Mike Tyson vs. Evander Holyfield, 25 Years Later: Oddsmakers Recall Famous Ear-Biting Incident
Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images. Pictured: Mike Tyson, Evander Holyfield
It was 25 years ago on today, June 28, that Mike Tyson famously bit off a piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear during their rematch fight.
While the betting crowd was just as shocked just as the rest of the general public, there was little confusion at the books in Las Vegas. Thanks to a rule change made in between their fights, the official ruling of ‘Holyfield by Disqualification’ wasn’t as confusing as it might seem. Plus, it may have saved some bettors, too.
Holyfield was declared the winner in the 11th round of the original fight with the rematch booked for seven months later. During that time, bookmakers changed the house rules.
“It was so crazy that we decided to throw the DQ in with the KO and the TKO,” said Vinny Magliulo, the long time bookmaker at Caesars Palace.
So when Tyson bit Holyfield’s ear in the third round, those who had bet on Holyfield by KO won. Those who bet on Holyfield by decision lost. Anyone who bet on Tyson lost. Before the rule change, a bet on Holyfield to win by KO or TKO would’ve resulted in a loss.
The rule clarification was needed, said longtime bookmaker Jimmy Vaccaro, because Vegas was moving from its tough reputation to a reputable outfit with the eyes of the world on them.
“The new people who got into the game needed us to break it down for them,” Vaccaro said.
Good timing. And a time-saver, too.
“Not one person came to the counter and asked for a refund,” said Johnny Avello, who was then at Bally’s.
The Holyfield win still hurt the books, with Tyson closing as a 2/1 favorite, but it was nothing like the first fight, with Holyfield opening up as a 25/1 dog and closing at 9/1.
“The number shortened quickly,” Vaccaro said. “So I guess we lost $1 million instead of $2 million.”
Almost every book got hammered, with one known exception being the Pepper Mill Resort in Reno.
“They had a huge poker tournament there and those poker guys love favorites,” said Chris Andrews, who was running the Cal-Neva network of sportsbooks in the Reno area. “There were guys throwing $9,999 on Tyson.”
Despite calls to how wild Tyson could be, including his former training Teddy Atlas telling a friend the day before the rematch that Tyson was going to do something to get himself disqualified, bookmakers did not offer a standalone DQ prop.
Said Magliulo: “If we did that, when it happened, everyone would think we were part of some conspiracy.”