Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield were separated in a violent fight and had a tense confrontation over the pool table when teenager Tyson tried to bully his rival


Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield shared two historic fights in the late 1990s, but the duo first faced off in front of a handful of people.

In 1984, Tyson was a 17-year-old hoping to qualify for the Olympics later that year. Holyfield was 21 and had the same goal, but at a slightly lower weight than his future rival.

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A young Tyson was one of the most feared fighters of all time

As a result, the couple spent a lot of time together at the US Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

Tyson and Holyfield mostly got along well and even struck up an early friendship before their historic rivalry began in the professional ranks.

However, before the glamorous fights, two famous incidents saw the pair collide, which has since become the stuff of boxing legend.

First, a training session, interrupted in the first round.

Holyfield was a match for 'Iron Mike'

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Holyfield was a match for ‘Iron Mike’

As the duo competed in different weight classes, they hadn’t shared rounds between them until now.

Nevertheless, the fierce young Tyson had had several partners and so he was in short supply.

Holyfield recalled to BoxNation several years later, “Me and Tyson were buddies. Tyson knocked out his sparring partners all the time so he had no sparring partners.

“I said, ‘Do you want to practice?’ He said, “Hey man, you’re my friend, I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I was a little offended because he was 17, I’m 21. I’m an adult. I said, ‘What are you talking about? Are you hurting me?'”

Tyson and Holyfield haven't even completed a round of combat

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Tyson and Holyfield haven’t even completed a round of combat

The pair got into the ring together, put on their helmets and 16-ounce gloves, and got to work.

Holyfield described to the LA Times, “They told him, ‘Just use your left hand.’

“But I said, ‘No way, use both hands.’

“He hit me with a right hand on the arm and almost knocked me across the ring, but every time he stopped hitting I was getting my combinations on him.

“I know I’ve thrown more punches at him than anyone else who’s ever fought with him.”

Their training session was stopped by a trainer

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Their training session was stopped by a trainer

The session continued to heat up until it exploded violently and ended abruptly.

Holyfield told DAZN: “An Olympic coach [Pat Nappi] came in and stopped him. Mike would tell people, ‘Wow, he’s skinny but he’s strong.’

“They stopped him at about a minute and 30 seconds, they said someone was going to get hurt.

“At that time, I had him in the corner and he couldn’t get out.

“The Olympic coach stopped him, but I knew I wasn’t going to get hurt. No one was hurt but I had him around.

Tyson has rarely spoken about the training session between him and his former rival

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Tyson has rarely spoken about the training session between him and his former rival

Holyfield felt he had proven his point in the ring, although an angry Tyson would later look to stand firm in another situation.

During a relaxing evening with other members of the team, a “winner stays on” pool tournament caused an intense showdown between the future world heavyweight champions.

The Boston Globe’s Ron Borges was one of the few writers to correctly predict underdog Holyfield would beat Tyson when they met in 1996.

Unknown to many, he had witnessed the confrontation 12 years previously.

Holyfield wouldn't be intimidated by Tyson and beat him twice in the pro ranks in the 1990s

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Holyfield wouldn’t be intimidated by Tyson and beat him twice in the pro ranks in the 1990s

He then divulged to Ring Magazine: “One of the things I knew, going back to when Holyfield and Tyson were amateurs, was the pool table incident.

“One night they were all playing pool at the Olympic Training Center in 1984 and it was one of those deals where if you lost you gave up the table.

“Tyson lost and it was Holyfield’s turn to play. Tyson tried to intimidate him”, recalling that he refused to give up his place.

“Holyfield approached Tyson, didn’t say a word and took the pool cue from him.

Holyfield knocked out Tyson in their first fight in 1996

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Holyfield knocked out Tyson in their first fight in 1996

“Tyson left the room and no one saw him for the rest of the night.

“I always had in mind that Tyson knew that if there was one guy he couldn’t bully, it was Evander Holyfield.”

Author George Willis wrote in his book ‘The Bite Fight’: “To this day, Tyson says he has no memory of their confrontation around a pool table.

“’I don’t know,’ he said.

But Holyfield felt he had won a huge psychological victory, “I’m not afraid of him and he knows I’m not afraid of him.”

As for the Olympic Trials themselves, Tyson has won all five of his fights, four by knockout. Holyfield won all five by knockout.

Tyson bit off Holyfield's ear in their 1997 rematch and got disqualified - now there's talk of a third fight in progress

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Tyson bit off Holyfield’s ear in their 1997 rematch and got disqualified – now there’s talk of a third fight in progress

Tyson was named the tournament’s ‘outstanding boxer’ but was later beaten by Henry Tillman in the Olympic box-off, meaning he sat out the 1984 games.

Holyfield, on the other hand, beat Ricky Womack and made it to the Olympics where he won bronze and was unlucky to miss out on gold.

However, it was the amateur experience at the Olympic Trials that put Holyfield in good stead for his fight against Tyson 12 years later.

During the build-up to the first fight in 1996, Holyfield was quoted as referring to that famous fight.

He said, “I kicked his ass. He never forgot it and I never forgot it.



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