Mike Tyson came alone, wearing white, and asked forgiveness Monday for biting Evander Holyfield’s ears in their heavyweight championship bout Saturday night.
Without his co-managers, a tense and animated Tyson seemed to recognize and react to the magnitude of the crisis of this particular moment in his long and tempestuous career.
Dressed in a white leisure suit, with a bandage over the long cut on his right eyebrow, Tyson marched through a side door to a podium in a hotel meeting room, read a 4-minute, 16-second statement and quickly departed, a day before a hearing that will begin determining his future in boxing.
“Saturday night was the worst night of my professional career as a boxer,” Tyson said, referring to his disqualification after tearing a strip of more than an inch out of Holyfield’s right ear. Later in the third round, he bit Holyfield’s left ear.
Said Tyson, “I am here to apologize today, to ask the people who expect more from Mike Tyson to forgive me for snapping in that ring and doing something that I have never done before, and will never do again.”
Tyson took no questions.
His apology, and a plea to let him continue his career, were made as a wave of revulsion continued across the nation. Even President Clinton was swept up in it.
“I saw the fight (on TV),” Clinton said in Washington, responding to a reporter’s question. “And until that happened, it was a good fight. But I was horrified by it. And I think the American people should be.”
Midway through his statement, Tyson apologized to Holyfield, apparently mostly for the postfight derisive comments of his co-managers, John Horne and Rory Holloway.
“I have also told everyone associated with me that I will not stand for any more of the nasty and insulting comments made to Mr. Evander Holyfield and his boxing team,” Tyson said. “Evander, I am sorry. You are a champion, and I respect that.”
In an interview with WAGA-TV in Atlanta, Holyfield said Tyson’s apology was “a good gesture. The fans truly deserve it most,” Holyfield said. “They are the ones who didn’t get to see a full show.”
Tyson, who turned 31 Monday, apologized to the Nevada State Athletic Commission, which will hold an emergency hearing this morning to start a potential disciplinary process, and Indiana judge Patricia Gifford, who presided over his rape conviction more than five years ago and oversees his continuing probation.
Gifford, Tyson said, “knows that I am proud to be living up to the terms of my probation.”
During the in-the-ring melee after the disqualification was announced, Tyson either shoved or struck a Las Vegas policeman, who had leaped into the ring to provide security, which could be a violation of Tyson’s parole.
But Metro police have given no sign that the matter will be pursued criminally.
The commission has suspended Tyson, and is withholding his $30 million purse, pending its investigation. It is legally allowed to permanently withhold up to 10 percent of the purse.
Saying he was “in the prime of my career,” Tyson said he would accept any penalty except a permanent ban from boxing. At least one source said Monday that several commissioners were leaning toward a two- or three-year ban.
The meeting today is only preliminary, designed to alert Tyson and his camp to whether the commission will pursue a formal disciplinary hearing. Tyson is not expected to attend.
Because of a recently passed federal law, all state commissions must recognize the suspensions of other states.
Comparing his action with Baltimore Oriole Roberto Alomar spitting in the face of an umpire last year, Tyson said he “snapped” after receiving a cut over his right eye when Holyfield head-butted him in the second round. The butt was ruled accidental by referee Mills Lane.
“For an athlete in the heat of battle to suddenly lose it is not new,” said Tyson, who bit Holyfield twice in the third round, after which he was disqualified. “But, it’s not right. And for me, it doesn’t do anything. I was wrong. And I expect to pay the price, like a man.
“I expect the Nevada State Athletic Commission to hand down a severe penalty and I am here today to say I will not fight it. I only ask that I not be penalized for life for this mistake.”
Ferdie Pacheco, an analyst for Don King’s televised fights, said he had been told by the King camp that Tyson spoke with Holyfield earlier Monday, offering his personal apology.
At the end of his statement, Tyson suggested that he has sought out psychological aid.
“I have also reached out since Saturday to the medical professionals for help,” Tyson said, “to tell me why I did what I did. And I will have that help. Now, I will continue to train, not just my body, but my mind, too.”
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