This Wednesday (Feb. 11) marks the 25th anniversary of Buster Douglas’ shocking, 10th-round knockout of the then-indestructible Mike Tyson, which took place on Feb. 11, 1990 at the Tokyo Dome.
The fight is still considered, arguably, the biggest upset in boxing history, and even in sports in general. At the time, the little-known Douglas, a good fighter but with a reputation as a quitter, became a real-life Rocky, who was a 42-1 underdog going into the fight.
He gave Tyson the fight of his life, but was knocked down in the eighth round, only to compose himself to knock out Tyson two rounds later in the 10th.
Marking the occasion, ESPN remembers the historic fight.
“I have worked more than 500 boxing telecasts in my HBO career and to this day I don’t recall any moment when those of us producing a fight were for one brief second caught up in this moment of disbelief,” said HBO Sports executive producer Rick Bernstein, who was in Tokyo working in the production truck as an associate director on the telecast. “As producers, we’re taught to stay focused and not get caught up in the moment.
“For those of us who had covered Tyson for several years, this was a shock. I remember hearing over my headset and through the walls of our production unit people yelling something like, ‘Oh my God!'”
Not only was it a great fight, but it is widely hailed as the biggest upset in boxing history and one of the greatest upsets in sports history as the little-known Douglas, a good fighter with the reputation as a quitter, stood up to the bully to become a real-life Rocky, a 42-1 underdog who slayed Godzilla in front a quiet, Japanese crowd that expected a big Tyson knockout, which had become so routine but was still so exciting.
Don King was the promoter for both fights, though he had more interest in a Tyson victory than the other way around. He, too, was as shocked as anyone.
“Everybody was shocked. So was I,” King said, sounding as though he still had a hard time believing the upset actually happened. “It always kept me humble to know this can happen. It was like a soul-searching thing. It was unbelievable, but this is something that can happen. It is one of the biggest upsets in sports history.
“It falls into the pantheon of the great upsets, right up there near the top. I also did ‘The Rumble In The Jungle.’ You had Muhammad Ali beating George Foreman in another big upset with a billion people watching. You have fights like that, you have Tyson and Douglas. This great sport of boxing can deliver that magic.”
Douglas was meant to be a quick payday for Mike, who would pocket $6 million on his way to a big-money fight against Evander Holyfield that summer. Buster, however, had other plans. He was driven by the death of his mother, who passed 23 days before the fight.
Despite rising to fame over night, he was unable to handle the attention that came with being the man to put Tyson on the canvas for the first time. He would go on to fight #1 contender Evander Holyfield, but came into the bout later that year 15 pounds heavier… and was ultimately knocked out in the third round.
Douglas would never reach that status in boxing again… while Tyson’s career continued a downward spiral.