38th bout of Mike Tyson
The WBC & WBA & IBF World Heavyweight Championship
(Age 23 Fights 37 Won 37 Lost 0 Drawn 0 )
vs James Buster Douglas from – Columbus, Ohio, USA
(Age 29 Fights 34 Won 29 Lost 4 Drawn 1 )
Feb. 11 1990
Tokyo, Japan L KO 10/12
From the beginning of the fight it was apparent that Douglas was not afraid. He displayed a lot of spring and life in his body movement and he wasn’t cautious in letting his punches fly whenever he saw the opportunity to attack Tyson. He used his quick and accurate jab to prevent Tyson from getting inside, where Tyson was most dangerous. When Tyson tried to get inside, Douglas tied him up, moved away, or would immediately hit Tyson with multiple punches as Tyson came within Douglas’ range. Early on Douglas was more agile than Tyson and outlanded Tyson in exchanges.
After a lackluster and ineffectual third round, Tyson cornerman Jay Bright screamed at his fighter “…don’t just sit there and look at him you’ve gotta work!”. Boxer “Sugar” Ray Leonard, at ringside doing commentary for HBO, noted Douglas’ dominance with the jab and right hand and said Tyson was having one of those occasional days in the ring where “you just don’t have it…things just don’t click in”.
In the middle rounds Tyson managed to land a few of his signature uppercuts, but Douglas was still dominating the fight. Tyson’s left eye began to swell from Douglas’ right jabs. Tyson’s cornermen were caught unawares. They hadn’t brought an endswell or ice packs, usually standard equipment for a fight. Instead, they filled a rubber glove with ice water and held it on Tyson’s eye between rounds. At one point Aaron Snowell, Tyson’s primary cornerman caught the chain from the identification badge hanging from his neck between the iced glove and Tyson’s eye. As Snowell moved, Tyson winced in pain as the chain dragged from one side of his injured eye to the other. Confusion and panic grew in his corner as the fight went on. Despite Tyson’s inability to execute 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. In the eighth round Tyson, who had been backed onto the ropes, landed a big right uppercut that sent Douglas to the canvas. Douglas got up after a 9-second count (the validity of which Tyson promoter Don King would later argue in vain).
In the dramatic 9th round Tyson came out aggressively to end the fight and save his title, hoping that Douglas was still hurt from the 8th-round knockdown. Douglas was able to fight off Tyson’s attack. Both men traded punches before Douglas connected on a four-punch combination that staggered Tyson back to the ropes. With Tyson hurt along the ropes, Douglas closed in and unleashed a vicious attack to try to knock Tyson out. Tyson tried to fight Douglas off but it was in vain. Douglas continued to land hard punches on Tyson as the round came to a close. Tyson withstood the punishment and barely survived the 9th round.
In the tenth round Tyson pushed forward to fight, but he was still seriously hurting from the accumulation of punishment given throughout the match. As Tyson walked forward, Douglas measured him with a few jabs before landing a devastating uppercut that snapped Tyson’s head upward, stopping Tyson in his tracks. As Tyson began to reel back from the uppercut, Douglas immediately followed with four punches to the head, knocking Tyson down for the first time in his career. In a famous scene, Tyson fumbled for his mouthpiece on the canvas before sticking one end in his mouth with the other end hanging out. The champion attempted to make it back to his feet to continue fighting but referee Octavio Meyran counted him out. Buster Douglas thus became the new undisputed heavyweight champion and the fight became one of the biggest upsets in boxing history.
During the post fight interview, Douglas broke down in tears when asked why he was able to win this fight when no one thought he could. “Because of my mother…God bless her heart”
In the immediate aftermath of the fight Tyson’s camp, led by Don King, protested the result, claiming that Douglas had been given a long count by referee Octavio Meyran. The WBA and WBC initially agreed and suspended recognition of Douglas as champion, although the IBF immediately accepted that the result was valid. After a public outcry and demands from boxing commissions around the world that they acknowledge Douglas as the champion, the protest was withdrawn and Douglas’ win was recognised four days after the fight.
Tyson, though he retained a menacing aura for years afterwards, “the mystique of the untouchable, invincible ‘Baddest Man on the Planet’ had been shattered.”The fight is often ranked among the biggest upsets in sporting history.