February 11, 2010

Douglas' knockout of Tyson still resonates 20 years later : I remember the fight well, I was stationed in the Air Force getting ready to go to work that night. The fight went further than anyone thought it would. Was almost late for duty that night because I wouldn't leave until the final bell

posted by m8nsman to boxing at 06:52 PM - 16 comments

That was one of the first "where were you when..." moments for me as a young man. I personally was at the horse races in Venton, LA drinking beer (since 18 was the drinking age in LA, and the horse track was a short 30+ minutes from my hometown in Texas :-)

I remember hearing the announcement over the radio address at the track and everybody in the whole place just looked at each other dumbfounded. It was funny, but for 30 minutes after that came across the speakers that's all anybody could talk about. NOBODY could believe it...we all thought it had to be a joke or something. You just KNEW he was unbeatable, especially to Buster Douglas (who?)

posted by bdaddy at 07:54 PM on February 11, 2010

While I don't remember where I was when I heard about it, I was pretty well shocked when I did. I didn't follow boxing at all, but I knew that it was pretty major. I remember that at least one and maybe two of the three major federations (WBA/WBO/IBF) tried to claim some goofy technicality so that they didn't have to award Douglas their title, though they eventually relented. Apparently even they didn't believe it could happen, and obviously, they wished it hadn't.

It's interesting to wonder if Tyson's life would have gone downhill the way it did had he not lost this fight. My guess is that it would have eventually, one way or another, because the guy has never been completely stable. Somehow, though, I think this hastened his fall from grace.

posted by TheQatarian at 09:26 PM on February 11, 2010

Tyson's life had already started to go downhill. If it wasn't Douglas, eventually, it would have been someone else. Not to take anything away from Buster Douglas: He was a very good boxer and fought an almost perfect fight. The loss did destroy Tyson's aura of invincibility and it gave other fighters a blueprint for how to beat him.

Don King claimed that Douglas had a long count when he was knocked down in the 8th and whichever one of the sanctioning bodies King had the most control over went along with him, until it became obvious that they couldn't maintain any credibility if they didn't recognize Douglas as champion.

posted by Steve-o at 10:05 PM on February 11, 2010

I remember exactly where I was when this fight happened. I was about 12 years old and in our old apartment on Second Street here in NJ and I just remembered being in shock that Tyson got knocked down and then counted out. This fight happened in Japan because it was replayed the next day in the US and it was still morning when I saw it on TV because I thought it was a old Mike Tyson fight replay because it was about 10 in the morning when they showed the fight. I can't believe it's been 20 years, still feels like yesterday.

posted by BornIcon at 07:25 AM on February 12, 2010

Wait... I'm older than Icon? That's it. I'm going home to lie down in a darkened room.

posted by JJ at 09:42 AM on February 12, 2010

While I'm no longer a boxing fan, I remember the news of this like it was yesterday. Anyone who had watched Tyson fail to do any real damage to James "Bonecrusher" Smith--he also got rocked by a couple of heavies from Smith late--could see that he wasn't invincible. But to go down like that to Douglas? That was a surprise. The knockout itself was once, to my eye, one of the most aesthetically perfect sequences of punches I'd ever seen. Like something choreographed for a movie. Now, I look at it and see one man damaging another for money.

posted by Uncle Toby at 09:55 AM on February 12, 2010

The knockout itself was once, to my eye, one of the most aesthetically perfect sequences of punches I'd ever seen. Like something choreographed for a movie.

That's what I see when I watch it again. The last punch that Douglas throws as Tyson is just starting to fall back is perfectly placed. It lands squarely on his jaw, with his arm fully extended, and Douglas leaning forward for maximum impact.

The earlier shots only a second before that put Tyson in that position might not have done the job (even if he went down). It's that last punch, the perfect punch, that sealed the deal.

posted by grum@work at 11:40 AM on February 12, 2010

I was always suspect regarding that fight. At the time, Tyson appeared almost invincible, Don King was getting his hooks into Tysons s management, they were having trouble selling Tyson pay per view fights due to the fact his fights were not getting to the third round, and the Vegas odds were 11 to 1 against Douglas. I distinctly remember asking my dad who was a professional gambler living in Vegas, what he thought of the fight, and that it should be an easy fight for Tyson, his response was... before you place any bet in this town on a boxing match you need to answer the most important question, not who is the better fighter, but what outcome will make Don King the most money. Then he placed a decent wager on Douglas.

The reason.... was since King basically controlled both fighters and the big money in boxing not to mention the belt, a quick Tyson victory does not help sell future pay per view, does nothing to create interest in a rematch, and makes Buster Douglas a worthless investment. On the other hand a Douglas victory proves Tyson is beatable and makes future pay per view easier to sell, allows King to collect on 11 to 1 odds on the betting line, sets up a future huge money rematch, allowing Tyson to regain the title and even sets up a possible third and even bigger money rubber match. Don King was a crook and everyone in Vegas knew it.

I am not saying that everything pans out as above but it was pretty good reasoning and boxing is a very dirty sport. Also the richest boxers don't get that way by winning every fight in convincing fashion. Hollyfiel, Ali, Leonard, De La Hoya made huge money by having wars and rematches with opponents. The biggest money fights are the ones where people feel either fighter can win or the revenge factor is involved.

All that said when I watched the fight I wondered if Tyson was in fact forced to throw the fight, he sure took an incredible beating doing it. He did eat some serious leather. Food for thought. The best explanation I can come up with is Don King a master manipulator, and Robin Givins must have messed up Tysons head enough to make sure he was not properly focused and ready to fight that night. Frankly I have noticed one thing about Mike Tyson's mental state. He always had trouble with the guys that did not seem to be afraid of him ie Hollyfield, and Douglas on that night. Later on the more he got beat the easier he got beat.

posted by Atheist at 02:27 PM on February 12, 2010

The problem with that theory (fixed fight) is that Douglas almost got knocked out two rounds before that. Some people claim the slow count was suspicious, but there isn't any way they put Douglas in that position (close to losing) if there was a fix.

The more logical explanation is the one you provide later, that Tyson's head/training weren't ready for the fight.

posted by grum@work at 03:32 PM on February 12, 2010

Actually I just read the odds were like 30 to 1 at some points before the fight. I also think Tyson may have almost accidently knocked out Douglas against Kings orders which is what may have facilitated the very slow ref count. Funny Tyson didn't go in to finish Douglas off after he was supposedly rocked. I can't ever recall a young Tyson ever not finishing a guy off after he hurt him.

The three biggest reasons to think something is fishy with the fight are DON KING, DON KING and DON KING.

It was all so coincidental, Don King gets Tyson to leave his management, (something Cus Dimato warned him against) and the fact that the fight was a very low pay per view draw. They were having trouble selling the fight as few people were willing to pay the money for a fight that was expected to last a round or two at best. Buster Douglas never really had a good fight since and basically dissapeared. Personally I will always have my doubts about this one. Even if it was not deliberate by Tyson I believe the forces around him made sure he was not ready to fight. Don King did not look like a guy who was upset about the outcome afterward. With those kind of odds and Tysons marketability actually going up because of the loss. He was grinning from ear to ear afterward.

posted by Atheist at 04:52 PM on February 12, 2010

No doubt boxing is dirty, but no way was this fight thrown. Tyson was headed down hill before the fight, we just didn't know it. And it continued AFTER this fight.

As unstable as Tyson has been in the past decade if he had been ordered to throw the fight we would know by now. But hey, those tin foil hats are kinda attractive in a weird sorta way.

posted by justgary at 05:51 PM on February 12, 2010

agree...no way it's fixed. The look on Tyson's face as he's instinctively putting his mouthpiece in (backwards) trying to get up should be evidence enough that he wasn't in on any fix.

I think the article does a pretty good job of showing how he was going downhill before that fight.

I have a few AVI's I had downloaded a few years ago that are a compilation of almost all of his early 20-30 fights. Watching the *young* tyson in those early matches and it is absolutely amazing how fast AND powerful he was. You almost forget that because we literally saw him age over the years and even though he was still fast/powerful in his last 10 fights, it was nowhere near like it was in his first 20. Just mesmerizing to watch them again.

posted by bdaddy at 07:48 PM on February 12, 2010

No fix. I've seen Tyson in movies. He's not that good of an actor.

posted by WeedyMcSmokey at 12:40 AM on February 13, 2010

I say no fix. The fight was, however, horrendously prepared for.

The article mentions that Tyson had an inexperienced corner, but it doesn't go into any depth about that. If you watch the fight you'll see at one point Tyson's corner are trying to take down the swelling under his left eye using a latex glove filled with cold water as no one had bothered bringing a cold iron.

The whole build up smacks of a man and a corner looking past his opponent.

posted by Mr Bismarck at 04:23 PM on February 13, 2010

A Saturday night if I recall correctly. I was in a Tower Records store and they actually announced the result over the PA system. 02/11/1990 also the day Nelson Mandela was freed from prison.

posted by Newbie Walker at 04:54 AM on February 14, 2010

I was never more happy to see a fighter get knocked the fuck out.

posted by mjkredliner at 09:52 AM on February 14, 2010

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