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In one of the most memorable sports moments of 1997, Mike Tyson went from being the most feared man in boxing to its most jeered. Tyson was facing Evander Holyfield in a rematch of their 1996 fight in which he was upset by Holyfield with a 11th round TKO. In the third round of the rematch Tyson "snapped" as he would later describe it.
While in a clinch, he leaned in and bit on Holyfield's left ear. However, it was not loss at first bite for Mike Tyson. Referee Mills Lane gave him the benefit of the doubt but when Tyson went back for seconds, this time gnawing a visible chunk from Holyfield's right ear, Lane had seen enough, too much really, and disqualified Tyson. As a result, Holyfield kept his title and Tyson lost his license to box for a least a year as well as a small fraction of his purse and any small scrap of respect that remained for the convicted rapist. It was the nadir of a miserable year for boxing.
In another widely anticipated bout, towering heavyweight Henry Akinwande was disqualified for insistent clutching and holding in his title fight with Lennox Lewis. It was the second win by disqualification for Lewis in 1997. Earlier in the year his fight with former champ Oliver McCall was halted because, inexplicably, McCall was crying and seemed unwilling to put up a fight.
Even Roy Jones Jr., widely recognized as the unofficial pound-for-pound champion, lost on a DQ. An obviously frustrated Jones was finally close to finishing off stubborn challenger Montell Griffin when he hit him as he knelt on the canvas. Jones would lose his light heavyweight belt for the rules infraction, but won it back five months later with a spectacular first round knockout in the rematch.
Junior welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya stepped up in weight and took long-time champ Pernell Whitaker's WBC Welterweight title in a highly controversial 12-round unanimous decision in Las Vegas. Many observers felt that Whitaker, the veteran, got the better of the young De La Hoya. However, it must have appeared to the judges that while De La Hoya landed many fewer punches than his counterpart, he did connect with more crucial "power" punches. Once again controversy and buffoonery were the sport's linchpins in another embarrassing year boxing.