It happened 20 years ago today – the Bite of the Century. It was also known as Evander Holyfield vs. Mike Tyson II. In a classic rematch, the two heavyweights fought for the WBA boxing championship of the world. As in their first fight, Tyson won. But it was how he won that made history.
Not once, but twice, Tyson bit the champion’s ears. After the second biting, in the fourth round, referee Mills Lane stepped in and disqualified Iron Mike, and the fight was over. Holyfield, ahead on all cards, retained his crown.
Tyson never returned to boxing greatness. Holyfield, on the other hand, would become the only four-time world heavyweight boxing champion in history.
Fast forward 12 years to October 16, 2009. Tyson and Holyfield made a joint appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Before millions of viewers, Tyson apologized to Holyfield, who accepted his apology. Actually, Holyfield had stated his forgiveness years earlier, on the basis of his faith in God and his Savior, Jesus Christ.
It is our love for each other that marks us as true believers, said Jesus. That is what makes Christianity real.
I have had the privilege of meeting both Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. I found Tyson to be surprisingly surreal, measured, and calm. When I sat down with Holyfield for several minutes, he wanted to talk mostly about his faith – and forgiveness. He really did forgive Mike Tyson. He told me he had no other choice. “How can I claim to be a follower of Christ and not forgive others?” he asked.
His boxing nickname was “Real Deal.” They always introduced him in the ring as “Evander The Real Deal Holyfield.” And that is right. Evander Holyfield is the real deal – not because he beat Mike Tyson 20 years ago today – for the second time – but because of the forgiveness that rules his heart.