Few days have passed over the last three decades without at least one stranger stopping Buster Douglas on the street. Each person has a story to tell him about where they were when Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson as a 42-to-1 underdog to become boxing’s undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.
The all-time stunner in Tokyo sent shockwaves around the globe and is still viewed as the biggest upset in boxing, if not all of professional sports. Not even Andy Ruiz’s heavyweight championship upset over Anthony Joshua last summer came close to being as shocking as Douglas pummeling Tyson, who had a record of 37-0 prior to the loss.
“I had a great game plan,” said the 59-year-old Douglas, who sat down with The Desert Sun in November to reminisce about his knockout. “My trainer John Russell put together a great strategy, and we worked it to a tee.”
Thirty years have passed since that fateful night on Feb. 11, 1990, but few seem to have forgotten that historic fight and their reaction to it.
The odds of a Tyson victory were so overwhelming that The Mirage was the only Las Vegas hotel to take bets on the fight. In spite of that, the hotel reportedly accepted more than $160,000 in bets for Tyson.
UNANIMOUS DECISION:Jon Jones beats Dominick Reyes to retain light heavyweight title
The fight lasted longer than most expected, though it almost ended when Tyson knocked Douglas down with an explosive right hook in the eighth round.
“We thought it was going to be an early night when Tyson cracked him and knocked Buster Douglas down,” said Bernard Hopkins, a former undisputed middleweight champion and lineal light heavyweight titleholder.
“But Buster Douglas got up. That was Tyson’s worst nightmare, that he got up.”
Hopkins believes that Tyson knew the fight was over at that moment, because he wouldn’t have the stamina to go the distance.
“I know how it is to feed off and be motivated with energy,” Hopkins said. “Buster was motivated. Tyson wasn’t.”
Through his publicist, Mike Tyson declined to comment for this story.
Retired former heavyweight champion Michael Moorer was at Station Square shopping center in downtown Pittsburgh when he caught the fight on television.
Twenty-two years old at the time, Moorer began watching just in time to see Douglas, who was 29-4-1, become the first to knock Tyson to the canvas as a professional when he hit the champ with a devastating right-left-right combination in the 10th round.
Moorer’s response was shared by many, and it seemingly echoed around the world.
“I was like, ‘Whoooa!’” said Moorer, who was 52-4-1 during his career and held the WBA, WBO and IBF heavyweight titles in the 1990s.
“I remember saying, “That is the biggest upset in history,’” Moorer added. “I looked at my manager, John, and my eyes got big and I just couldn’t believe it.”
Tyson’s commitment to prepare for the fight has been roundly questioned. Many wonder if Tyson was just apathetic about the challenge Douglas presented.
“Everybody knows Mike wasn’t taking that fight too seriously,” Hopkins said. “Allegedly, he was having big fun the night before and the day before, up until he got into the ring.”
Hopkins said that if Tyson had taken the fight seriously and was focused, “Buster Douglas wouldn’t have had a chance.”
“History can be made or broken by other people’s lack of discipline,” Hopkins added.
Hopkins, however, says that you cannot look back at the fight with 20/20 hindsight and say that Douglas didn’t win fair and square.
That had been disputed by promoter Don King after the bout. King argued that before Douglas knocked Tyson down in the 10th round, Tyson’s knockdown of Douglas two rounds earlier should have ended the bout.
All these years later, Douglas still vehemently disputes that. He says that he wasn’t hurt.
“I immediately went down,” Douglas said, “but I did a quick body check and found that I had all the faculties still there. I could’ve gotten straight up, but I had a few seconds.”
The upset by Douglas over Tyson, former boxers believe, was a combination of several factors. Not only is it believed that Tyson was not prepared for the fight, Douglas was a talented fighter who had been paying his dues for years.
Douglas also was highly motivated. A scholarship basketball player at Mercyhurst University in Erie, Pennsylvania, Douglas left school after his junior year to become a professional boxer. He called his dad, former pro boxer William “Dynamite” Douglas, to tell him that he was coming home to Ohio and that he’d one day be a world champion.
His dad responded, “OK, let’s do it.”
Douglas had never fought outside the United States when he took the Tyson fight. Everyone thought Douglas was going to Japan for an execution.
“That’s what everyone thought,” Douglas said. “At that time, (Tyson) was like a wrecking ball, going through heavyweight contenders left and right.”
But Douglas had fought on six of Tyson’s undercards, and he scouted him closely. He knew his approach and what angles he needed to take and which combinations to throw, and when, to win the fight.
Douglas wasn’t sure if he’d ever get another title shot if he didn’t beat Tyson. In addition, just 23 days before the bout, Douglas’ mother died.
“Tyson wasn’t doing everything right,” said Moorer, who became the lineal heavyweight champ in 1994 by beating Evander Holyfield. “He was bullying people to get by and Buster wasn’t going for that. It would have worked with anybody else. It wasn’t working with Buster, though.
“Buster was in shape and he knew how to fight, he knew how to box and he was determined.”
Douglas said that after he got up in the eighth round he knew in his mind that he had the fight won. Tyson had given him his best, and Douglas cracked a subtle smile to let him know that he wasn’t fazed.
He found the right angles, unleashed a flurry of punches that landed and by the 10th round Tyson was on the canvas, disoriented.
“When I saw him reaching for that mouthpiece,” Douglas said, “I knew that it was over because it had to be late in the count.”
After referee Octavio Meyran reached a count of 10 and stopped the fight, pandemonium ensued. Douglas said that he doesn’t remember much of that. What he does remember is getting back to his trainer’s hotel room.
There were two queen beds in the room and Douglas sat on one of them, the two looked at each other and the history that the two made finally began to wash over them. All of the hard work, the ups and downs had been worth it.
“I just broke down and all the emotion came over me,” Douglas recalls. “Just exhale for once.”
Douglas lost his first title defense a little over eight months later in a third-round knockout to Holyfield, who had watched the Tyson-Douglas bout ringside. Douglas reportedly made $24.6 million for the Holyfield fight and retired afterward. Six years later, he returned for nine more bouts, and won eight.
Now, all these years later, Douglas is still hearing from strangers about what he had done, about how he had been the architect of perhaps the greatest upset in modern professional sports.
He doesn’t mind one bit being bothered about it.
“It feels great,” Douglas said.” It shows that my work is appreciated.
“It was a phenomenal moment in my life. To have done that is still amazing to me.”
Andrew John covers sports for The Desert Sun and the USA TODAY Network. Follow him on Twitter @Andrew_L_John and e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Having the apt skills to play with words to put forth various updates and news relating to the field of technology in an interesting way has made Adrian is a contributor in our organization. He is dedicated to writing articles related to all the up-to-the-minute inventions, launches, updates, and much more happening in the world of technology. In his free time, Adrian offers a guest lecture to kids about the latest inventions.