Mike Tyson and James "Buster" Douglas 21 Years Later

Colin LinneweberSenior Writer IFebruary 6, 2011

Douglas' legendary knockout of Tyson happened 21-years ago Friday.
Douglas' legendary knockout of Tyson happened 21-years ago Friday.

21 years ago this coming Friday, James "Buster" Douglas defeated "Iron" Mike Tyson by a 10th round TKO to become the undisputed heavyweight champion in one of the biggest upsets in sports history.

Tyson, a 42-1 favorite to successfully defend his crowns, entered his February 11, 1990 matchup against Douglas in Tokyo with an unblemished record of 37-0.

"Iron Mike," who remains the youngest man to ever capture the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation heavyweight titles, was one of the most talented fighters ever during his heyday.

Tyson was a physical marvel who possessed an amazing combination of quickness, speed and unrivaled power.

Beyond his incredible abilities in the ring, Tyson was a menacing man whose mere presence often paralyzed opponents before the opening bell was even rung.

Tyson's career hit it's apex in June 1988 when he brutalized the previously unbeaten Michael Spinks in 91 seconds in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Following his emphatic knockout victory over Spinks, Tyson's chaotic personal life and inner demons began to negatively erode both his training efforts and vast ring skills.

It has long been reported that Tyson's workouts leading up to his bout with Douglas were pathetically lackadaisical.

On the contrary, Douglas, who prior to the Tyson fight owned a respectable record of 29-4-1, prepared for his battle versus the champion with a combination of terrible heartache and new found determination.

A mere three weeks prior to the matchup of his career, Douglas' mother, Lula Pearl,  passed away.

Instead of understandably sulking, Douglas utilized his mother's tragic death as a source of motivation.

"Buster" was always a gifted boxer.

However, Douglas' weight problems and seeming lack of desire had consistently stunted his progress as a prizefighter.

When Douglas walked to the ring to face Tyson that momentous evening in Japan, it was evident that he was in peak condition and the look on his face gave the impression that he was also mentally ready for war.

Promoter Rich Cappiello from Brockton,Mass., who worked with Kevin McBride (34-6-1, 29 KOs) when the Irishman embarrassed Tyson in 2005, can recall that Douglas appeared like he simply "refused to lose."

From the instant the contest got underway, Douglas masterfully employed his 12 inch reach advantage over Tyson to perfection and he landed one powerful jab after another on "The Baddest Man on the Planet."

After only five rounds of action, Tyson's eye began to badly swell and his vision became obviously impaired.

Despite his hindered eyesight, Tyson managed to knock Douglas to the canvas with a thunderous blow in the eighth round.

Staggered, Douglas got off the canvas and regained his footing before the referee counted him out.

Douglas composed himself and remarkably again seized control of the fight.

"Buster" dominated Tyson from the outset of the fateful 10th round and he ultimately finished the tilt off with a vicious combination that knocked the champion onto Queer Street with 1:22 remaining.

"There are two things that were proven that night," said Cappiello, the owner of Cappiello Brothers Boxing gym in Brockton, Mass.  "One, never underestimate an opponent.  Two, never believe that you are invincible as a fighter.  Because, as you saw, anyone can be beaten."

In the years following their improbable battle, Tyson and Douglas both saw their private and professional lives go into tailspins.

Douglas relaxed after his legendary showing versus Tyson and was entirely unprepared to make his first title defense against Evander "The Real Deal" Holyfield (42-10-2, 27 KOs) in October 1990.

Predictably, Holyfield demolished the portly Douglas by a third round knockout and became the rightful champion.

In February 1992, Tyson was sentenced to six years in prison for the rape of Miss Black Rhode Island, Desiree Washington.

While Tyson (50-6-0-2, 46 KOs) wasted away in the pen, Douglas (38-6-1-1, 25 KOs) lived off his wealth and ballooned to a despicable 400 pounds.

Neither man was the same after their matchup in the Far East.

Tyson failed to become one of the most accomplished pugilists to ever grace the squared circle.

Similarly, Douglas ate away his potential and squandered his natural boxing capabilities.

In retrospect, both men were unmotivated by the prospect of greatness and their failures can be directly attributed to their apathetic natures.

There is an old saying that, "Your talent is God's gift to you.  What you do with that talent is your gift back to God."

If there is a God, neither Douglas nor Tyson gave him back any gifts for the boxing abilities they were granted.

Both Mike Tyson and James "Buster" Douglas likely yearn for the opportunity to return to 1990 and begin anew.