It was, as surely every fight fan regardless of age knows, 33 years ago yesterday when James “Buster” Douglas upset Mike Tyson in Tokyo. A smashing 10th round KO of 42/1 dog Buster rocked the entire planet – but the drama didn’t end with the fight ending. far from it.
With events moving at the speed with which Douglas’ punches hit Tyson’s exposed head and jaw during the staggering final seconds of that tenth round in Japan, boxing fans were, on the day after Buster’s victory, reading how Don King launched a solemn protest; The brilliant promoter who claimed his man Tyson had already knocked out Douglas in the eighth round but was denied the win due to a “long count”.
It got serious when it was reported how two of the governing bodies — the WBC and WBA — agreed with King and pinned the outcome of the pending fight in the so-called “long count” controversy.
Was Dempsey Tony again?
Well, no. never.
Douglas, dozed off by an increasingly desperate Tyson, hit hard after making a brutal move in the eighth round. But Buster beat the referee’s count. Wake up in time. That should have been all that mattered. And after a short amount of time ruined Douglas’ greatest moment, it was all that mattered. King, with a devastated Tyson at his side, quickly (after four days of fighting) withdrew the protest and had Buster crowned Universal King. The king was a heavyweight.
But for Douglas, the damage was done. Douglas talked about how he messed up the best time of his life and that the desire to train for his next fight was compromised as a result. maybe. It was about eight months before Buster fought again, this one against Evander Holyfield in his first and, as it turned out, only defense of the title. Could/Should Douglas have focused on this fight, King’s protest or not? Critics have always said that Douglas should have kept his composure, that he should have acted like a champ and trained hard for his first title defense. But we know what happened. How a flabby, unmotivated Douglas fumbled three rounds in a Holyfield fight.
Years later, Douglas would have been kind enough to speak with this writer, primarily about the “nervousness” and “bullshit” that followed his impressive win.
“I’ve been through a lot [after the Tyson fight] — A lot of BS,” Buster said. “We had to go to court, and it was like I didn’t stop fighting after I won the fight and the title. By the time I got to camp (at the Battle of Holyfield) it was hard. It was my fault, as I shouldn’t have let it all affect me like it did, but I wasn’t properly prepared. There was a lot of pressure. What was a wonderful childhood dream has become a real nightmare. I’m still angry about all of these things today.”
Douglas will forever be remembered and celebrated as the man who gave us the biggest upset in boxing history. Some dark and powerful forces tried to deprive Buster, by taking away his colossal victory from him. And for a few days after Buster’s KO win over Tyson, these powers seemed to come alarmingly close to doing what they set out to do.
It must have really been a living hell for Buster and his team during those early days after the fight when everyone involved should have done nothing but celebrate. It was truly a journey we’ve been battling for 33 years!
Oh, and Buster told me that had he fought Tyson in a rematch (that’s when he was properly trained and motivated, of course) he would have “beat him better.”
We will never know.
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