- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 30, 2007

With all the reflection this week on the 10th anniversary of the infamous Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson “Bite Fight,” Marc Ratner thought about his fateful role that night at MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas and what might have been.

What if Mike Tyson had won that fight?

It would have changed history, and certainly, Ratner’s life.

“It probably would have been the end of my career,” said Ratner, the former executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission and now a vice president with Ultimate Fighting Championship, the mixed martial arts promotion.

Ratner, you see, was the man in charge ringside on June 28, 1997 when, in the third round of their rematch, Tyson did something that truly shocked the world by biting off a piece of Holyfield’s ear.

Like nearly everyone in the arena that night, Ratner, who sat next to judge Jerry Roth — close enough to have his hands on the canvas — didn’t realize exactly what had happened.

“When I first saw Evander jumping up and down, I thought Mike had kneed him and his cup had pinched him or something,” Ratner said.

Referee Mills Lane called Ratner up to the ring apron.

“That was my first knowledge of what had happened,” Ratner said. “Mills told me, ‘I’m going to disqualify him. He bit him.’

“As a college football official, the first question they want you to ask is to the referee who wants to throw someone out, is, ‘Are you sure you want to disqualify him?’ ” Ratner said. “I don’t know why, but that was the first thing I asked him. I don’t think I even understood at that moment exactly what had happened.

Mills said, ‘Let me get [Flip] Homansky [the ringside doctor] up here to see if he can continue,’ ” Ratner said. “Dr. Homansky said he could.

“Now, imagine what would have happened if Mike would have knocked him [Holyfield] out after the first bite. It would have been all on me for letting them fight more. Can you imagine the repercussions? Fortunately for me, Mike bit him again, and that was it.”

It was a bizarrely historic night. The casino was shut down on a fight night because of a panic and an ensuing riot. And most Vegas regulars believe gunshots, not champagne bottles or broken glass, were heard in and around the casino. The cops with their guns drawn didn’t believe they were protecting themselves against broken champagne bottles.

Many believe this was the end for Tyson, but his aura had initially been broken in November 1996, the first time he and Holyfield met in the ring. The “Bite Fight” has overshadowed Tyson-Holyfield I, which may have been the last great heavyweight title fight.

Holyfield was considered a shot fighter going into that first matchup, which also took place at MGM Grand Garden. He had lost the championship to Michael Moorer, and had been knocked out by Riddick Bowe in their third fight. In May 1996 he barely stopped out-of-shape former cruiserweight champion Bobby Czyz in six rounds.

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