|ON THE ROPES...|
What's your ruling on the Tyson bite?
July 15, 1997
Other questions asked in this forum:
How have the characters of fighters changed over the years? Why wasn't Tyson kicked out of boxing for his rape conviction? What is the historical link between the lower/working classes and boxing? What is beautiful and intriguing about boxing?
June 30, 1997:
Paul Solman examines the Tyson bite and the effect it will have on public support for boxing.
The NewsHour's sport coverage.
Excerpts from Joyce Carol Oates on Mike Tyson.
Mike Tyson's record.
Evander Holyfield's record.
A question from Mario Williams of Milwaukee, Wisconsin:
Mike Tyson is a man of great complexity, but that is no different from men all throughout the sports arena. Throughout the history of boxing headbutts, elbows, thumbing, and "biting," predated the Holyfield/Tyson fight, so in light of a historical view of these incidents' relationship to boxing, Tyson's bite of Evander Holyfield should have lost much of the "media thunder" that has accompanied it. Though Timothy McVeigh murdered many more in the Oklahoma tragedy, here we are again and now Mike Tyson is being made the scapegoat for the fall of boxing. It's ludicrous. Why no mention at all of the mafia affiliations that have left boxing's image in disarray? Why all of a sudden does boxing's image tumble based on the frustrated actions of one man Mike Tyson?
Professor Gorn responds:
Certainly looked at from the point of view of other big news stories, the Tyson incident seems blown out of proportion. Even in boxing itself there are more important issues--for example, over a long career, repeated blows to the head, especially in the heavier weight classifications, will often cause brain damage. But maybe it is better to think of the Tyson-Holyfield encounter as symbolic. More than any other sport, boxing pushes the boundary of acceptable behavior. It appears more violent, more anarchic than other public spectacles. Part of the fascination with the ring is going up to that boundary of violence and anarchy, but not crossing it. Tyson crossed the line. So in the context of the "real world," all of the attention and villification is absurd. But in the context of sports, especially boxing--which are all about creating little realms of order--the outcry makes sense.
Joyce Carol Oates responds:
Tyson seems to have attracted worldwide attention because of the nature of his foul (an unconventional "savage" foul instead of a more conventional one like butting, low blows, etc.) and, of course, because of his celebrity. It does seem ludicrously distorted and misleading, but such is the power of the contemporary media, to create meaning and significance out of mere accident. Where once "Mike Tyson" was a serious, excellent and dedicated boxer, he's now a media-enhanced figure, a mythic "savage."