It Was Twenty Years Ago Today - The Biggest Upset In Boxing History!

mike tysonby James Slater - By reading the above headline, though it does not list the contest that took place twenty years ago this very day, all boxing fans will know which fight this article is written about. Who could ever forget that amazing day in Tokyo, Japan, when 42-1 outsider James "Buster" Douglas not only became the first man to defeat the seemingly invincible "Iron" Mike Tyson, but also became the first man to knock Tyson out?

Much has been written about this incredible fight over the years (it was not just an amazing upset, but also a great action fight, full of twists and turns in the plot along the way; with some controversy thrown in for good measure!) and practically all people with an interest in the sport will have seen a copy of the February 11th, 1990 rumble at least once. However, two decades on, the fight remains a thrill to watch. The momentous upset should also serve warning to all currently active fighters, no matter how invincible THEY may look, that it is never safe to underestimate an opponent..

Tyson, then aged 23 and pretty much in his prime as a fighter (although to be fair, some experts had noticed a steady decline in "Kid Dynamite," starting with his tougher-then-expected 5th-round stoppage of Frank Bruno the February before) was making the tenth defence of the title he won from the late Trevor Berbick in 1986, and he was expected to have no trouble whatsoever against the 29-year-old Douglas.

Not only was Douglas a man with four losses on his record, he was also not seen as an especially dangerous puncher or a terribly disciplined trainer. Having quit in the 10th-round of a fight he was winning against Tony Tucker back in May of '87 - in a bout that contested the vacant IBF belt Tyson would soon add to his growing collection via a clear points win over Tucker - Douglas received much criticism; with many people saying he just didn't have the heart or the desire.

Having also been stopped twice earlier in his career, by David Bey and Mike White, everyone felt for sure "Buster" would never in a million years be able to stand the terrifying punching power of the current undisputed and undefeated heavyweight champion. The fight, which was to be a final "tune-up" bout Tyson would take before meeting his most formidable-looking challenger in the also unbeaten Evander Holyfield, was barely covered by journalists and reporters. Why go all the way to Japan for a one or two-round blow-out, the general line of thinking went.

But, as we know, those media people who did make the trip witnessed a sensational, once-in-a-lifetime boxing match!

Spurred on and motivated by the recent death of his mother, Douglas, who had won six in a row since the loss to Tucker, trained like never before and got himself into fantastic shape - both mentally and physically. Douglas had always had the tools to be a fine fighter; now, arguably for the first time, he was ready to use them to their fullness. Helping Douglas was the then largely unknown fact that Tyson had not trained at all like he should have and had needed to shed much weight to make the fight. (for the record, Tyson weighed-in at a fraction above 220, Douglas weighed-in at 231.5 - some ten pounds less than he weighed for his last fight).

Focused like never before, in great condition and utterly unafraid of the man who was 37-0(33), Douglas simply went out and boxed the champion's head off. Hitting and hurting Tyson, dictating the pace and looking like a million dollars, Douglas shone that afternoon in Tokyo. In front of an eerily quiet Japanese audience, the son of top 1960s middleweight Billy Douglas sent shockwaves through the entire sporting world.

Winning practically every round of the fight, primarily due to his superb left jab, his good movement and his accuracy (Douglas was also helped by Tyson's strange lethargy and poor timing), "Buster," surprisingly, looked for all the world as though he was on his way to a points victory. But then, when having Tyson in trouble once again while the champion had his back to the ropes, Douglas was cracked by a sensational right uppercut to the chin. Downed and made to skid back across the canvas, the challenger looked hurt. Douglas later claimed he was not hurt and his banging the canvas with his fist in frustration at how he'd let his guard down appears to bear this out. In any case, the referee, Octavio Meyran was slow in picking up the count along with the timekeeper and, through no fault of his own, Douglas benefited from a "long count," perhaps as much as four seconds longer than it should have been. And Don King sure made as much of this as he could after Tyson had been beaten!

Tyson's last, perhaps only chance, of victory was now gone, and Douglas went back to beating him up in the 9th and 10th rounds. It was in the tenth that a half-blinded and soon to be ex-champion Tyson took those thunderous shots we all remember so vividly. The uppercut to "Iron Mike's" exposed jaw was especially brutal, and down he went. Groggy and helpless, Tyson was a pathetic sight as he groped around for the gum-shield Douglas has smashed from his mouth. Then, with the shield hanging half out of his mouth, a barely-standing Tyson was kept upright by the referee. Tyson's crown, not to mention his cloak of invincibility, had gone!

King tried to stop Douglas from enjoying his victory by way of an appeal based on the long count, but in the end justice was done. Fans the world over could not believe it when news broke telling them that Tyson had lost, and by brutal KO, to "journeyman" James Douglas. But it happened, we all still remember it, and boxing is a better sport for it.

Will we ever see as big an upset in the boxing ring again?

Article posted on 11.02.2010

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