Today marks the 27th anniversary of the fight heard around the world. It was the day we all thought that James “Buster” Douglas would be another poor victim of Tyson’s right hook and right uppercut combo from hell. Everyone thought Douglas didn’t have a snowball’s chance in this match. Tyson was superior. He even had his own video game for crying out loud! No way was Douglas going to last five rounds with the champ. My how wrong we all were.
The fight took place on February 11th, 1990 in Tokyo, Japan in the world famed Tokyo Dome. It was billed as “Tyson is Back!” All three major titles that Tyson unified were on the line.
Douglas was going into the fight as a major underdog. His 29-4-1 record wasn’t very impressive going up against the undefeated and undisputed champion in Tyson. Douglas had one title shot earlier in his career in 1987 losing to Tony Tucker. He then won six straight matches to put himself in place as the number one contender.
Tyson on the other hand, looked to just keep going higher. He was still undefeated at 37-0, and this fight just looked to be another cake walk for Tyson. However, the timing was bad for this fight. At the time of the fight, controversy was surrounding Tyson about his abusive relationship with Robin Givens. This was also only his third fight after firing longtime trainer Kevin Rooney. Douglas had his own mental setbacks with the death of his mother just 23 days before the fight. While one man struggled to to cope with his distractions, another man was about to have the fight of his life.
From the opening bell, it was very clear that Douglas was not afraid to go toe to toe with Tyson. He pounded the champion with a barrage of thunderous jabs. It was Douglas who looked calm and full of energy early on instead of the usually aggressive Tyson. The champion came out sluggish.
It was obvious after the first three rounds, Tyson was in trouble. He was unprepared and so was his team in the corner. They didn’t even bring standard equipment like an endswell or ice pack to the ring. They were using a rubber glove filled with ice water and held it on Tyson’s eye between rounds. Which was a lot less efficient in reducing the swelling.
Tyson would make a comeback in the eighth round. Douglas was still pounding away on Tyson until that big right uppercut from hell connected and sent Douglas to the canvas. This moment turned into one of the most controversial moments ever in the history of boxing. Douglas got up after a nine second count. A count that many have accused of being a very slow count.
Tyson came out aggressive in the ninth round hoping to build on his momentum after the knockdown the round before, but Douglas quickly regained control of the fight. It seemed like every punch the challenger threw, was connecting harder and harder.
In the tenth round, Douglas poured it on. After staggering Tyson with an uppercut, the underdog landed a four punch combo to the head. The champion went down for the first time ever in his career. Tyson attempted to get back on his feet, but you could tell he was dazed and didn’t even know where he was. Although I was only 9 years old when this fight took place, I can still feel the shock I felt when my video game hero couldn’t get up after the ten count. It’s still a vivid memory of the dazed and confused look on Tyson’s face with one end of his mouthpiece hanging out of his mouth as Douglas celebrated his miracle in the ring.
Despite the controversial count in the eighth round, you still have to give Douglas credit. The man entered the ring and practically dominated Tyson the whole match after just losing his mother less than a month before. In the post fight interview, Douglas was asked how he could win the fight that no one thought he could. He started bawling and said “Because of my mother. God Bless her heart”.
You can’t talk about the biggest moments in boxing without talking about this fight. Amid all of the accusations of being fixed, this was a fight for the ages. It was a fight where we saw a 42 to 1 underdog defeat the man we all thought was invincible. Douglas would end up losing the titles in his next match against Evander Holyfield. While Douglas had several memorable bouts in his career, none compares to the night he defeated “Iron” Mike Tyson.