Wednesday, February 11, 2015

February 11, 1990: Dominance destroyed

"Let's go ahead and call it. The biggest upset in the history of heavyweight championship fights!"
-Jim Lampley, announcer of the James "Buster" Douglas - Mike Tyson match on 2/11/1990

Exactly 25 years later, that sentiment still rings true.

Despite all the chaos that surrounded boxer Mike Tyson in the late 1980s (destructive marriage to actress Robin Givens, the passing of mentors Cus D'Amato and Jimmy Jacobs, business management upheaval, etc.), he was nearly invincible when he stepped into the ring. Going into the February 1990 fight against James "Buster" Douglas, Tyson sported a 37-0 record with 33 KOs! Given he was only 23-years old, it seemed inevitable that he would shatter the undefeated record of legendary heavyweight Rocky Marciano, who finished his career at 49-0. 

Having fired long time trainer Kevin Rooney just prior to the match with Douglas, Tyson started to become lax in the one area in his life he could control: his boxing career. Tyson was not in great shape for this match against Douglas. And when Tyson suffered an eye injury in the fight, his new training staff (comprised of his wayward buddies) was so inept that the ice melted in the ice bag used to decrease swelling. Seriously, it looked as though these dudes were holding a giant prophylactic against Tyson's forehead (see the clip here).

Once Tyson was defeated by Douglas, the air of invincibility was gone. Even though he would go on to win his next four fights, Tyson would up spending a few years in an Indiana penitentiary for sexual assault. Upon his release from prison in 1995, Tyson resumed his boxing career by prevailing in his next four matches, with the last two earning him the WBC and WBA Heavyweight Titles, respectively. He then ran into Evander Holyfield in November 1996, losing the WBA title via TKO. Seven months later, he was disqualified in round three of the rematch after the infamous biting of Holyfield's ear. From that point on, Tyson's full evolution to carnival act was complete. But there's no question that the downward spiral of his boxing career began in Tokyo, Japan 25 years ago tonight.


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