On February 11, 1990, Buster Douglas defeated Mike Tyson is one sports’ greatest upsets in history. One does not need to be a boxing fan nor a sports fan to understand just how huge Douglas’ victory was. This was David versus Goliath and David somehow won.
To put it in perspective, Buster Douglas was a 42-1 long shot to beat Tyson. That is insane. Douglas was 29-4 at the time of the fight compared to the undefeated, undisputed, heavyweight champion of the world Tyson, who was 37-0. Consider also that Tyson was absolutely dominant as a boxer. He would not just beat his opponents, he would obliterate them in record time.
In his last title fight, Douglas was defeated by Tony Tucker with a TKO in the 10th round. Tyson, on the other hand, had made short work of Carl “The Truth” Williams in merely 93 seconds to defend his title. Some say Tyson was looking ahead to a fight with number one contender Evander Holyfield instead of focusing on Douglas.
Both boxers faced a number of issues leading up to the fight. For Tyson, he had a highly publicized and abusive relationship with his wife, Robin Givens as well as contractual problems with his manager and promoter, Don King. He had also recently severed ties with his trainer, Kevin Rooney. Douglas had his own issues as well. His mother had died only 23 days earlier and the mother of his child was suffering from a bad kidney ailment. On top of that, he had come down with the flu only a day before the fight.
Regardless of their issues, the fight was on and only one fighter showed up: Douglas. From the get go, he proved he was not intimidated by Tyson. Most telling was Douglas’ ability to prevent Tyson from getting inside where he was most effective. He used his jab to keep Tyson at bay and wrapped him up whenever he felt Tyson was threatening him inside.
What many people forget is that Tyson came out in the 8th round and landed one of his signature uppercuts, knocking Douglas down. Douglas, however, managed to recuperate, getting up after a 9-count where he continued to wear Tyson down. It was in the 9th round that Douglas delivered a four-punch combination that knocked Tyson into the ropes. When the 10th round started, Tyson was suffering from Douglas’ punches from the previous round. Douglas landed a devastating uppercut followed by a few punches to the head, knocking Tyson down for the first time in his career.
Tyson was disoriented by Douglas’ barrage of punches and referee Octavio Meyran stopped the fight. Sadly, Tyson never recovered from the loss while Douglas’ victory proved to be an aberration.
Douglas’ victory was so big that Sega Genesis used his name for a boxing video game called James ‘Buster’ Douglas Knockout Boxing. It wasn’t long before Douglas lost his spotlight as he lost his belt in his next title fight to Evander Holyfield. He retired after that fight.
For Tyson, the loss was a sign of things to come. He was tried and convicted of rape, spending four years in jail. After finishing his jail term, Tyson reclaimed the WBA and WBC championship belts before losing them to Evander Holyfield in a title fight.