|Question - What do Nelson Mandela, The Tokyo Dome, A 42-1 longshot and the baddest man on the planet all have in common? Answer - They were all part of one of the most amazing weekends in world and sports history. On the weekend that Nelson Mandela was finally freed from incarceration after twenty|
seven years, Mike Tyson was in Tokyo, Japan and preparing for a supposed routine defence against fellow American James "Buster" Douglas. Tyson, unbeaten in thirty seven professional fights, with thirty three knockouts, was into his fourth year as World Heavyweight Champion. This was to be the tenth defence of the title he had ripped from Trevor Berbick in November 1986. At the time of the bout, the number one contender was Evander Holyfield, who in fact was ringside to witness the Tyson - Douglas bout. This was to be a warmup bout before Tyson and Holyfield squared off in June in a megabucks battle.
The Tokyo Dome was to be host for Tyson's 10th defence but if truth be told, it was moved to Japan because none of the Las Vegas or Atlantic City Casinos were interested in staging the supposed mismatch. Opponents such as Trevor Berbick, Pinklon Thomas, Tyrell Biggs, Larry Holmes, Tony Tubbs, Michael Spinks, Frank Bruno and Carl Williams had all fallen to the fists of Iron Mike and there was no reason to believe that Douglas wouldn't be another name on the long list of victims. Douglas, from Columbus, Ohio, and six years Tyson's senior, had a modest record of 29 wins with 4 losses and 1 draw. He was inconsistent, to say the least.
In his one previous attempt at a world title, Douglas boxed well before being stopped by Tony Tucker in May 1987. Douglas enjoyed a twelve inch reach and five inch height advantage to the champion and immediately made full use of both. Weighing at a ready 231 and a half pounds, he was finding the sluggish Tyson alarmingly easy to hit with the left jab and quick right hands. Although Douglas made a bright start, many at ringside still thought that Tyson would end the argument sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, Tyson's left eye began to swell.
Tyson did have some success though at the end of the fourth, landing a left that staggered Douglas just as the bell rang. The routine continued in the next three rounds, with Douglas working well behind the left jab and shooting big right hands at will and more often than not, connecting. Douglas seemed to be fighting the perfect fight.
As the bell sounded for Round eight, there was real belief that there could be a shock about to happen. Douglas began opening up and drove Tyson to the ropes in the last minute of that round. Then suddenly, the fight seemed to turn right on its head with Tyson unleashing a massive right uppercut at the end of the session to floor Buster. Douglas was up at the count of nine yelled out by referee Octavio Meyran, but appeared out on his feet and the bell basically saved him.
The ninth began with Tyson looking to finish it but Douglas, from somewhere, found a new lease of life and battered Tyson against the ropes, landing hooks and uppercuts, as the champion staggered back to his corner.
The tenth signaled the end. After tapping the champion with a series of soft left jabs, Douglas connected with a massive right uppercut. There then followed a left-right-left combo that floored Tyson, who although battered, showed his bravery by groping for his gumshield before being counted out with his left eye completely shut. At 1:23 of the round, Douglas was the new champion. Or so we thought. In an amazing about face turn, the WBC attempted to strip Douglas of the crown he had just won. Tyson's camp claimed that there had been a long count in the eighth when Douglas was floored, bringing back memories of the infamous Dempsey v Tunney long count in 1927.
Thankfully, common sense prevailed and Douglas, fighting only shortly after the death of his mother, was the undisputed champion. Douglas would surrender the crown only eight months later in his first defence against Evander Holyfield before encountering further problems when he fell into a diabetic coma. Thankfully, he survived. He later resumed his career in 1996 and there was even talk of Tyson v Douglas II. This never happened as Douglas was stopped in a single round on the comeback trail in 1998 by Lou Savarese. Douglas eventually called it a day in 1999. As for Tyson, that amazing night in February 1990 when he lost his crown in front of a near silent crowd in Tokyo, Japan, was just the beginning of a roller coaster ride that has yet to stop.