Biting someone’s ear off is likely to get you headlines. Thirty years later it is likely to get you adverts…
Who would have thought that something that shocked a nation and a sport would end up being a career reviver would begin with such dreadful condemnation?
But for Mike Tyson that is precisely what happened. The whole story, of course, is much greater than a simple headline, as we have seen with Kash Ali, a fighter who would, well chew your hand off, for similar redemption, it is of great interest beyond the sport.
When Ali sunk his teeth into David Price, the entire boxing community united for a brief moment to decry the undefeated boxer. Having seen Price lose it at a press conference where he was usually a calm and composed individual but turned into a beast this was to be a theme carried into the ring by Ali.
Outside of the ring I have heard takes of such behaviour in gyms and sparring where it was something that for some trainers was described as “common place” but for others simply as barbaric and animalistic. Both sets were, however, united that there was clearly to be thought that there should be no place for this type of thing in a square ring.
Kash Ali was therefore not unique and certainly not alone in his wild behaviour. One former world champion from Puerto Rico, Osie Oscasio, got his nickname, Jaws, allegedly from a bite he gave out in a sparring session.
What made Ali’s offence to us Brits worse was that it was in a British ring and many were quick to condemn but few to analyse. For British boxing pundit and authority, Steve Bunce, it highlighted how mismatched Ali was with Price and how these mismatches were shaming British boxing.
He had a point.
Bunce pointed out just how padded Ali’s record was going into the fight and how he had never really been matched against anyone at the level below Price never mind at the quality Price had boxed. Who is to blame for that? Well it could be argued that the promoters put two guys together who should have never been together outside of a night out. Ali’s record hardly screamed bronze medal at the Olympics material never mind being in the same ring as someone who had one.
Prior to getting in the ring with Price, Ali had fought men with losing records or newly created professional ones. There was not a truly competitive round in amongst them but he found himself in a ring with someone who had genuine recognisable achievements on a world stage; not just in a leisure centre.
Ali is not alone in using his mouth to get out a ring. There are examples in small hall shows up and down the country where boxers who find themselves in trouble will take a bite – sorry – out of Kash Ali’s book. They nip their opponent, often it is seasoned professionals doing it to get their message over to newly freshened newbies. Take a bite and get a lesson. For others they want out and getting out is all they want to do.
Biting in the ring however is not a simplistic issue or a case of right v wrong.
In 2014 cruiserweight Wadi Camacho got disqualified in his fight with Craig Kennedy. Unlike Ali this was not a simple case and the disqualification was, and still is, hotly disputed. Such is the shame of being accused this was something that Camacho was, and still is, appalled by that verdict. He appealed, went to Scotland to find if his appeal would be successful, lost it, lost his purse abut never got banned. Odd?
Earlier on, heavyweight Derick Chisora munched on Paul Butlin in a fight in 2008 but was never stopped, disqualified, fined or punished – he even won the fight!
Andrew Golota got a similar ending when he faced Samson Po’uha. The fight saw Golota trying to find a way to get past a difficult round and to do so, he bit into his opponent. He got what he needed on the way to stopping Po’ha in the 5th round.
Biting is socially unacceptable. It is frowned upon and is illegal outside of the ring and in civilised society.
Former boxer and British Master’s Champion, Gary McArthur, from the west Coast of Scotland also ended up inside when convicted of biting on a man’s ear in a brawl in Clydebank. It was a 2 year prison sentence which followed but this was an incident following many others that had already placed him in the “well known to the police” category.
Other sports are just as guilty – who can forget Luis Suarez, the hungriest striker ever employed by Liverpool… In rugby, South African Johan Le Roux got suspended for biting a new Zealander in a scrum, so too did English rugby player, Dylan Hartley convicted of biting Stephen Ferris of Ireland – Hartley denied it and continues to do so. Spanish footballer Francisco Gallardo is the weirdest example of biting when he got suspended and fined for biting another player’s genitals! This was whilst celebrating another player’s goal!!! His own teammate!!
Of course, no one unless they have fought in a ring under lights with television cameras in their face can truly understand the pressures faced in the ring. Dillian Whyte was quick to point this out when people queued up to condemn Ali.
I can neither condemn nor sympathise. I have never been facing a juggernaut the size of David Price. Taking a nip or a nibble though is not the way forward for anyone’s career and the punishments meted out seem to be in line with the offence. Taking a bite when nobody is looking is terrible at a buffet, in a sport it turns terrible into real cost for the perpetrator.