In an era in which he is an absurd figure with a facial tattoo and gold teeth, it’s sometimes difficult to remember Mike Tyson was not only once the greatest boxer in the world, but he was on track to be the greatest of all-time.
That all changed February 11, 1990 at the Tokyo Dome in Japan when a 42-to-1 underdog knocked out the then 37-0 Tyson.
A year later, Tyson was convicted of rape and his aura of invincibility vanished. While he would again regain the world titles in 1995, Iron Mike was never the same.
So it’s fitting to ask, what the hell happened in Tokyo?
In the lead-up to the fight, Tyson was so unthreatened by the 29-4-1 Buster Douglas, that he barely trained. Indeed, he was 30 pounds overweight when he arrived in Tokyo.
“Besides having sex with the maids, I was seeing this young Japanese girl who I had had sex with the last time I was in Japan. Robin [his wife] would go out shopping and I would go downstairs to the back of the hotel where this young girl had a room… So that was my training for Douglas.”
Furthermore, Tyson didn’t watch any of Douglas’ fights on film, figuring he’d already beaten Douglas’ best opponents. This decision to ignore strategy would prove costly.
Iron Mike was so out of shape that he became exhausted during one of his few public sparring session. Manager Don King had to send the public away and pull Tyson out of the ring. The champ and his camp ignored the warning signs. His recollections of the lead-up to the fight revolve more around how many women he was having sex with, not the ferocity of his training–like normal.
Expected to make quick work of Douglas, Tyson instead got battered. The area around his left eye swelled badly, and upon returning to his corner after the fifth round, he realized his camp hadn’t brought an ice pack or any items to deal with injury…they simply hadn’t expected Tyson to take punches.
Effectively a cyclops, Tyson did battle with Douglas until the eighth round. He landed one of his signature upper-cuts and Douglas hit the canvas. Unfortunately for Tyson, the timekeeper was Japanese and the referee was Mexican. The language barrier made it difficult for them to count to 10 properly, and Douglas basically got a 15-count to get back to his feet.
After sustaining further abuse in the ninth round, Tyson was hit with an upper-cut from Douglas and four-punch combination that knocked him down for the first time in his career. The referee stopped the fight, and Mike Tyson was the silver medalist.
Douglas went on to lose the belts in a three-round knockout to Evander Holyfield in his next action. Tyson didn’t win back the WBC and WBA titles until 1996, following his prison sentence.
The myth of the indestructible Iron Mike, hardest puncher the boxing world have ever seen, died on the mat in Tokyo that night.
Or perhaps the reason for Iron Mike’s defeat that night was because he had his eye on these boxing ring girls!