LAS VEGAS -- Mike Tyson was disqualified at the end of the third round for twice biting champion Evander Holyfield on his ears in their heavyweight championship rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena last night.
Tyson was disqualified by referee Mills Lane, for whom the Tyson camp had campaigned after voicing objections to the selection of Mitch Halpern. Late Thursday night, Halpern withdrew from the bout, resulting in Lane, a Nevada district judge, getting the coveted assignment.
The bizarre ending to what was being advertised as one of the great heavyweight confrontations in history left the sellout crowd of 16,338 in a state of disbelief.
"It was an easy way to get out of a fight, to foul someone," Holyfield said. "Fear causes people to do something to get out of a fight. This was a boxing match, not a rumble. Why do you have to bite my ear?"
Holyfield, who had part of his right ear severed, was taken to a hospital for repairs immediately after leaving the arena. ESPN reported that the severed piece was found on the mat and brought to the hospital.
Tyson complained bitterly about head-butts. "I've got children to raise," he said afterward. "I've got to retaliate."
In a sense, this ending was even more unbelievable than the two recent Andrew Golota-Riddick Bowe heavyweight confrontations in which Golota beat Bowe twice, only to be disqualified for repeated low blows.
Marc Ratner, executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, announced the commission would hold up Tyson's purse pending an investigation. Both Holyfield and Tyson were guaranteed $30 million for the trumpeted match that promised to break pay-per-view records for revenue.
Certainly, it further sullied Tyson's reputation as one of the best of the modern heavyweights. It again revealed the ex-convict, who served a three-year term for rape in Indiana, as an unreformed bully who did not like to get punched in return.
Lane deducted two points from Tyson's scorecard following the first bite. Holyfield's ear was examined by ring physician Flip Homansky and he allowed the fight to continue.
Said Lane: "I warned Mike at that point that I'd disqualify him if he did it again." Lane proved true to his word.
Tyson, looking grimly determined, was the first to enter the ring, receiving a warm but hardly overwhelming greeting from the crowd. He was wearing his familiar simple black trunks and shoes, sans socks.
A smiling Holyfield received a thunderous reception, clearly the people's choice on the strength of his overpowering performance last November.
After Lane gave his patented, "Let's get it on!" speech, the two fighters quickly met in center ring and received an early warning for their wrestling tactics.
Tyson seemed more patient than usual in launching an attack. Holyfield scored the first effective barrage, catching Tyson against the ropes with a four-punch flurry.
With some 40 seconds left in the opening round, the champion landed another three-punch combination, prompting a chanting of "Holyfield, Holyfield' in the packed arena.
In the opening seconds of Round 2, Tyson complained to Lane about being butted. The referee halted the action, and Tyson showed a slight cut near his right eye.
Holyfield continued to do damage on the inside, with Tyson forcing most of the clinches. Tyson looked a bit weary returning to his corner as the round ended.
But the minute's respite obviously revitalized Tyson, who rushed from his corner at the start of the third round and landed several hard rights to Holyfield's head.
He now appeared to be fighting in his old warrior mode, applying constant pressure. But the fight then took the bizarre twist. During a clinch, Tyson bit his rival on the right ear and Holyfield danced away in pain.
Lane stopped the contest, allowing Holyfield to recover while deducting two points from Tyson for his blatant foul.
There were 30 seconds left in the round when Lane allowed the fight to continue. Now it evolved into a barroom brawl. Tyson waved Holyfield on, and the two stood toe-to-toe while the crowd roared.
While the action grew more intense, Tyson bit Holyfield again, this time on the left ear. The round ended, and then everything went crazy.
Lane walked over to Tyson's corner to inform him he was being disqualified. Several fights erupted in the ring while a stunned crowd waited for a formal announcement.
After the fight was stopped, Tyson complained to Lane and then charged across the ring to Holyfield's corner as the ring filled with security people. He never got to Holyfield, but he did hit a police officer before being pulled away.
Several seconds after the ruckus was stopped, another broke out as Tyson again tried to get across the ring. He was stopped and Holyfield and his entourage left the ring.
On the undercard, Julio Cesar Chavez won for the 100th time.
The sold-out crowd waiting to watch Holyfield and Tyson gave Chavez only some polite applause after he chased Larry La Coursiere around the ring to win a unanimous 10-round decision and run his record to 100-2-1.
The Mexican great was fighting over the weight again at 148 pounds against the light-hitting La Coursiere, who spent most of the fight circling from the outside and throwing only a few punches.
Chavez managed to drop La Coursiere 20 seconds into the fourth round with a right hand. But La Coursiere, 22-7-1 of Hastings, Minn., was up at the count of six and survived the round.
An accidental head butt in the sixth round bloodied La Coursiere's nose, but it was not a factor in the fight, which drew boos from the crowd of 16,331.
Chavez earned $900,000 for the win, which set up a probable fight later this year against fellow former Mexican champion Miguel Angel Gonzalez, who also won on the undercard by stopping Roberto Granciosa at the end of the third round. La Coursiere, who weighed 146 pounds, was paid $20,000.
The fight followed another bloody contest, this one involving female boxer Christy Martin, who stopped Andrea DeShong at 1: 43 of the seventh round.
Pub Date: 6/29/97