Friday, February 11, 2011

February 11, 1990: Buster

TOKYO - James "Buster" Douglas was on the canvas, which is where many people expected him to end up several times that February night. After becoming the latest victim of a vicious Mike Tyson uppercut, Douglas was down late in the 8th round. But he wasn't out. Calmly, Douglas got up on one knee and picked up referee Octavio Meyran's count. He had just under 10 seconds to collect himself, to brace for what was next.

Before hitting the canvas, Douglas had, shockenly, been dominating the fight. The unbeatable Tyson, a man so dominant that most Las Vegas casinos wouldn't even take bets on the Douglas fight, was being held in check by the completely unknown Douglas. Many would even say Douglas was winning the fight. He sure looked the stronger fighter, as Tyson's left eye was rapidly closing throughout the fight.

But then came Tyson's uppercut, and there came the canvas. Douglas was down. But he wasn't out.

It's not entirely known what Douglas was thinking about as he waited for the referee to count to 10. He could have been thinking about his mother, who had died 23 days before. He could have been thinking of his son's mother, fighting an illness of her own. He could have been simply composing himself for what was to come next, refusing to let his one golden opportunity pass him by.

As the referee reached 9, Douglas stood up. Meyran looked into the fighter's eyes and saw a determination that nobody could have expected. Douglas had a look in his eyes that said the fight wasn't over yet. Not even close.

The bell rang, the fighters retreated to their corners. They got up for the bell at the ninth, Tyson coming out noticeably slower than Douglas. Then began the most stunning two rounds in boxing history. Try as he might, Tyson could not land the finishing blow. Instead, it was Douglas who was the aggressor, Douglas who was forcing Tyson into the ropes with devastating jabs. It was shocking. Tyson had hit Douglas with everything he had, knocked him down with the kind of punch that had ended careers, and Douglas got up and asked for more. Nobody had done that to Tyson before. His trademarked intimidation was gone.

Tyson somehow survived the ninth round. Douglas wouldn't give him the chance to survive the 10th. A vicious uppercut knocked Tyson senseless. Four more punches to the face knocked him down.

The image of a sprawling Tyson reaching for his mouthpiece has become one of the most famous in boxing history. Just four minutes ago, he seemed ready to continue his reign as the greatest and most feared heavyweight of his era, possibly ever. Now, he was staggering, knocked down for the first time in his career while the Tokyo Dome crowd watched in stunned silence.

Tyson technically got up from the first knock down of his career, but the fight was over. Meyran took one look at the champion and ended things right then and there. Mike Tyson's reign of terror was suddenly and shockingly over, ended by a large and determined man named Buster.

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