FEBRUARY 11, 1990: “KID DYNAMITE” IMPLODED
Pittsburgh, PA– I was just a sophomore in high school, hanging out in our basement TV room and planning to watch Dominique Wilkins, Larry Bird and others at the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk and Three Point Contests, back when those activities featured the game’s best and were must-see TV. The plan was to flip on HBO and catch “the Baddest Man on the Planet” (and that wasn’t just a nickname at that time) Mike Tyson (then 37-0, 33 KOs) quickly knock out James “Buster” Douglas, whom some generously referred to as an underdog, since that implied that he had a chance. After that brief respite, I would return to the All-Star festivities. Little did I know that I wouldn’t watch anymore basketball that night.
HINDSIGHT’S 20/20: NO ONE SAW THIS ONE COMING
In retrospect, the signs were there: Tyson’s mentor and father figure Cus D’Amato had passed away, and he’d replaced his under appreciated trainer Kevin Rooney and the rest of his team with hacks that seemed to spill over from his entourage and, infamously, Don King. His marriage had fallen apart, and personal problems mounted. He undertrained for Douglas and, though he still looked great, he seemed just a little soft and a lot distracted; clearly, he wasn’t taking Douglas seriously, but then again, did he need to?
“BUSTER” DOUGLAS: “I JUST WHIPPED HIS ___”
As it happened, the contest showed us the amazing possibilities when an uninspired, unmotivated favorite faces and inspired and motivated underdog, no matter the odds. (How any fighter can take another “lightly” – one of the false or ridiculous excuses we hear from sour grapes losers nowadays – makes you wonder after what happened in Tokyo that night.) A lean, conditioned Douglas kept his jab pumping in the champ’s face all night, repeatedly drilling “Iron Mike” with chopping rights behind it, round after round. A short Tyson uppercut in the eighth nearly bandaged the situation, though damage at that point had already been irreparably done. The Tyson puzzle had already been solved. More importantly, the fear factor had been vanquished. Bully the bully. Take the fight to him. Douglas regained control in the ninth, as Tyson barely survived the round.
TENTH ROUND: THE END OF TYSON AS WE KNEW HIM! Read more