Feeding frenzy should quell punters' appetite

PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 July, 1997, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 07 July, 1997, 12:00am

It hit the senses with the ferocity of an upper cut and fairly took the breath away.

Mike Tyson's ferocious bite into Evander Holyfield's ear was the most stunning piece of sporting savagery since the gladiators.

It was also a defining moment. In the second or so it took Tyson to disfigure Holyfield, boxing moved out of the realm of sport into a sordid nether world of violence.

There has always been ambiguity surrounding why casual spectators, with only a passing interest in boxing, gravitate towards heavyweight title fights which are hyped to the heavens by a cast of dubious characters.

Millions of people who abhor brutality and eschew confrontation in daily life find themselves transfixed on big fight nights (or mornings in this part of the world.) They will wave aside suggestions that there is any blood lust involved - 'I'm watching it for the sport' - even while they are swinging and jabbing in time with the fighters.

As Holyfield destroyed Tyson last November, I walked into a room and witnessed the bizarre sight of scores of people punching thin air and shrieking 'yes, yes' as each blow landed.

The vicarious pleasure of watching someone being beaten senseless had momentarily overridden social norms.

Presumably those same people were sat around televisions for the Tyson-Holyfield re-match and, presumably, they suffered the pain of the bite that was felt around the world.

These twice-a-year fight fans are faced with a decision. Do they continue to give tacit support to brutality masquerading as sport or vote with their remotes against the hate-filled heavyweights? Of course, spectators who hanker after the days of bare-knuckle prize fights will continue to roll along to the arenas for a bit of ritual blood letting and ear chomping.

But the multi-million dollar purses for heavyweight bouts are not filled by them but by the couch potato in front of pay-per-view TV.

If he has had his fill of being short-changed by promoter Don King and suckered by Tyson then the fight game will be in big trouble.

So how will the pendulum swing? A lot depends on the weight applied by Holyfield who came out of the bout smelling of roses despite less-than-legal use of his head in close-up exchanges.

Your average Joe has already forgotten about Tyson's time behind bars for rape and the biting incident will fade with the teeth marks on Holyfield's ear.

But 'Iron Mike' is no longer a marketable commodity on his own - to fill the stadiums and guarantee a television audience Holyfield must agree to step into the ring with a guy who chewed his ears.

Holyfield-Tyson III would save the heavyweight division but it's a horror show that does not deserve an airing, never mind an audience.