Holyfield, 57, staying ready just in case Tyson wants another piece

ESPN.Com Evander Holyfield (right) tries to shake off the pain after getting bit in the ear by Mike Tyson (left).

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)

Evander Holyfield in a gym is not much of a news flash. Even if going to a gym these days does hold perils beyond that guy on the next elliptical machine who wants to fill you in on the past 10 years of his life. You should floss as regularly as Holyfield works out. So, no biggie there.

Evander Holyfield in a gym with the vague hint in the air of some kind of for-charity exhibition against Mike Tyson that might require the resurrection of either Barnum or Bailey to promote — now that seems to prompt at least an arched eyebrow.

Floating is this notion of an Ear Bite Reunion Tour that due to no popular demand is still gaining a life of its own. Holyfield, 57, and Tyson, 53, both have posted various messages on social media showing them punching at air and pads and bags while declaring their intentions to fight for a good cause. Both look far more fit than most guys you see in a Flomax commercial. Imaginations have taken over from there.

Down in south Florida, where the Atlanta-reared Holyfield has made a home for several years now, he is doing nothing to quell the gossip.

“I’m waiting, it has created a big buzz, everybody has been talking about it,” he said in an interview with the AJC this week.

Then, in a little tweak of his old rival, Holyfield said it wouldn’t really be his place to set up the fight because, “it’s like you’re a bully, you’d ask somebody (to fight) that you’ve beaten twice.”

“I asked Riddick Bowe, he’s beaten me twice. And he said nobody wants to see you with me, they want to see you with Tyson.”

Holyfield and Tyson, of course, are forever linked by their two fights in the late 1990s. In the first, as a 25-to-1 underdog at one point, Holyfield won on an 11th-round TKO. The rematch achieved infamy when a frustrated Tyson resorted to biting both of Holyfield’s ears, taking a piece of the right one before referee Mills Lane decided that some acts are too shameful even for boxing and disqualified Tyson.

Some fighters get cauliflower ears; Holyfield got a chew-toy one. In the decades since, he has worn his ever-so slight deformity with pride. In fact, he put up a quite clever little video recently proving that he has enough ear remaining upon which to hang a face mask. It was in response to a meme showing a mask dangling from just his “good” ear with the message: “Thanks a lot, Mike Tyson.”

Holyfield fought well past the point of a logical retirement, his last bout a TKO of one Brian Nielsen in Denmark at the age of 48. This comeback nine years later, he said, has no motivation beyond the desire to raise money for his charitable foundation and its work with children. The coronavirus pandemic has made that work all more pressing, he said.

For someone with the pre-existing condition of 57 pro fights, many of them bloody sieges, Holyfield pronounces himself tip-top. “I feel wonderful,” he said, although he might want to get a second, medical opinion before entering a ring again.

He’s at his fighting weight of 215 pounds and has expressed great joy at getting back to some strenuous work in the gym — no sparring allowed just yet. The adjustment to living within the ever-shifting rules of engagement with the coronavirus has seemed minimal to him, other than the fact he hasn’t been back to a Sunday service in Atlanta in a couple months.

“I get in my running and walking, shadow boxing anyway. It hasn’t affected me at all,” he said.

There remain some fairly large questions to settle before Holyfield fights in public again. Like who would put on a show between two combatants with a combined age of 110? What rules govern such a thing? What are the medical precautions and stipulations to an exhibition like this? And beyond the safety of the fighters, when would such a thing be safe for fans in attendance?

By Holyfield’s reckoning, Atlanta doesn’t seem like a likely location for such an exhibition. Although, he said, he has heard from interested parties as far away as the Middle East and Australia.

A Holyfield-Tyson exhibition may never come off, for possibly very good reasons. But at least the low hum created now serves as a helpful reminder to another generation that Evander Holyfield has some standing beyond being the father of a certain recent Georgia running back, Elijah Holyfield. This was a four-time heavyweight champion, young’uns, and one of the fiercest competitors of his time.

And sometimes it’s just good to hear an old lion roar.

As when Holyfield explained how completely reasonable it would be for him to fight again, in any form.

“I’m in good shape,” he said. “Nobody’s going to get hurt. It’s not a thing you’re in to win. To me it’s about how good a shape you’re in, how you look at your age.”

Chuckling, he added, “I know I can go nine minutes. People go, what if he hits you real hard? I’ll hit back harder. That’s it.”

And whether facing a future sparring partner or Mike Tyson across from him, Holyfield said, “I know I’m going to be in shape. If I have to light somebody up, I’ll light them up. If they start going wild, I might have a little juice left to light them up, too.”

It was suggested — and Holyfield agreed — that it would be fine idea to fight this exhibition in headgear. No chance for Tyson to get another serving of ear then.

Tribune Wire