Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on the 28th June 1997, for the World Boxing Association (WBA) Heavyweight Championship.
The referee officiating the contest was Mills Lane, who was brought in as a late replacement after Tyson’s camp protested the original selection of Mitch Halpern, who officiated the first fight, as the referee.
Tyson and Holyfield had fought seven months earlier in Las Vegas. At that time Tyson was making his first defence of the WBA championship he had won from Bruce Seldon with a first-round knockout.
Holyfield, despite being a former champion, was a significant underdog entering the contest. However, Holyfield surprised Tyson by controlling the contest and knocked him down in the sixth round. Halpern stopped the fight in the eleventh round, giving Holyfield an upset victory
In the rematch Holyfield started hard and fast and secured the first three rounds.
On the 2 minute 19 second mark of the first round, Holyfield let rip with a huge overhand right that shook Tyson, immediately after Tyson fights back pushes Holyfield backwards.
On the 32 second mark of the second round, Holyfield slipped under a right from Tyson. In doing so, he accidentally clashed heads with Tyson, opening a large cut over the Tyson’s right eye.
As the third round was about to begin, Tyson came out of his corner without his mouthpiece. Lane ordered Tyson back to his corner to put it in. Tyson inserted his mouthpiece and the match resumed.
Tyson began the third round with a furious attack. With just forty seconds remaining in the round, the protagonists clinched, and Tyson rolled his head above Holyfield’s shoulder and bit his right ear and in an instance Tyson spat out the piece of ear onto the ring floor.
As Holyfield screamed in pain and jumped in circles, he managed to push Tyson away, at which point Lane called for a time-out.
Lane sent Tyson to a neutral corner as an angry Holyfield gestured to Mills Lane to look at his bitten ear.
The fight was delayed for several minutes as Lane debated what to do. Lane’s stated that his original decision was to immediately disqualify Tyson, but after the ringside doctor determined that Holyfield was able to continue, Lane instead announced he would be deducting two points from Tyson and the fight would continue.
During another clinch, Tyson bit Holyfield’s left ear. Holyfield threw his hands around to get out of the clinch and jumped back.
Tyson’s second bite just scarred Holyfield’s ear so Lane did not stop the fight this time and both men continued fighting until the end of the round.
Holyfield and Tyson walked back to their respective corners, and when the second bite was verified, the fight was stopped.
After the fight was stopped, Tyson went and vented his frustrations at Holyfield and his trainer Brooks while they were still in their corner.
Mills Lane then told Tyson’s corner that he was disqualifying Tyson for biting Holyfield. To protect Holyfield, security surrounded him in his corner and Tyson was taken back to his corner by security.
Mills Lane was interviewed, and said he knew from experience that the bites were intentional. He had told Tyson not to bite anymore, and said Tyson asked to be disqualified by disobeying that order.
Holyfield left the ring seconds after the interview, which gave the fans the hint that the fight was definitely over.
It would not be until twenty-five minutes after the contest was stopped, before MC Jimmy Lennon Jr. was able to read the decision: “Ladies and gentlemen, this bout has been stopped at the end of round number three. The referee in charge, Mills Lane, disqualifies Mike Tyson for biting Evander Holyfield in both ears, the winner by way of disqualification and still the WBA Champion of the world, Evander ‘The Real Deal’ Holyfield!” As a result, Holyfield remained the WBA Heavyweight champion.
The fight generated a total revenue of $180,000,000 ($287,000,000), from live gate, pay-per-view, closed-circuit telecasts, foreign television rights, and casino profits.
As a result of biting Holyfield on both ears and other misbehaviour, Tyson’s boxing license was revoked by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and he was fined $3 million plus legal costs.The revocation was not permanent; a little more than a year later on October 18, 1998, the commission voted 4–1 to restore Tyson’s boxing license.