When James “Buster” Douglas signed on to challenge Mike Tyson, the youngest man to win the World Boxing Association (WBA), World Boxing Council (WBC) and International Boxing Federation (IBF) Heavyweight Titles, the Mirage Casino, the only Las Vegas casino to offer odds on the fight, had the challenger as a 42 to 1 underdog.
In essence, the 30-year-old Douglas, who had amassed an unimpressive 29-4-1 record up to that point, was widely regarded as a tune-up for Tyson, nicknamed “The Baddest Man on the Planet”, prior to a future super fight with undefeated cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield.
But although his mother, Lula Pearl, passed away just 23 days before the fight, Douglas entered the ring in the best physical condition of his career.
With nine successful title defenses and 33 knockouts in 37 fights on his ledger, the unbeaten Tyson was supremely confident that Douglas would become yet another stepping stone on his path toward becoming the greatest heavyweight champion in boxing history.
In fact, it’s highly likely that the only people who truly believed Douglas would walk out of the Tokyo Dome as the undisputed heavyweight champion were Douglas himself and the men working his corner.
So when Douglas got off to a fast start in the bout, dominating the early rounds with an effective jab, stinging right hands and brilliant footwork, the sentiment among those in attendance was they were witnessing an aberration, a tantalizing prelude to Tyson’s seventh consecutive knockout.
However, as ‘Iron’ Mike repeatedly neglected to move his head while seeking a one-punch knockout, Douglas continued to pepper him with jabs and right hands, leading to severe swelling in Tyson’s left eye.
Although his left eye was swollen completely shut by the eighth round, Tyson unleashed a trademark right uppercut that floored Douglas, putting his questionable will to the ultimate test.
Douglas would leave absolutely no doubt this time, as he rose to his feet at the count of eight to survive the round, and withstood a Tyson onslaught at the beginning of the ninth round to retake control of the bout.
Prior to the conclusion of the ninth round, Douglas unleashed a vicious combination that staggered Tyson along the ropes, virtually tearing a page out of the book of the most feared man in boxing.
Douglas would place the finishing touches on his virtuoso performance with a huge right uppercut, followed by a rapid combination, to deal Tyson the first knockdown, knockout and loss of his career in arguably the biggest upset in the history of professional sports.