CHICAGO — No punches were thrown. And neither bit off the other’s ear.
Mutual praise and admiration dominated during a face-to-face meeting Friday between former world champion boxers Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield on a live episode of “The Oprah Winfrey Show.”
On June 28, 1997, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Tyson was disqualified after biting off part of Holyfield’s right ear during their WBA heavyweight title fight.
A respectful Tyson shook hands with his former rival several times during their encounter Friday — which he said was his first chance to speak at length with Holyfield since the ear chomp that made worldwide headlines.
Tyson told Winfrey earlier that an initial apology after the incident was insincere. But when she asked what he wanted to say to Holyfield, Tyson stopped short of apologizing again. He instead poured on the praise.
“This is a beautiful guy,” he said, holding Holyfield’s arm affectionately for several seconds. “I just want you to know it’s just been a pleasure … being acquainted with you.”
Asked by Winfrey if he was still missing part of his ear, Holyfield pointed to it and said, “Just a little bit.”
Holyfield also had a confession of sorts to make: He himself has bitten others, during childhood roughhousing with his siblings as a way to get out of headlocks.
“You talk about biting,” he said. “I’m the person that bit every brother in my family.”
Holyfield said one reason he wanted to appear with Tyson on television was to demonstrate to youth caught up in violence that reconciliation is always possible.
“We can come together,” he said. “We know you can come together.”