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How Buster Douglas' Massive Upset Against Mike Tyson Almost Didn't Happen

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How Buster Douglas' Massive Upset Against Mike Tyson Almost Didn't Happen

'The K.O. That Didn't Count' screamed one UK newspaper headline as chaos reigned and rival journalists came to blows after what should've been the greatest upset in boxing history.

Thirty years ago, heavyweight champ/KO machine 'Iron Mike' was battered by 42-to-1 underdog Buster Douglas - but after the upset, the real fight started. Don King was first to come out swinging.

"Two knockouts took place, but the first knockout obliterates the second," blustered the promoter. "Buster Douglas was knocked out, and the referee did not do his job and panicked. As the promoter of both fighters, I'm only seeking fair play."


Laughter presumably drowned him out after those final two words. Yet King's protest was taken dead seriously by the WBC and WBA, who refused to acknowledge Douglas as champion.

It seemed so simple at the fight's ending. No-hoper Douglas had pummelled a woefully underprepared Tyson with jabs and chopping right hands, leaving 'the baddest man on the planet' groping for his gumshield on the canvas, counted out in round 10.

But in the eighth round, Tyson had awoken from his zombie state to detonate a nuclear uppercut on Douglas's chin. After Buster hit the deck, referee Octavio Meyran was slightly late in picking up the count - vital, perhaps, as Douglas hauled himself up at nine, before the round ended.


The count was later timed at 12.5 seconds and the sheepish ref was wheeled out before the press to admit his "mistake". Tyson, wearing sunglasses to conceal his swollen left eye, said, "I thought he was counted out."

The controversy ruined Buster's moment of glory, but did dastardly Don have a point? The referee was undoubtedly slow to start the count - as he was later when Tyson was knocked down - but would Douglas have been able to haul himself up faster when he heard those crucial numbers "eight... nine..." from the official?

Ultimately, it didn't matter. Boxing didn't have VAR to spoil the fun in 1990. King's plot to overturn the result and keep the title on his cash cow Tyson received such a worldwide backlash that the governing bodies eventually crumbled.


Four days after his triumph in the ring, the WBC and WBA confirmed Douglas as champion. The upset stood: Buster had dented Tyson's 37-0 (33 KOs) record and shocked the world.

Frankly, it had been a miracle that the so-called mismatch had even taken place. Douglas was considered such a human punchbag that no US casino would put up the cash for the event - $6 million for Tyson, $1.3 million for Douglas - so the heavyweight title headed to the Tokyo Dome.

"He was like a wrecking ball," said Douglas of Tyson, although it was Douglas who proved the demolitions expert on the night.


The challenger's training camp had also been beset by tragedy - his mother died 23 days before the fight, his wife left him, his 11-year-old son fell ill, while Douglas himself suffered with a heavy cold. He used it all as fuel to focus his mind and pull off this incredible win.

That motivation was lost in the aftermath of his victory. Douglas developed a taste for Long Island iced tea cocktails and piled on 15lb before his first defence, allowing Evander Holyfield to do what King could not and lift the titles from him, this time inside the ring.

Tyson, only 23 years old when he lost his championship, went on to various lows and highs, including winning back various world-title belts. But he'd never reclaim the aura of invincibility he lost 30 years ago - one the King and all of his men couldn't piece back together again.

Topics: Mike Tyson, Boxing

Alex Reid
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