head around boxing. It was getting closer to the fight. I said I don't want to stay, Jack. I don't want to watch this guy. I'll watch it privately at home. I don't want to talk to anybody about this guy. Jack asks "Teddy what do you think is gonna happen?" I said "I think Tyson is going to find a way to get disqualified."
Ratner: I remember walking into the MGM that day. I could barely get through the crowd, and this wasn't even a crowd going to the fight! They were just hanging around. They were there for whatever reasons. It was an uneasy feeling of this crowd of people not getting in.
Iole: The atmosphere was really charged. It was electric.
Don Turner, Holyfield's former trainer: We trained the same way because we knew that Tyson wasn't going to change because he had the same people in the corner. He only knew one way.
Tyson: I prepared extremely hard for the second fight. He was butting me, but he did it so magnificently in the first fight that I didn't realize it.
Chuck Giampa, judge for the second fight: I always tried to capture that moment, especially when Mills Lane did a fight, when all the hoopla is down. Mills would clear the ring and it's just the two fighters. It's the moment of truth.
Iole: The first round started off very similarly to the first fight. In the second round, Tyson did better. It was a much better round. You had a sense that he went to a corner in the second round and it appeared to be a fight.
Czyz: There were some flashes of brilliance by both. To this day, I wish that bite never happened. I wanted to see it go. I was excited about it. I assumed that Evander came ready to fight like he did the first time. That wasn't going to change. But I thought that the second time that Mike would be prepared. This time Mike knew what to expect. He trained and he knew this was not going to be a 3-4 round blowout. So I was of the mindset that this should be a good long fight.