Just five days ago, Friday, February 11, was the 32 year anniversary of Buster Douglas knocking out Heavyweight Champ Mike Tyson in the 10th round. On February 11, 1990, in the Tokyo Dome in Tokyo, Japan, Douglas accomplished what is widely believed to be one of the biggest upsets in sports history. Douglas was a 42-1 underdog but he sure didn’t look like it.
Going into the fight, Mike Tyson was the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. He held the WBC, WBA, and IBF titles. He also had to deal with the controversies of his alleged abusive relationship with Robin Givens, the contractual battles between longtime manager Bill Clayton and promoter Don King, and his departure from longtime trainer Kevin Rooney. Through all this, Tyson was still dominant in the ring, as evidenced by his 93-second knockout against Carl “The Truth” Williams in his previous fight. This fight was considered a warm-up bout for Tyson before meeting up with then-undefeated number 1 heavyweight contender Evander Holyfield.
Before the fight, Buster Douglas was ranked as the #7 heavyweight by Ring Magazine and had been up and down in his success as a fighter up to that point. In 1987 he was TKO’d by Tony Tucker in the 10th round in his previous title fight. However, a string of six consecutive wins gave him the opportunity to fight Mike Tyson.
HBO boxing analysts Larry Merchant and Jim Lampley expected to see another 90-second annihilation. When asked by a Japanese customs official how long he expected to be working in Japan, Ed Schuyler of the Associated Press replied, “Oh, about ninety seconds.” Singer Bobby Brown wrote in his autobiography that he met with Tyson in Tokyo and that the two partied extensively the night before the fight. Brown claims Tyson refused to go to sleep early for the fight, saying that Douglas was “an amateur” he could beat “if I didn’t sleep for five weeks.”
From the beginning of the fight, it was evident that Douglas wasn’t afraid. Through two rounds Douglas surprised people early on with a spring in his step and by not being afraid to throw punches whenever he saw the opportunity to attack Tyson. In these two rounds, Buster Douglas moved better and landed more punches than Iron Mike. After a lazy third round, Tyson’s cornerman Jay Bright tried to implore him to work harder. Boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, at ringside doing commentary for HBO, noted that Tyson was having one of those days in the ring where “you just don’t have it, things just don’t click in.”
Douglas continued to win the middle rounds, even though Tyson managed to land some of his signature uppercuts. In the fifth round Tyson’s left eye started to swell from Douglas’ right jabs, keeping him from seeing his punches well. Tyson’s cornermen were in big trouble also, as they started to panic and didn’t even have the right equipment. They had not brought an endswell, a piece of metal kept cold to help bruises, cuts, and swelling, or ice packs. Even though Tyson couldn’t implement an effective fight plan, his corner continued to give him the same advice between rounds to move his head, jab his way inside, and deliver a right hand. Douglas continued to dominate until the last few seconds of the 8th round, when HBO’s Larry Merchant noted “Douglas is asking of Tyson, some questions he hasn’t asked before, in the last few rounds of a fight you have to come back and win it.”
Within the last 10 seconds of the 8th round, Tyson, who had been backed into the ropes, landed a big right uppercut that knocked Douglas down. Although the knockdown timekeeper began when Douglas’ backside touched the ring’s surface, the referee was said to have started his own count behind by two beats. Douglas rose as the referee signaled nine, but the bell ended the round. In obvious annoyance at his own lapse, Douglas pounded his left fist on the mat. Tyson promoter Don King would later argue the validity of the referee count in vain.
The ninth round reverted to Douglas being more aggressive. Tyson started the round more aggressive, but Douglas was able to hurt him against the ropes and closed the round with a barrage of hard punches.
In the tenth round, Tyson again started out strong. But, with his eye now all the way closed, and feeling the punishment he had already taken, Douglas pulverized him with a few jabs. Then a huge uppercut snapped Tyson’s head upward, causing him to reel back. Douglas quickly followed this up with four punches to the head, which knocked Tyson down for the first time in his career. The champ attempted to get up, but referee Octavio Meyran counted him out. Buster Douglas had become the new undisputed heavyweight champion, with one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
This defeat of Tyson was an immediate shock to everyone, including myself. I remember not believing it was true when I first heard it. Iron Mike seemed indestructible. Douglas next fought No. 1 contender Evander Holyfield. By this time he was overweight and got knocked out in the third round. After being released from jail in 1995 for raping beauty pageant contestant Desiree Washington, Tyson quickly regained the WBA and WBC world titles. He lost them to Evander Holyfield, and was never again a world champion. However, that fateful day in 1990 will be the day most remember when they think of Mike Tyson. Heavyweight boxing is still strong, but the heights and popularity it once had was lost forever on that day.
Article by: Chris Steele, iHearts143Quotes Team member