ON THIS DAY: 2/11/90 Buster Douglas KO 10 Mike Tyson: The Silence Was Deafening
James "Buster" Douglas was a 42-1 underdog - that’s according to the sportsbooks that were taking action on the fight. Most of them weren't. We’re flying all the way to Japan for what, two or three rounds? The under-achieving Douglas is sure to wilt under Tyson’s pressure a lot sooner that he did against Tony Tucker three years earlier we thought to ourselves. We had reason to think that; fighting for a vacant title, in a fight that was dead even on the judges cards through nine rounds, Douglas quit on his feet after getting stung by Tucker along the ropes in round 10. That being said, Douglas was on a mission, having dedicated this fight to his recently deceased mother. He vowed to bring the heavyweight title home to Columbus, Ohio. When hearing of Douglas’ promise, Tyson responded, “everyone has a game plan…until they get hit.”
Douglas, when on his game, had the classic boxer/puncher style. He worked behind the jab, had a better than average right hand and moved effectively around the ring while jabbing. To the world's shock, Douglas brought his A-game to The Land of The Rising Sun as he peppered Tyson from the opening bell, landing 22 punches in round one, including 12 of 31 jabs (the heavyweight average for jabs landed/thrown in a round is 6/19). The beat(ing) went on in rounds two and three, as Douglas outlanded Tyson 51-20 and through three rounds was outlanding Tyson 73-28, averaging 51 punches per round to just 24 for Tyson, who could not get past Douglas’ thudding jab.
Speaking of Douglas’ jab, we at ringside could hear that distinct sound ever so clear, even though we were wearing headsets that allowed us to relay stats to the HBO production truck. The setting at The Tokyo Dome was surreal. The fight started at 12 noon in Japan. Japanese fight fans are a courteous bunch. They do not react to the action in the ring while it’s happening. They wait until the round has concluded, then politely clap their hands. So, Douglas was on his way to scoring one of the biggest upsets in boxing history, and there’s no crowd noise - just the sound of Douglas’ punches booming off Tyson’s swelling head. "Is this really happening?" I remember asking myself. Evander Holyfield, who was sitting next to me and was scheduled to challenge Tyson in June, was probably asking the same question.
Through six rounds, Douglas was landing 23 of 45 (51 percent) punches per round to 9 of 22 (41 percent) for Tyson. Douglas was having his way due to the fact that he was landing 13 of 26 jabs per round (50 percent) - landing as many punches per round as Tyson was throwing per round.
Was Douglas going to melt down? Well, Tyson had his moment in the final six reconds of round eight when he landed an uppercut that dropped Buster on his back. Douglas beat the count, but many felt the end was near for him in round nine.
Tyson came out stalking in round nine. Instead of bulldozing Douglas into oblivion, Tyson was met by a series of combinations that had him reeling. Douglas had reached down and delivered his best statistical round of the fight, landing 37 of 58 total punches (64 percent) to just 12 of 24 for Tyson, who seemed totally deflated as he slowly made his way back to his corner. The fight was essentially over.
Douglas continued to batter Tyson in round 10 before a five-punch combination dumped Tyson on his back. The vision of him scrambling to locate his mouthpiece, finding it, then put it in his mouth backwards, stays with me to this day. Douglas had done the impossible, as the crowd of 40,000 watched in virtual silence.
Overall, Douglas landed 230 of 441 (52 percent) total punches to 101 of 214 (47 percent) for Tyson, who landed when he threw, he just couldn’t get past Douglas’ double jab, right hand and lateral movement. The key punch in his upset victory was the jab. He landed 128 of 243 (53 percent while averaging 24 thrown per round and 13 landed). The jab allowed him to land 52 percent of his power shots (102 of 198).
Believe it or not, the fight was even on the judges cards through nine rounds. Douglas led 88-82 on Larry Rozadilla’s tally, while Ken Morita had it 87-86 Tyson. Judge Masakazu Uchida had it even at 86-86. Perhaps they were like the rest of us; they couldn't believe what they were seeing either.
42-1 'dog Douglas dedicated fight to recently deceased mother. Working behind a busy, accurate jab (13 of 24 landed per round- double wgt. class avg.), Douglas landed 52% of his power punches. Tyson landed 57% of his power shots, but they were one-at-a-time, as Douglas fought the fight of his life.