Advertisement
Advertisement

Willis Brings ‘The Bite Fight’ Back to Life

By Thomas Gerbasi

Mike Tyson was in the jovial mood that has been his usual one these days, far removed from the time when a simple question from the media could provoke a surly outburst. So while in New York City last month for the launch of George Willis’ book “The Bite Fight,” which chronicles the second fight between Tyson and Evander Holyfield in 1997, Tyson was asked if it was difficult to go through memories of that time, which certainly weren’t good, all over again.

“That’s so awesome you said that because at the time they weren’t great at all, but they are now,” he said. “They’re great moments now.”

In a bizarre way he’s right. They’re not great in terms of wanting to pat “Iron Mike” on the back for biting Holyfield’s ears – not once, but twice – and earning a third round disqualification, but when you read Willis’ book, it reminds you of how pivotal a moment that fight and its aftermath was in boxing history. For the longtime New York Post sports reporter and boxing beat writer, he couldn’t have come across a better book topic.

“I was just looking for a good book project, and when this came out of nowhere I thought number one it was a story that everybody, at least in boxing, if not sports, remembers,” he said. “It had national appeal, it had longevity, it had stars in Mike Tyson and Holyfield, it had some controversy, and it had never been written about. So I thought those were pretty good ingredients to at least give it a shot. And through Mike’s cooperation and Evander’s cooperation, and with everybody in boxing all having a story to tell about whatever they want to talk about, you get a bunch of good stories together.”

That’s the beauty of “The Bite Fight.” Despite Holyfield-Tyson II being perhaps the most written about and analyzed fight of its time, Willis has found stories that even the most diehard Tyson or Holyfield fan probably hasn’t heard, or at least not from the different perspectives given. And as the book progresses, you see how the careers of the two heavyweight greats not only intertwined, but how they were almost destined to be linked with each other then, now, and forever. But Willis says it wasn’t tough digging up the gems that are sprinkled liberally throughout the book.

“It really wasn’t difficult,” he said. “If you go and look at the tape, you just look at the people who were in the pictures. You know them, I know them, so you just go talk to them and ask them what happened. And they’ll tell you a zillion stories about that night. So you get all these little stories and sort of put them together.”

The stars of the show are Tyson and Holyfield though, as new interviews with both add the new perspective that only time can give you. At the book launch party, Tyson talked about that night, and he was characteristically blunt.

“I wanted to win real bad,” he said. “I was in good shape for the fight, and I remember we were clashing heads. I was hitting him with my head too, but I felt myself blacking out, and I was trying to complain to the referee, Mills Lane, during the fight, and he just didn’t give me any love at all. I just didn’t care anymore. I was a pretty narcissistic kind of guy back then, and I thought I shouldn’t have even got disqualified. That’s how I felt at the time. Now I’ve received a lot more knowledge of right and wrong.”

That comment drew cheers from the crowd as Tyson laughed, but he got an even bigger roar when longtime New York boxing scribe Tim Smith asked him why, with all the other fouls available to him, he chose to bite Holyfield.

“Because everything else didn’t work,” said Tyson. “The elbows didn’t work, the headbutts didn’t work.”

That candor is evident in the book, and that’s a good thing, because Willis admits that the Tyson of several years ago probably wouldn’t have even been interested in participating in such a project.

“It was perfect timing because he’s at a place now where he’s sort of come to grips with his past and is more concerned with his future,” he said. “It’s not something he tries to run away from, so he’s very open about it, and I think he understands that that’s as much a part of his legacy as the great knockouts and winning the heavyweight championship.”

But as crazy as that night in Las Vegas was, in putting together the book, Willis found out that several of the people he spoke to wouldn’t even call it the craziest.

“It’s interesting because as I was talking to people, and telling them I was doing this project about the Bite Fight, they would always say ‘yeah, that was a crazy night, but the Fan Man fight, now that was really crazy,’” he said, referring to the night the “Fan Man” parachuted into the ring during the Holyfield vs. Riddick Bowe rematch in 1993. “So I think that maybe the people who were at both fights think the Fan Man bout was a little bit more crazy and surreal.”

Well, considering how good “The Bite Fight” is, let this serve as a formal request for a Fan Man book as a sequel.

User Comments and Feedback (Register For Free To Comment) Comment by ebonyhunter2004 on 08-23-2013

Just plain good advice... if you haven't purchased this book, DON'T! It is a complete waste of your hard-earned money, especially given the subject mater, or lack thereof, when you can read essentially the same information for free on Wikipedia…

Post a Comment - View More User Comments (1)
Top Headlines Hearn: Eubank Win Over Golovkin is Bigger Than Hatton-Tszyu De La Hoya Sees Big Things For Niko 'Baby Face' Valdez Photos/Weights: Ganigan Lopez, Jonathan Taconing on Point Oscar Negrete: I Have To Be at My Best Against Bustos Dolton, Ghvamichava Meet in July 12 PBC on FS1 Headliner De La Hoya: Canelo a 154-Pounder, Golovkin Fight in 2017 Ryabinsky: WADA Has Ruled, Certified Povetkin as Clean Golovkin vs. Eubank: Hearn Gives Update on Finalizing Terms Oscar Negrete Wants a Title Shot After Bustos Fight Sammy Vasquez To Face Felix Diaz, Collazo is Out With Injury Anthony Joshua is a 4/1 Favorite To Win BBC SPOTY Award Photos: Andre Ward Throws Ceremonial First Pitch in Oakland Photos: Jamel Herring vs. Denis Shafikov Open Workouts Photos: Mikaela Lauren, Klara Svensson Go Face To Face Zac Dunn Stops Carlos Jerez In Five, Remains Unbeaten Promoter: David Benavidez Will Become Youngest 168 Champ Daniel Jacobs Rips Mora, Says Billy Joe Saunders Rejected Fight Golovkin Focuses on Middleweight Legacy, Canelo in Rearview Frank Warren: Wilder, Fury Would Outwork, Outfight Joshua Hearn: After Watching Thurman-Porter - I Know Brook is Better! Joshua Gormley To Face Andy Ruiz on July 16, Detroit Anthony Joshua's Fall Options: Stiverne, Jennings, Pulev, Parker Keith Thurman Very Interested in Facing Kell Brook in The Fall Wilder Embraces VADA, Feels Drug Testing Should Be Year-Round Margarito: Canelo Will Not Be Able To Help His Brother! Golovkin's Promoter: Eubank in The UK Would Be Huge Event Luis Rosa vs. Luis Hinojosa Ends in First Round No-Contest Peter Quillin Mulling New Direction, Move To Super Middleweight Ricky Burns, Kirill Relikh Have 30 Days To Reach a Deal Soto-Karass vs. Kamegai II Eyed For Canelo vs. Smith PPV Telemundo Weights From Mexico City: Ruiz 130, Diaz 129 Jezreel Corrales-Jason Sosa Ordered To Collide By The WBA James Kirkland in Training, Reunites With Ann Wolfe Canelo Back on 'Regular' HBO? - Door is Open For December Rau'Shee Warren vs. Jamie McDonnell Ordered By The WBA Jose Felix Jr. Returns on August 27 on Marriaga vs. Robb Card Thurman-Porter Final Ratings: 3.1 Million Viewers, Highest of '16 Erkan Teper, Despite Suspension, Returns To Face Rossy Deontay Wilder, Chris Arreola Take Part in VADA Testing Jarrell Miller vs. Fred Kassi on August 19th, Showtime
Advertisement

Latest Active Forum Threads
Advertisement
Advertisement