The Real Deal was speaking to BBC 5 Live on what has become one of boxing’s ugliest but memorable incidents, when an incensed Iron Mike bit both of Holyfield’s ears when complaining the referee failed to protect him from head butts.
The two had met in 1996 when Tyson, enjoying a second reign as heavyweight champ since being spectacularly dethroned by Buster Douglas and released from jail, was WBA heavyweight champion.
What was deemed simply a brave last stand by an ageing warrior proved to be a shock upset as Holyfield battered Tyson into an 11th road stoppage loss.
In the return, Tyson complained, as he had in the first fight, of foul play from Holyfield, who he felt had been ducking and forcing his head into his as he launched attacks.
With referee protection unforthcoming, an enraged Tyson removed his mouthguard and bit Holyfield’s ear in the clinch, and was deducted two points. Undeterred, Tyson again bit Holyfield in close quarters, and disqualified in the third round.
Devout Christian Holyfield however explained divine intervention prohibited him from committing the same sin.
“The thing is that. The prophet told me ‘Mike gonna do something bad to you in this fight’. You just gotta keep your mind on the lord. That’s the only way he can get to you. He gets you distracted,” Holyfield said.
“Mike throws elbows … and he hits you with the shoulder, he does a lot of the sneaky stuff. I just thought it was part of boxing. But the one thing when he bit me on the ear, I knew that wasn’t and I was really really really really upset.
“He almost got me because I was gonna bite him back. And I was gonna bite him back right in the face. But since the prophet told me this was gonna happen, I told my corner guy ‘well, if this guy do that remind me of what the prophet told me’.
“So all I was thinking about, I was gonna bite him back. My corner guy kept saying ‘keep your mind on the lord, remember what he said’. But I didn’t want to remember because I wanted to bite him back and let him know that I’m mad too!
“All of a sudden it came to my mind what my grandma used to say to me: ‘they always catch the second person’. I thought about it and I chose not to bite him.”
Despite the animosity in the ring, the two are currently on good terms and Holyfield spoke of a meeting in which he jokingly relayed to Tyson years later he was “ready to bite you on those fat cheeks.”
There has been talk of a third instalment to the rivalry, as both Tyson and Holyfield have recently released training montages at the age of 53 and 57 respectively, although we’re sure the old timers would limit any potential rematch to blows instead of bites.