AN ORAL FIX, OR BOXING WITH A VAMPIRE?

That truly was a savage championship fight we saw the other night. Tyson and Holyfield are big, tough, strong men, and the world's afficianados expected a brawl. They sure got it. Most of what I've read, heard, and seen about it could be summed up as biting commentary. The furor and nastiness began long before the bout. Tyson's camp had been pretty close-mouthed about its dislike of Mitch Halpern, the referee Nevada designated to work the fight, until the day before it was scheduled to take place. They finally said Tyson would feel uncomfortable if Halpern, who had refereed their first encounter, was picked again. Gritting its teeth, the Nevada Boxing Commission, to its credit, took a vote and refused to replace Halpern. Taking the bit in his mouth, Halpern said he didn't feel it was fair to the sport of boxing or the fight to become the center of attention, and withdrew.

The referee replacing him, Mills Lane, simply set his jaw and refused to be drawn into the controversy. He had a stellar record, and was a competent alternative, though many people thought it was pretty cheeky for the Tyson camp to give poor Mitch Halpern an undeserved earful and cost him ten grand. That's the way the fight game has become, though. Dirty.

They did finally get around to staging the fight at the MGM Grand Garden on Saturday night, just before midnight. The purses for both fighters were absolutely mouth-watering, with Holyfield, the champion, slated for $33M, while contender and favorite Tyson had to be content with a mere $30M. Some estimates of the worldwide gate went as high as $180M, which would be an all-time record for the take for a fight. When the bell rang for the first round, Tyson failed to exhibit his usual bull-like rush, and simply jabbed at Holyfield. The crowd, expecting a hard bitten battle, largely sat on its hands through the first two rounds. Iron Mike was cut over one eye in the second round, the recipient of what the referee said was an unintentional head butt. Tyson complained, but Mills Lane told him no points would be deducted from Holyfield for an accident.

Obviously angered, Tyson finally got his teeth into the bout in the third round. He savaged Holyfield, pummeling him around mercilessly. With about half a minute left in the round, cheeks cracked with fury, he emitted an ear-splitting roar, spat out his mouthpiece, and bit Holyfield on the right side of his head. Holyfield, who himself had largely been open-mouthed in admiration at how well his battle plan was working to that point, jumped up and down, pointed to his bleeding ear, and complained. The referee stopped the bout for four minutes to allow a doctor to inspect Holyfield's injured ear, talked with the contender and his seconds, told them he was deducting two points from Tyson's score, and if it happened again he would disqualify him.

The fight crowd has recently rumored Tyson was getting a bit long in the tooth, but didn't realize he'd try to take advantage of it. They restarted the third round and, in the teeth of his mania, the rabid Tyson returned to do battle. In the final twenty seconds, he managed to bite Holyfield on his uninjured left ear. When the bell rang ending the third round, both fighters returned to their respective corners and the referee walked to Tyson's corner and disqualified him.

You can look at the fight several ways. My preference is to say Tyson earned $15M a bite, though $10M a round would also do. Later, to reporters, Tyson complained that he was being butted, and couldn't continue to fight nine more rounds that way. He commented that he had only one profession, and with kids to raise wasn't going to take that stuff. I once learned to do simple arithmetic in my head, and quickly computed that if he took home only half of his purse, $15M, at $200,000, the going rate to raise kids, he could afford 75. Five kids would cost a million bucks, and fifteen times five is easy for me since long ago I used to deliver boxes of groceries from the store to customers' homes or apartments for a total of fifteen cents. On foot.

Well, I hope Big Mike, who some boxing wags are now saying should be renamed Jaws, after the villain in James Bond movies, can restrict his output of offspring to 75. However, even if he needs a larger sum of money, there is still hope. Don King, who promoted the bout and has a piece of both fighters, quickly had the missing part of Holyfield's ear located so he'd still be dealing only with two, and not three, pieces. King will adroitly manage, tongue in cheek, to again put the bite on boxing, and hype up a rematch to surpass his recent record take.

What would we ever do for entertainment without the manly art of self-defense as typified by boxing? Tyson's strategy was fine, but his aim was faulty. Next time, I suggest he go for the jugular. Instead of pugilism, we're headed for mastication. Chew on that for a while!


Sam Orr sorr@metrolink.net
World Traveler
and Philanthrope
(Location Unknown)