The world heavyweight title fight between ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson and James ‘Buster’ Douglas, which took place at the Tokyo Dome in Bunkyo, Tokyo, Japan on February 11, 1990, produced arguably the greatest upset in boxing history. Tyson, still only 23, was the undefeated, undisputed heavyweight champion; he had taken just over a minute-and-a-half to stop Carl ‘The Truth’ Williams, albeit under controversial circumstances, in his previous title defence – to take his career record to 37-0, with 33 knockouts – and was widely expected to make similarly short work of Douglas.
Douglas, by contrast, was a 29-year-old journeyman, who had already suffered four defeats – including a tenth-round technical knockout by Tony Tucker in his previous title fight, for the vacant IBF Heavyweight World Title, nearly three years earlier – in a chequered career. His chance was dismissed by the media and the Las Vegas oddsmakers alike; The Mirage, one of the few casinos to offer an odds line, made Douglas a 42/1 underdog to beat the seemingly-invincible Tyson. Douglas also carried the emotional burden of having recently lost his mother, Lula Pearl, who died suddenly, at the age of just 46, days before he left for Tokyo.
Nevertheless, at 6’ 4” and 230lb, and coming into the fight on the back of six consecutive wins – including, most recently, a victory over Oliver McCall by unanimous decision – Douglas was at the peak of his powers. To the surprise of virtually everyone, Douglas dominated the first seven rounds and Tyson, for the first time in his career, appeared fallible. However, in the eighth round, the reigning champion delivered a vicious right uppercut that knocked Douglas to the canvas.
The challenger barely beat the count but, by that stage Tyson’s left eye had begun to swell uncontrollably and Douglas, once again, dominated the ninth round. Finally, in the tenth round, Douglas delivered his coup de grace, a devastating right uppercut of his own, followed by a left, right, left combination, which sent Tyson to the floor for the first time in his career. Disoriented, Tyson was counted out after 1 minute and 22 seconds of the tenth round.