Originally created 07/04/97

Holyfield's bite



ATLANTA (AP) - A boxer grows increasingly frustrated as he takes one blow after another. Finally, when defeat appears imminent, he resorts to biting his opponent.

Mike Tyson?

No, in this case, the fighter who took a bite out of his opponent was Evander Holyfield.

The three-time heavyweight champion, whose ears were clipped by Tyson in their heavyweight title fight Saturday night, found himself on the less-painful side of a biting incident 17 years ago.

During a semifinal bout at the Georgia Golden Gloves competition, a teen-aged Holyfield bit Jakey Winters on the shoulder shortly after being knocked down in the second round.

"Yeah, I remember," Holyfield said Thursday, after being honored at Atlanta City Hall for retaining his WBA heavyweight title. "He knocked me down. I got up and swung at him, he grabbed me and I was trying to get loose. He wouldn't let me go, so I bit him on the shoulder."

Holyfield was bitten on each ear by Tyson in the third round of their fight in Las Vegas. The first bite took a small chunk out of Holyfield's right ear, the second resulted in Tyson being disqualified.

Holyfield was penalized a point after he clamped his teeth into Winters' shoulder and he wound up losing the three-round amateur bout in a unanimous decision.

"Because I had the mouthpiece in, there wasn't a teeth-print on him," Holyfield said. "He just got pinched."

Winters, now a 35-year-old investment banker in Boca Raton, Fla., has a different version of events. He said that after Holyfield got up, composed himself and withstood another round of punches, he spit out his mouthpiece and bit Winters on the shoulder.

According to Winters, the bite broke his skin and caused bleeding.

"It's hard to spit a mouthpiece out. But he was desperate. He was trying to buy time. Evander is no angel," Winters told the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

But Holyfield said his long-ago biting incident was much different from Tyson's vicious attack last Saturday.

"If you ask me if it was wrong, yes, it was wrong," Holyfield said. "But was I biting him to hurt him or was I biting him to free myself from what he was doing? Look at what happened with Mike Tyson. He was holding me and wouldn't let me go. I had to pry myself loose from him holding me and biting me."

Holyfield said his bite of Winters was "the first and last time I did that," but things might have been different after Tyson wounded him the first time. During a break while the referee tried to decide what action to take, one of Holyfield's trainers told him to pray.

"How can you pray and not forgive," he said. "If he had not told me to pray, I know I would have bit (Tyson) back. ... I'm glad he told me to pray, or this story would have just been two guys out there biting each other."

Holyfield, who leaves Saturday on a 10-day tour of Africa, said his ears are healing fine.

The right ear, missing a section about an inch long and a quarter-inch deep, is still patched with 15 stitches but doesn't look nearly as gruesome as it did on the night of the first. The stitches are expected to come out in a few days, Holyfield said.

"I have the most famous ear in the world," he said. "I look like a Doberman whose ears have been clipped."

The left ear is nearly healed, with a barely noticeable scar to mark the spot where Tyson delivered the less-severe bite that resulted in the end of the fight.

Tyson, who apologized publicly on Monday, also tried to reach Holyfield twice by telephone, but the champion wasn't home. If they do talk, Holyfield plans to tell Tyson to recapture the drive and discipline he had as the up-and-coming boxer who became the youngest heavyweight champion in history.

"He's got to have that same desire to be a better person," Holyfield said. "Until you get that desire, your life is going to go down. We've got to work just as hard to be good people as we do in our endeavors."