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Journalism Showcase: What Happened to Evander Holyfield’s Ear?

SC Featured takes quirky approach to tell story from Tyson-Holyfield fight 25 years ago

“We knew it was an off-the-wall story, and we knew it needed an off-the-wall presentation.”

The words of producer Dan Arruda perfectly describe Sunday’s SportsCenter “SC Featured” segment, which takes a quirky Hollywood “whodunit” approach complete with animation to try and answer the question of what happened to the piece of Evander Holyfield’s ear that Mike Tyson bit off in their infamous heavyweight championship fight in Las Vegas on June 28, 1997.

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“Tyson/Holyfield 25 Y(ears) Later” will debut in the 8 a.m. ET hour of SportsCenter on Sunday, June 26, and re-air in other editions afterward.

A fascinating tale of rumors and urban legends comes down to the four people who actually know what happened to the piece of ear – including Holyfield himself, who reveals for what is believed to be the first time what he knows about where it went.

To tell the story, ESPN joined forces with Ben Baskin, a podcaster who had done an investigation of his own but had come up short on finding the answer.

“Ben’s podcast was released last summer,” said Arruda. “I remember listening to it. I was intrigued, and I thought it was funny. And then, a few months later, I saw that the 25th anniversary of the fight was coming up, and I harkened back to the podcast and thought maybe we can do something with that.”

The cast of characters depicted in solving the mystery. (ESPN)

Baskin already had relationships with many of the people interviewed, so he helped with outreach, which Arruda said made the process much easier.

But for his podcast, Baskin had not been able to talk with the victim of the bite – Holyfield. Arruda had an idea.

“An ESPN producer had done a story about Evander’s son while he was playing at Georgia, so he had the contact information for the family and passed it on to me,” he said. “I sent Evander a text, and his son reached out back to me. They liked the idea, and it wasn’t as difficult to get him as I’d expected.”

Even with all the interviews, the special effects of animation, and the treatment, the project has come together very fast.

“I’ll tell you the truth – it’s been three weeks,” Arruda said. “We had some ideas about six weeks ago, but then we just said why don’t we reach out to Ben?

“That call with Ben didn’t happen until June 3,” he said. “Once he agreed, and we put the wheels in motion, it’s been nonstop work ever since.”

Evander Holyfield discusses losing a portion of his right ear in a fight with Mike Tyson 25 years ago. (Dan Arruda/ESPN)
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