The Upset: Tyson vs. Douglas

Called by many as the biggest upset in boxing history, the February 11, 1990 fight in Tokyo, Japan, between the undefeated and undisputed heavyweight champion of the world Iron Mike Tyson and the underdog, James “Buster” Douglas was set up to be great even if nobody paid any attention leading up to the fight.


Mike Tyson held all 3 titles the WBC, WBA, and IBF. Tyson was viewed as such a dominant heavyweight that he was not only viewed as the world’s top heavyweight, but often as the number one fighter in the world pound-for-pound (including by Ring Magazine), a rarity for heavyweights.

It seemed the only thing that could stop Tyson was Tyson…

Buster Douglas was ranked as just the #7 heavyweight by Ring Magazine, and had met with mixed success in his professional boxing career up to that point. His previous title fight was against Tony Tucker in 1987, in which he was TKO’d in the 10th round. However, a string of six consecutive wins gave him the opportunity to fight Tyson. In the time leading up to the fight, Douglas faced a number of setbacks, including the death of his mother, Lula Pearl, 23 days before the fight.Additionally, the mother of his son was facing a severe kidney ailment, and he had contracted the flu on the day before the fight.

The biggest might have been the death of his mother, as this shock and realization almost provided Buster with ‘calm’ in the ring and it made the normal fear that fighters faced against Tyson to not exist. He was fearless, and he would need to be….

Round One

The first round wasn’t eventful for a Mike Tyson fight in which everybody thought Douglas would be on the ground at least once by now. What stood out the most was how hard Tyson had to work to get inside on the taller Douglas. Tyson could land his hook only after taking punches.

Buster easily won the first round as Tyson looked ‘asleep’ or timid.

In rounds 2 and 3, it was more of the same.

Douglas looked quicker, and Tyson was having too much trouble getting inside. Tyson landed a solid body shot with under 1 minute left in the 2nd, but Buster shook it off. Douglas landed the best punches of the young fight with under 30 seconds left 2nd really woke up Tyson. Tyson’s chin was awake.

By the 4th round it seemed that the 42-1 odds were on the wrong man.


Usually opponents shied away from Tyson, and didn’t really fight back. Buster boxed with Tyson and his reach was irritating Tyson. He could jab and step away.

Tyson didn’t have the top notch corner anymore, and it showed although the broadcasters said it didn’t matter.

Early in the 4th Buster landed a hard right hand and a solid left jab. His jab was rocking Tyson’s eye, and Mike had no answer.

The best exchange of the fight came at the end of the 4th with Buster landing a hard right, only to be followed by hook landing by Tyson.

Buster won the 5th, and he seemed to have Tyson dazed at one point when Buster connected with a 3 punch combo. His reach was something Tyson was going to have to figure out, and added to the fact that Buster didn’t fear Mike’s punches. Buster’s left jab actually shut Mike’s eye at this point in the 5th.

By the 6th round, it was clear that Tyson’s crew didn’t know how to clear up his eye. In the 6th, Tyson was able to get inside and land his uppercut. Buster was able to handle the uppercuts.

The 6th was Tyson’s best round so far, but he wasn’t dominate. He landed 56 punches, and he seemed ‘awake’ for the first time in the fight.

As the fight hit the 7th, Douglas kept to his routine of left jabs followed by a timely right. He was dominating the fight at this point 5 rounds to 1.

Tyson landed two low blows, only one was seen by the ref.


The 7th round wasn’t really an advantage to either fighter, but the confidence of Buster was growing.

As the 8th came around, Buster looked tired and on rubber legs even though he was winning the fight. Buster seemed to bounce around to tell himself that he was in the 8th round of a Tyson fight. His jab was still good to go and he seemed just a bit quicker than Tyson.

The knockout came with about 8 seconds left, Tyson hit Buster with a hard, hard, hard upper cut and it seemed the fight was over. Most of Tyson’s fights had ended this way, and Buster was rocked by it.


Buster stood at the 9 count and quickly was saved by the bell.

In the 9th Tyson came out quick to check Buster’s head, and although dazed Buster seemed to be alright as Tyson learned by the middle of the round as he was hit with a solid combo.

Now it was Buster on the move, he had taken in Mike’s best punch and somehow he was ok. The whole fight changed at this point. Buster landed a giant punch and combo to wobble Tyson onto the ropes.

Tyson on the ropes tried to land another uppercut, this time it was thrown with everything Mike had left. It wasn’t enough, and it didn’t land square. The bell came quickly, and it was a turn off events.

Tyson went from knocking down Douglas and looking to finish the job into the man who might actually get finished.

Heading into the 10th, Buster was winning the fight despite the one knock down. Tyson’s corner couldn’t get the swelling down in Mike’s eye, and he was a one eye’d fighter.

Quickly Mike was caught with a hard combo from Douglas. The boom. The fight nobody was talking about quickly became a moment in history with a few punches.

Tyson fell to the canvas and it was quickly called ‘the biggest upset in heavyweight history.”


Tyson was hit with 3 lefts setting up the uppercut from Buster Douglas that would put him into the league of “Heavyweight Champ of the World.”

Mike Tyson had been knocked out, and he didn’t know where he was. Buster was the champ, and a lot of people didn’t even know it had happened.

In the aftermath of the fight, boxing promoter Don King and Tyson would claim that Mike’s knock down in the 8th should have been the a Knock Out. They stated the ref gave Buster too much time to get up, but no matter the fight results stood.

Tyson’s eye which his corner couldn’t get fixed wasn’t looked at at the time, but it was quickly reported that Tyson’s corner had NO CUT MAN and didn’t even have the proper tools to treat the cut.

Tyson’s corner, just like Vegas, and America, had figured this would be at most a 2 or 3 round affair before Douglas was knocked out.

Douglas was fearless, and he won the fight and the title because of it.

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