LAS VEGAS - Mike Tyson may have wanted a piece of Evander Holyfield, but what he did in the ring at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night went too far.
Tyson's bizarre behavior in the third round of Holyfield-Tyson II - biting Holyfield once on each ear to merit a disqualification - changed the face of boxing. Now, the sport will have to add a new measurement to the tale of the tape - length of ear lobe.
"He caught me with a good shot and bit my ear and spit it out," Holyfield said after the fight. "Look at the bite! I'm missing part of my ear!"
It was clear that Tyson was missing a few things as well - his head, his heart and the ability to beat Holyfield - all of which led to Tyson's Hannibal Lecter impersonation.
Holyfield was controlling the fight, winning the first two rounds, and he had already taken the best that Tyson likely could give him and kept on coming.
There is little doubt that Holyfield was on his way to an even easier victory than the first fight, just as he predicted.
What Tyson did in the ring was his "no-mas" version of what Roberto Duran did 17 years ago against Sugar Ray Leonard. Except this was the way a bully and a convict does it, and it only sunk Tyson even lower as a member of the human race. Given his previous status - a foul-mouthed convicted rapist - that is no small feat.
"He was looking for a way out of there," said Don Turner, Holyfield's trainer. "What's the easiest way to do that? By getting disqualified."
Of course, it could have all been a misunderstanding. There were reports that Tyson's trainer, Richie Giachetti, told the fighter in the corner after the second round to "box his ears off," and Tyson heard otherwise.
But no, Tyson knew what he was doing. Like the good family man he is, he was protecting his children.
"He [Holyfield] butted me in the first round, then he butted me in the second round," Tyson said. "Then, as soon as he butted me, I watched him. He looked right at me. He kept going at me again and again. No one took any points away from him. What am I to do? This is my career. I can't continue to get butted like that. I've got children to raise. I've got to retaliate."
But that absurd reasoning doesn't hold up. If Tyson truly wanted to retaliate, he should have known all he had to do was land a purposeful low blow.
The worst that would have happened to him was a one-point deduction. And it certainly doesn't explain the second bite.
Tyson quit, and he did so in perhaps the most cowardly manner in boxing history.
"Things like that happen in the street, but they have no place here," said Holyfield's assistant trainer, Tommy Brooks. "It's completely disgusting."
Tyson may no longer have a place at the MGM. Hotel officials should be disgusted as well after the horrific scene that took place, both in the arena and the hotel and casino, after the fight. Police were able to eventually stop the fighting in the ring between members of both camps - though Tyson took several swings at police officers - and kept the numerous fights in the audience from spreading into a full-scale riot.
But in the casino, there was violence and mayhem. Guests swore they heard several rounds of gunfire, and panic sent thousands of people running for cover, screaming, trampling one another.
"It was the worst thing I've ever seen," one restaurant manager said. "We had people running into our kitchen for cover."
Hotel officials and local police insist there were no shots fired, but a number of guests said otherwise. Police certainly thought so at the time. They had guns drawn, ducking for cover. They closed off traffic in and out of the hotel, and they warned guests not to leave their rooms.
It was a public-relations nightmare for the hotel, already sensitive to the issue of violence at Tyson fights after rap singer Tupac Shakur was shot outside the hotel after the Tyson-Bruce Seldon bout last September.
Tyson has one more fight on his contract with MGM, but they surely can't allow him to ever fight here again, though hotel spokesman Bill Doak refused to comment yesterday on Tyson's future with the hotel. Tyson's $30 million pursewas held up pending a hearing by the Nevada Athletic Commission, which most likely will suspend Tyson, possibly for a year, and could fine him 10 percent of his purse. That's $1.5 million per ear.
And Holyfield, who retained his World Boxing Association title, should never step into the ring with Tyson again. His attorney, Jim Thomas, said they likely won't.
"At this point in time, we do not believe that Mike Tyson deserves the privilege of being in the ring with Evander Holyfield," he said.
There are other options for Holyfield. He could fight the winner of the Lennox Lewis-Henry Akinwande bout next month for the World Boxing Council championship. There is also the possibility of a fight with International Boxing Federation title holder Michael Moorer, who unseated Holyfield during his second reign as champion with a 12-round decision in April 1994.
Tyson? Unfortunately, he may be far from through. His promoter, Don King, who was in hiding yesterday, has strong influence over both the IBF and WBC, and he could use that to get another title fight for Tyson.
The Nevada Athletic Commission could go a long way toward taking a well-deserved bite out of Tyson with a long suspension. If they don't, Thomas indicated that Holyfield could go to court, either with criminal charges or a civil suit, to make sure justice is done.
"Somebody on the behalf of decency and justice should do something," Thomas said.
Somebody can. There is a tough judge back in Indianapolis named Patricia Gifford, the same judge who sent Tyson to jail in 1992. She should get a tape of Tyson's performance in the ring after the fight, when he took a couple of swings at a police officer. Then she should make a call to Tyson, and request his appearance to answer the question if this is proper behavior for an Indiana parolee.