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Monday, June 30, 1997
Tyson: "I am sorry"
LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Mike Tyson stood alone, his entourage nowhere in sight.
In a calm, almost vulnerable voice, he told the world and Evander Holyfield that he was sorry.
That he "just snapped."
That he had no excuses.
Then he begged not to be banned from the sport he loved.
"I only ask that it's not a penalty for life for this mistake," Tyson said.
For 4 minutes and 16 seconds the most feared man in boxing pleaded for forgiveness and apologized for biting Holyfield on the ears during their WBA heavyweight title fight Saturday night.
On his 31st birthday, Mike Tyson, a man of intimidating arrogance and power, was now just a man admitting he needed help.
"Evander, I am sorry," Tyson said. "You are a champion and I respect that. I am only saddened that this fight did not go further so that the boxing fans of the world might see for themselves who would come out on top."
Don King and his wild hair were not on hand for this news conference. Neither was co-manager John Horne, who hasn't exactly heaped praise on Holyfield lately. Tyson was on his own for this one.
"I have told everyone associated with me that I will not stand for any more of the nasty and insulting comments made to Evander Holyfield and his boxing team," Tyson said.
"I will learn from this horrible mistake, too," he promised.
Tyson said he would accept any penalty short of a lifetime ban from Nevada boxing authorities and wants the sanctions to begin immediately "so that I can show the boxing fans of the world that I am willing to accept what I have coming to me."
Holyfield, meanwhile, said Tyson's apology was "a good gesture."
"The fans truly deserve it most," he told WAGA-TV in Atlanta. "They are the ones who didn't get to see a full show. I felt I was going to knock him out anyway but still the fans need to see that we as athletes get paid a lot of money and we should be able to hold our composure and not do anything illegal."
As he stood at a lectern and read from a prepared statement, Tyson's right eye was visibly puffy and bandaged from a deep gash inflicted when he and Holyfield butted heads in the second round.
Wearing a cream-colored suit, he spoke to reporters in a room next to the MGM Grand Garden where he was disqualified at the end of the third round less than 48 hours earlier.
In his first comments since the fight, when he angrily blamed Holyfield for provoking him, Tyson said he could not explain why he took a gash out of Holyfield's right ear in the third round, then bit him again on the left ear after the fight resumed.
"I cannot tell you why, exactly, I acted like I did," Tyson said, "other than to say that when the butting occurred and I thought I might lose because of the severity of the cut above my eye, I just snapped."
He apologized to everyone from the boxing commission to the judge who sentenced him on his rape conviction, saying she knows "that I am proud to be living up to the terms of my probation."
"I expect to pay the price, like a man," Tyson said. "I expect the Nevada State Athletic Commission to hand down a severe penalty and I am here today to say I will not fight it."
There probably won't be anything to fight on Tuesdaywhen the commission meets to decide whether to go ahead with a complaint against the former heavyweight champion.
Commission director Marc Ratner said the commission legally could not act on the penalties Tuesday, but said he hoped to have a full hearing to issue sanctions within a week.
"I want to do it as fast as we can," Ratner said. "But they still have to do the legal things."
Tyson could be fined up to $3 million and suspended from boxing for whatever length the commission deems appropriate. Under a new federal boxing law taking effect Tuesday, all other states would have to honor any suspension or ban and not let Tyson fight in their states.
Tyson, who had planned to celebrate his birthday at a New York nightclub, instead found himself in a position the feared puncher may have never thought possible -- standing in front of the media and apologizing publicly and profusely for his actions.
He said he has "reached out since Saturday to the medical professionals for help to tell me why I did what I did. And I will have that help."
Tyson is still on probation for his rape conviction. But authorities said his actions during the fight and his efforts to brawl with police who tried to separate the two camps after the disqualification would probably not be cause to revoke his probation.
George M. Walker, the Marion County, Ind., chief probation officer, said no action is pending against Tyson in Indiana, where he was convicted of raping Desiree Washington and spent three years in prison. But he said he would be watching him closely.
"I think that at least for the time being, I'll be in a little more frequent contact with him," Walker said. "Mike still has some learning to do about how to control his anger."
Chuck Thompson, chief deputy district attorney in Las Vegas, said he had "no reason to believe" that Las Vegas police would submit a complaint against Tyson.
Tyson's $30 million check, meanwhile, remained in a safe at the athletic commission offices, where it is being held pending the disciplinary hearing.
The public outcry continued, meanwhile, with commission phone lines tied up all day Monday by callers angry with the outcome of the fight.
"The public response has been as nasty as it gets," Ratner said. "We had 450 calls this morning already from people demanding their money back and saying Tyson should be banned from boxing."
A San Francisco lawyer who bought the fight on pay-per-view said he planned a class action lawsuit alleging breach of contract by Tyson for not giving fans their money's worth. Mark Webb said he would seek the money from Tyson and the Showtime cable network, which had estimated that 1.8 million people would buy the fight at home for $49.95.
Showtime, meanwhile, said it would rebroadcast the fight July 7, predicting it will set records for viewership and revenue for what it called the "biggest boxing event of the decade."
Dr. James Nave, a member of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, said the controversy was bad for boxing, but he cautioned fans not to let it tarnish the sport.
"We need to realize that there are some wonderful people in the sport of boxing," Nave said. "Look at what a wonderful example Evander Holyfield set Saturday night for the world to see not only as a fighter but as a man."