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
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org