Tyson backs biter Graham
Dog bite ... James Graham. Photo: Channel 9
DISGRACED Canterbury prop James Graham, who was suspended for 12 weeks after being found guilty of biting Billy Slater's ear in the NRL grand final, has an unlikely heavyweight supporter: Mike Tyson.
The former undisputed world heavyweight champion urged all rugby league fans to forgive the English international and for Graham to also do his bit and to ''improve'' himself. ''He has to reinforce his discipline,'' Tyson said.
Tyson, who was fined $US3 million by the Nevada State Boxing Commission and suspended from boxing for 12 months after he bit a chunk out of Evander Holyfield's ear during their heavyweight bout in 1997, hoped rugby league fans would allow Graham the opportunity to redeem himself for what he deemed an obvious brain snap.
Crunch ... Mike Tyson bites into the ear of Evander Holyfield in their WBA Heavyweight match. Photo: AP
The Sun-Herald sent video of Graham appearing to chomp down on Slater's ear during a fight in the premiership decider to Tyson for his thoughts on an act that appalled some of the code's toughest men. ''Iron Mike'' declared the suspension, and the tsunami of negative publicity the 27-year-old had received, were punishment enough.
''The punishment [the boxing authority] gave me was absurd,'' Tyson said. ''The punishment they gave [Graham] … well, you just can't take away this guy's money and stuff. He made a mistake.
''He probably has a family to support. Give him a suspension, give him some kind of fine but you can't take this guy's money and abuse him [just because] he made a mistake!''
Tyson, who has a long-standing friendship with Australia's former world champion, Jeff Fenech, said he was familiar with rugby league and described it as a gladiatorial sport that was certain to have ''heat of the moment'' incidents.
''Listen, it's playing [American] football without f---ing helmets and stuff,'' he said. ''It's football with no equipment, so it's tough and … you should expect something like that to happen. I'm sure there is a fear-factor in that you could break your neck and be paralysed in a second.''
Tyson, who will embark on the Day of the Champions talk tour of Australia next month, said Graham could regain public support by making an effort to ''work'' on himself.
''To win the public's respect back, he can't go doin' it again,'' Tyson said. ''He has to work on himself. He has to work on improving himself and reinforce discipline in himself and he has to also move on from it. He has to see it as a bad day and not to let him hold it back … It was all because of a lack of discipline at that particular moment and he can't ever repeat it.''
Coach Des Hasler remained adamant the club believed the former St Helens star did not bite Slater.