The Unforgettable Night in Tokyo: Douglas vs Tyson – How a Shocking Victory Saved a Career from Oblivion


James ‘Buster’ Douglas the 42-1 outsider with no hope, did the seemingly impossible and removed forever the unbeatable myth that surrounded Mike Tyson. Unbeaten in 37 fights and only 23, the best years still seemed ahead of him.

But Tyson was falling apart in full view, personal woes sent him over the edge and spiralling into oblivion. It was always coming, repeated indiscretions of various levels were covered up with signatures on a cheque. The fall was always likely, it was when it would happen not if.

The loss in Tokyo was most definitely a shock, but it had been coming. If no opponent could beat Tyson, he would beat himself. He did it in some style.


Out of shape, and lacking in focus, Greg Page dropped him in sparring, it was written off as a publicity stunt to boost flagging ticket sales. It was anything but. Everyone ignored the warnings.

Despite the signs of obvious decline from the fighter who destroyed Michael Spinks in 1988, nobody expected Douglas to be the one to inflict such a seismic shock in the world of Don King.

Douglas was branded a ‘dog’ a quitter, King chose him for that reason. A big lucrative fight with Evander Holyfield loomed, it could not be risked. Douglas was there for a reason. Even the money men knew Tyson needed protecting.

Tyson wasn’t the rampaging Tyson of old, but Douglas was inspired. Many forget how good ‘Buster’ Douglas was in Tokyo. For sure Tyson was self-destructing, but Douglas was exceptional, and even on a good night, Tyson may have struggled. On this night Douglas was that good.




From the start Douglas dominated, Tyson, expected a quick night, but he found an opponent who hadn’t come to fall. Douglas hadn’t read the script. He had come to fight.

A right uppercut in the 8th round had Douglas on the brink of defeat. He scrambled to his feet, barely beating the count, he followed the count of the referee and that was all he was obliged to do. The count was 9.9. He was lucky. Tyson had his moment, but on this night there would be no quit.

For Tyson, that night was just the start of his spectacular fall from grace. A conviction for rape resulted in Tyson being sentenced to six years in prison. Further trouble would never be that far away.

Beating Tyson saved him from obscurity, the manner in which he lost to Holyfield sent him back to where he started.


After the loss to Holyfield in 1990, Douglas carried on eating and ballooned to 400 lbs. The former champion ended up in a diabetic coma and was lucky to survive.

Douglas returned to boxing in 1996, won all but one of those fights and deserves huge credit for turning his life around.

Not all comebacks are judged by success in the ring.


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