I’m feeling old today. You see, I’ve entered that stage of my life that when you hear of things that happened at least 15 years ago, it makes you feel old. So I definitely feel all of my 33 years upon learning that today, February 11th, is the 25th anniversary of James “Buster” Douglas knocking out “Iron” Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan to win the undisputed heavyweight title. As a fan of the sweet science, and a fan of Mike Tyson I never expected to see the man on the canvas grasping for his mouthpiece. It is definitely the greatest upset I’ve witnessed in all of sports.
I was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, and I grew up not too far from the Brownsville neighborhood that raised Mike Tyson. Ironically enough, one of the apartments he lived in is just a short car ride away. I pass it pretty much everyday. I also grew up with cable in my household. That was important. My father liked ordering boxing and wrestling pay per views, and I liked to tape them on the VCR in his room. We threw those tapes out a few years back, but that library was full of great boxing fights, great wrestling shows, and a recording of the Sound of Music that I made by accident. Don’t ask. So I remember exactly where I was on the evening of February 11, 1990.
I was 8 years old and I was sitting in front of the television. I always did sit too close to the T.V. but I was recording, and that was my spot. I remember vividly Mike hitting the canvas in the 10th round, and I vaguely remember HBO announcer Jim Lampley’s shock at the moment. I had no clue who James “Buster” Douglas was. None. I obviously knew all about the terror that was Mike Tyson. I saw the young 23 year old who was 37-0 and destroyed every man he faced up to that point. So, hell yeah I was surprised that not only this relative nobody beat him, but that he kicked his ass all over that ring. It was not a good night in Tokyo for the undisputed heavyweight champion.
What I didn’t grasp at 8 years old, and what many didn’t know at the time, was that Mike was in the middle of a downfall. He entered that ring coming off a nasty split from his wife Robin Givens, a nasty split with his manager and trainers, and woefully unprepared for a fight. He had a horrible training camp, he was starting to fall into some serious drug use, and he really had no business entering into a boxing ring. To Mike’s credit he always did praise the efforts of Buster Douglas, saying that was the toughest fight he ever had, and that Buster “kicked his ass”. Mike isn’t known for being gracious, but it’s a sign of respect from him for admitting that to the World.
That was kind of him to admit that he had an off night and that Buster took advantage of it. However, the underdog that came into the ring that night, he of a respectable record but not much else, didn’t keep his belts for long. Buster Douglas dropped them shortly after to Evander Holyfield. Mike had a few more fights, and then it was off to jail on a rape charge He would come out some years later, fight Holyfield and Lennox Lewis in some crazy spectacle of fights, and spiral out of control. A career that started with a ferocious bang, would peter out in a whimper.
My love of boxing definitely went further than my admiration of Mike Tyson, but considering I’m a man who has read his biography several times, and watched his one man stage show (Undisputed Truth) more times than I care to admit, his spiral hurts me more than it should. It feels personal. To see someone from my neck of the woods have it all, lose it all, and still fighting his demons almost hurts me personally. Yeah, Mike Tyson’s downfall didn’t start on that night in Tokyo, but sitting here 25 years later I can’t help but wonder what would have happened if he just did what was expected and knock Buster out. Would he have gone on to have one of those legendary careers and be mentioned in the same breath of a Muhammad Ali, or a Sugar Ray Robinson, or would he still be the same flameout better known for his antics instead of his body of work?
However, none of that matters to the 8 year old boy from Brooklyn who thought boxing was everything. Boxing was another sport he could share with his father. You see, sports brought us together. Still does, really. We have a decent relationship, but as we are two different personalities, it can be difficult at times. The love is there, but our love for sports, definitely makes the ties a bit better. We both love boxing, and we both loved Tyson. As a matter of fact before I left the house this morning, we spoke about how today was the 25th anniversary of Tyson-Douglas. Neither one of us could believe that it has been that long. Our conversation was brief, but we shared quick memories of an unbelievable night.
So, while most of the World will focus on how today is the 3rd anniversary of the passing of Whitney Houston, and may she Rest In Peace, I’ll choose to remember the night the World was shocked, and the night this blogger saw one of his idols, probably one of his heroes, take a shocking fall. Yeah, I’ll choose to remember that today…
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