The Bite Heard Around the World…………..

WARNING:  Do not skip to the end and cheat……follow the story!

The two boys grew up in the 1960s on the East Coast of the USA, worlds away from the opportunity to achieve the American Dream.. One was born into poverty in Alabama, later moving to Atlanta in a single-parent family; the other, also poverty stricken, hailed from New York. The two, who were both bullied as children, were on a collision course with each other years later.

One of the boys credits his mother for much of his success, as she instilled a strong work ethic and provided him with Christian values that he feels kept him out of trouble as a youth and have sustained him through his career. (2011) reports that he was nicknamed “Chubby” as a child, but known in his neighborhood as a “good kid” who would shy away from fights and who would generally back down when bullied.

Though his first love was football,  he performed odd jobs for pocket change and spent his spare time at the Warren Memorial Boys Club in Atlanta. There, at the tender age of eight, he began to experiment with boxing techniques, taking lessons from the staff.  He said of boxing as a child, “The speed bag made a lot of noise and I wanted to learn how to hit it.” He later competed as an amateur in the Golden Gloves competitions in the early 1980s. After winning a national Golden Gloves Championship in 1984, he became part of the 1984 U.S. Olympic team. After some setbacks at the  1984 Los Angeles games, he ended up winning a bronze medal.  He turned professional and defeated many fighters, but was always told that he had to fight the other boy in our story to achieve championship status. (2011) tells how the father of the other boy abandoned the family, leaving mom to care for him and his two siblings. Struggling financially, the family had to move to a neighborhood known for its high crime.  The boy, small and shy, was often the target of bullying. To combat this,  he began developing his own style of street fighting, and graduated from this to criminal activity.

At age 11, as part of a gang known as the Jolly Stompers, he was assigned to clean out cash registers while older members held victims at gunpoint. He frequently ran into trouble with the police over his petty criminal activities; by the age of 13 he had been arrested more than 30 times.

In 1978, after committing a robbery, he was sent to Tryon School for Boys, a reform school in upstate New York where he met a counselor who had been an amateur boxing champion. This was to change the boy’s life.

In school he had been classified as learning disabled, but he managed to raise his reading abilities to the seventh-grade level in a matter of months. He also became determined to learn everything he could about boxing, often slipping out of bed after curfew to practice punches in the dark.

The school’s physical education teacher saw potential in the young man and introduced him to the legendary boxing trainer Cus D’Amato, who lived near the facility. The boy moved in with D’Amato, who became his legal guardian, and he thrived under the disciplinary situation. The boy made stunning progress as an amateur and decided to try out for the Olympic team at the age of 17. After his protegé fail to make the 1984 Olympic team, D’Amato decided it was time for his fighter to turn professional.  In his first year  he went 15-0 and by 1988 he had become Heavyweight Champion of the World.

Meanwhile, after boxing for his country in the 1984 Olympics, the first boy also turned pro. Soon, the two fighters were headed for a showdown in the ring. A fight was set for 1991, but physical and legal issues delayed it for a number of years.

Fast forward to November 1996 and the big fight that got world attention.  The first boy, Evander Holyfield, a Golden Gloves Champion, an Olympic Boxer, and now professional boxer, and the second boy, Mike Tyson, street fighter and criminal, turned professional boxer, and now  heavyweight champion , were finally to meet in the showdown that had been each one’s destiny for over 30 years.

For audiologists, this fight was especially memorable. What interested us the most was that Tyson ended up biting off part of Holyfield’s ear, thus, “THE BITE HEAR ROUND THE WORLD”………Watch the video at:

Heres how it went that night: It was the 3rd round, and Tyson had not done well in the first 2 rounds of the fight. According to Weinberg (2009) this is what happened: Breathing heavily, Tyson stumbles back as Holyfield charges and nails him with a solid right to the rib cage. Tyson counters with two solid hooks, but neither makes the champion budge. Suddenly, with 40 seconds left in the round, the fight takes a ghastly turn: Tyson gets Holyfield in a clinch, rolls his head above Holyfield’s shoulder, spits out his mouthpiece,  and then, in an inexplicable and gruesome move, crunches down hard with his teeth on Holyfield’s right ear and bites off a chunk.

The crowd is mortified, unable to grasp what they have just witnessed. As Tyson spits out the chunk of Holyfield’s ear, a bewildered Holyfield pushes Tyson away, then hops up and down in a frenzied pain, and spins around in a circle in agony. Lane, the referee, abruptly stops the bout. As Holyfield, bleeding badly from the ear, turns his back to walk toward his corner, Tyson runs and attacks him from behind. Tyson slams Holyfield in the back, and the champion falls into the ropes. As Holyfield quickly turns and prepares to go after Tyson, Lane breaks in.

“I was ready to tackle him, and throw him down,” Holyfield would say later.  Holyfield stands in shock, a red line of blood running from his ear to his shoulder and down his back. He stares in disbelief and anger at Tyson. The fight is delayed for several minutes as Lane sternly lectures Tyson and penalizes him only with a two-point deduction. Meanwhile, as a physician examines Holyfield and determines he can continue to fight, Lane turns to Tyson and says, “One more like that and you’re gone, referring to the bite.

Holyfield suffered no real auditory damage, but did have plastic surgery on the ear for cosmetic reasons. A cosmetic surgeon, Dr. Michael Salzhaur (2011) said, “Evander Holyfield’s ear reconstruction surgery would have entailed grafting back the missing cartilage to his ear.  If the piece of the ear that was bitten off was too damaged to be used for the graft, then a piece of cartilage from some other body area such as behind the ear could have been used.” There is ample evidence that the surgery has been done, but the specifics have eluded Hearing International.

Twelve years later on the Oprah Show (Winfrey, 2009), Tyson took the opportunity to pour praise on his rival, saying: ‘This is a beautiful guy. I just want you to know it’s just been a pleasure … being acquainted with you.  Evander HolyField still donates heavily of his time and fortune to the Boys club in Atlanta.

Evander Holyfield. (2011). Retrieved 12:37, Oct 09, 2011 from

Mail Online (2009).  Oprah reunites boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield for the first time since ear-biting scandal.  Retrieved October 9, 2011:

Mike Tyson. (2011). Retrieved 12:35, Oct 09, 2011 from

Weinberg, R.  (2009).  30: Tyson bites Holyfield’s ear in rematch.  ESPN 25.  Retrieved October 9, 2011:

Winfrey, O.  Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield Reunite on The Oprah Winfrey Show.  Oprah Winfrey Show.  Retrieved October 9, 2011:

About Robert Traynor

Robert M. Traynor is a board certified audiologist with 45 years of clinical practice in audiology. He is a hearing industry consultant, trainer, professor, conference speaker, practice manager, and author. He has 45 years experience teaching courses and training clinicians within the field of audiology with specific emphasis in hearing and tinnitus rehabilitation. Currently, he is an adjunct professor in various university audiology programs.