On June 28, 1997, one of the more bizarre moments in boxing history took place when Mike Tyson bit off a portion of Evander Holyfield's ear in the third round of their much-anticipated rematch. Tyson was disqualified from the bout and lost his boxing license. He was later reinstated.
Tyson had started his career with a bang, breaking Rocky Marciano's record of most consecutive wins by KO/TKO to start a career with 19, a record that has since been broken by a few other fighters.
Under the tutelage of trainer Cus D'Amato, Tyson turned pro at the age of 18 and would go on to win his first world title in his 28th pro fight at age 20 (a second-round TKO over Trevor Berbick), making him the youngest heavyweight champion in history.
The star power that "Iron" Mike brought to the sport of boxing has rarely been seen since. Among heavyweights, he has been a part of some of the biggest money-making fights in history. Tyson has been a part of four of the six largest gates in Nevada heavyweight boxing history.
At the time, Holyfield-Tyson II was the highest-grossing PPV (1.99 million buys) and the first to break $100 million in revenues. Holyfield was one of three fighters Tyson would face on multiple occasions -- Donovan Ruddock and Frank Bruno were the others. Tyson went 2-0 vs. both Bruno and Ruddock but 0-2 against Holyfield.
Holyfield vs. Tyson 2 timeline
Holyfield and Tyson competed to qualify for the 1984 Olympic team, but Tyson did not make it. Holyfield was, controversially, disqualified in his semifinal bout at those games in Los Angeles against New Zealand's Kevin Barry, after the referee ruled that Holyfield had hit Barry after the ref had called a break. The U.S. team filed a protest, but to no avail.
Holyfield and Tyson agreed to fight in 1990, but Tyson's loss to Buster Douglas derailed those plans. It was one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
They again agreed in 1991 to a fight, but Tyson's conviction for rape in 1992 indefinitely shelved the fight.
Tyson was released from prison in 1995 and won his first four fights before he met Holyfield in November 1996.
The first fight between the two was stopped in the 11th round, as Holyfield became the first fighter since Muhammad Ali to win the heavyweight title three times.
Holyfield vs. Tyson 2 was booked as the "Sound and the Fury" for May 3, 1997, but Tyson suffered a cut over his left eye in training that postponed the fight until June 28 that year.
Ring Magazine called the fight the 1997 "Event of the Year."
'The Bite Fight'
Tyson was a -200 favorite (according to OddsShark) despite the TKO loss in the first fight.
Tyson was 34-1 (2 NC) in his career in fights that lasted three rounds or fewer (56 career fights).
Tyson had complained about numerous headbutts that were ruled incidental in their first fight. Holyfield again headbutted Tyson in the second round of their second bout, but referee Mills Lane ruled it incidental.
Tyson came out for the third round without his mouthpiece, but Lane ordered him to put it back in.
Tyson was fined $3 million, which was about 10% of the amount of money he made that night.
This was the last Mike Tyson fight promoted by Don King.
Tyson by the numbers
3: First-round KOs in heavyweight title fights (only Joe Louis has more all time with six).
8: Fewest punches landed in a title fight win (against Michael Spinks and Carl Williams).
19: Streak of KO/TKO wins to begin a career until he fought James Tillis in 1986 (Tyson won a 10th-round unanimous decision).
22: First-round knockouts in his career, the second most among fighters who have won a title.
30: Defeated Marvis Frazier in 30 seconds, the fastest non-title fight knockout of Tyson's career.
44: Career knockouts, tied for 11th all time with Larry Holmes among heavyweight champions.
91: Seconds needed by Tyson to knock out Michael Spinks, the eighth-fastest fight in heavyweight championship history.
Other infamous bites in sports
Relive the rematch between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield on June 28, 1997, that is forever remembered as the fight where Tyson bit Holyfield's ear.
Edgar Berlanga vs. Alexis Angulo in 2022, Top Rank on ESPN. "He was throwing elbows. I was about to do a Mike Tyson on him," Berlanga said during his postfight interview on ESPN. "He kept throwing his elbows and pushing it out. I didn't want to get cut."
In May 2014, catcher Miguel Olivo was playing for the L.A. Dodgers' Triple-A affiliate, the Albuquerque Isotopes. He got in a fight during a game with teammate Alex Guerrero and, during the brawl, Olivo bit off part of Guerrero's ear. The incident eventually led to cosmetic surgery for Guerrero and signaled the end of Olivo's baseball career.
South African rugby player Johan Le Roux bit New Zealand's Sean Fitzpatrick's ear during a scrum in 1994. After learning of his lengthy suspension, Le Roux said, "For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off."
Uruguay footballer Luis Suarez bit Giorgio Chiellini on the shoulder in the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
On Nov. 27, 2021, Ottawa Senators forward Brady Tkachuk and Los Angeles Kings forward Brendan Lemieux got into a fight. Then Tkachuk began signaling to the referees that Lemieux had bit him in the hand. After what appeared to be the initial bite, Tkachuk got a nice little sucker punch in, causing Lemieux to chomp on his hand a second and possibly a third time.
Central Michigan University wrestler Mike Ottinger was disqualified in the third round (consolation match) of the 2014 NCAA Division I 174-pound championship for biting his opponent, Navy's Mathew Miller.
On April 24, 1983, Wayne "Tree" Rollins of the Atlanta Hawks bit the Boston Celtics' Danny Ainge on the finger during a scrum in a playoff game, and Ainge needed stitches and a tetanus shot. The next day, The Boston Herald headline read: "Tree Bites Man."
ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this story