SI Vault
Richard Hoffer
February 19, 1990
Buster Douglas was floored by Mike Tyson in the eighth round, but then...knocked out Tyson in the 10th round to win the heavyweight crown (no matter what Don King says) in perhaps the biggest boxing upset ever
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February 19, 1990

He Got Up And...

Buster Douglas was floored by Mike Tyson in the eighth round, but then...knocked out Tyson in the 10th round to win the heavyweight crown (no matter what Don King says) in perhaps the biggest boxing upset ever

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Not surprisingly, given the sway he holds over the sport, King's transparent attempts to alter the obvious were persuasive enough for the WBC and WBA to announce that they would suspend recognition of the outcome until further review, which is expected to take place during this coming week. Even as Douglas relaxed in his hotel room with the WBC belt around his waist, the organization's president, José Sulaimán, was saying, "I'm very confused." Later, at the second press conference, he was no longer so confused. He said a rematch "was absolutely mandatory." But the damage is pretty much done. All King's men can't put Tyson together again.

Of course, if you want confusion, boxing is, once more, for you. For starters, there is the blabbering of governing bodies whose only apparent purpose is to collect sanctioning fees. Tyson had consolidated all three titles—WBC, WBA and IBF—on Aug. 1, 1987, but because the Japan Boxing Commission does not recognize the IBF, no one from that organization was represented in Tokyo. Yet the IBF did sanction the fight, and does not recognize the challenge to Douglas's victory. So at the very least, Douglas now holds the IBF title.

Still, King presumably has the clout to force a quick rematch. Meanwhile Holyfield's representatives, promoter Dan Duva and adviser Shelly Finkel, were insisting that they had an agreement with the WBA and King that says Holyfield is to meet the winner of Sunday's fight—whether Tyson or not. In any case, that fight, scheduled for June 18 in Atlantic City, has plummeted from pay-per-view status. "Did that cost us money?" asked Duva, whistling. He pretended not to be apoplectic.

That's not the least of it. Former champion Greg Page, whose career was reborn when he decked Tyson while sparring with him three weeks before the fight, was supposed to fight Tyson in the fall. King said he was negotiating to stage the event hard by the crumbled Berlin Wall. Another bout suddenly on hold: an all-the-money-in-the-world showdown between Tyson and George Foreman. Presumably that notable promoter, the Sultan of Brunei, has now cooled on the idea of Tyson destroying somebody in his courtyard.

Yet even in defeat Tyson looms over this sport. And it was left to him to provide the only sensible comment from the defeat. "The easiest part is winning," he said at King's tawdry press conference. "The hardest part is coming back."

Seemingly lost in all of this is Douglas, who had been presented as a likable but hopeless victim. Both Tyson and Douglas, who is 29, must now think of the legacies they will leave, not the ones they live up to. Tyson, who wallows in boxing history, continues to search for his place there. That place in history is no longer so secure, and to recover it, Tyson must now embark on a different tour than King had planned.

Douglas's place in history is more tenuous. Only hours after the greatest victory of his life, machinery was set in motion to reduce the rewards of his reign. His ability to dramatically increase the $1.3 million he earned from this fight (Tyson got $6 million) may be compromised. Yet minutes after the knockout, there could have been no qualification of his achievement. His 11-year-old son, Lamar, wearing a Buster Douglas cap, was hoisted onto his father's shoulders. An overhead camera, which was beaming images to a stadium screen, pulled back to reveal a wild clot of people in the ring, pushing and shoving. As the camera continued to pull back it was possible to see that Douglas, his son on his shoulder, was for once in his life, however briefly, the center of attention.

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