As part of an extensive and exclusive interview with WBN, former two-weight undisputed champion Evander Holyfield discussed his rivalry with Mike Tyson.
The pair infamously fought twice during the 1990’s, with Holyfield coming out on top in both encounters.
Holyfield won convincingly in 1996, stopping Tyson in the eleventh round at the MGM Grand after initially entering as the underdog.
Seven months later, one of the most-talked-about heavyweight battles took place in the same arena.
Claiming headbutts from Holyfield, Tyson reacted by chewing off a piece of his arch-rival’s ear as an astonished referee Mills Lane looked on perplexed.
Upon consulting Holyfield and seeing the evidence of a bite mark from his lobe, Mills called off the contest in the third round.
Asked about the incident, Holyfield denies intentionally butting Tyson, pushing him into a moment of madness.
“The second fight, ‘you headbutted him’ – they said. I did nothing but somehow, I did,” Holyfield exclusively told World Boxing News. “I don’t even lean in with my head and I don’t get my weight on my front foot.
“All of this. But sometimes when you both get ready to throw the same punches at the same time, your heads do sometimes clash.
“But I’m not a guy that headbutts even though everyone said I’m a headbutter. In general, if you see the first fight, Mike clearly jumped up and headbutted me. That was all him but then again, he had a lot of scar tissue on the eyes because he’s that guy who didn’t spar with headgear on.
“But I can see why because when you can’t stand with something on your head. It was the same with me the headgear would make my heartbeat go fast so in practice it was very intense.”
On the pair’s legacy in the sport, Holyfield added: “With me, I think that we both came up in an era where that boxing was great. We had the right people. We had people who gave us something to shoot at and when you talk about Ali, Joe Frazier and George Foreman, all these people were great fighters. You had Ken Norton too,” he said.
“When you lay it out, styles make fights and Ali was the guy that didn’t look like could fight but could fight. He didn’t have the massive advantage meaning he didn’t hit so hard. He was quick but looked beatable.
“I think that it got people into great fights. I think that it then came into our era when Mike Tyson wasn’t a big guy. He was a good puncher, he had a style and this mentality that he would tend to get people intimidated pretty much like the Sonny Liston attitude. Tyson people brought into it and he was winning – people like knockouts.
“When it all came down, the harder the game, the person who knew the game tended to win. I’m one of the guys who knew how to box but I could fight as well. So, it lined up to eventually fight against the very best.”
Holyfield went on to label the victories over Tyson as the most satisfying victory in your career.
“Yeah, other than making the Olympic team, it was beating Mike Tyson. The first fight wasn’t anything more than we fought. I was the best and I stopped him.”
Recently meeting up on Tyson’s HotBoxin’ Podcast, Holyfield still enjoys a good relationship with ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’.
“It was great. We talked about boxing and Mike talks about everything,” Holyfield explained. “He asked the things that he asked. I didn’t let him pull me into things I didn’t want to talk about.
“No [animosity], we don’t have a problem me and Mike,” concluded the American boxing legend.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News and an Auxiliary member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay (article transcribed by Assistant Editor).