“Iron” Mike Tyson is one of two truly transcendental athletes that I can remember seeing live (Bo Jackson being the other).
My dad, Stewart “The Count” Lovett, was a boxing manager – with his brother, Art, as the trainer – in the 1980’s, aka Boxing’s Golden Era. Fighters like Roberto “Manos de Piedra” Duran, “Sugar” Ray Leonard, “Marvelous” Marvin Hagler, Thomas “Hit Man” Hearns and Aaron Pryor were exciting, dominating performers that lit up the squared circle with an energy & atmosphere that modern-day boxing (or the MMA) could only dream about.
Of course, at the apex of it all was Mike Tyson. From Kid Dynamite to Iron Mike, the man was a pugilistic poet, creating stanzas with his phenomenal speed and power. My peers and I would gather in my Dad’s living room for every Tyson fight, anticipating a demonstrative beatdown, and we usually received exactly that. . .on the night of February 11th, 1990, however – it was not meant to be. . .and from there, the Tyson Dynasty crumbled.
The defeat/knockout by Buster Douglas must be the greatest sports upset of my lifetime, and an excellent story by Richard O’Brien in SI.com appears in full below. O’Brien summarizes the narrative perfectly. Wow.
Douglas’ knockout of Tyson still resonates 20 years later
Before considering what happened on Feb. 11, 1990, in Tokyo — that moment summed up so memorably, and yet so inadequately, by Sugar Ray Leonard on HBO as “Unbelievable!” — cast your mind back to Atlantic City less than seven months earlier.
On the night of July 21, 1989, in Convention Hall, 23-year-old undefeated heavyweight champion Mike Tyson defended his title (his unified title, mind you) against Carl “The Truth” Williams. Tyson, who had become the youngest heavyweight champ in history when he KO’d Trevor Berbick in November 1986, was 36-0 (with 32 knockouts) and making his eighth appearance in a title fight. He took all of 93 seconds to dispose of Williams, dropping him hard with a single left hook. Though Williams would complain that the fight was stopped too soon (“It wasn’t like I was disbobulated,” he told the assembled press afterward), the truth was that The Truth was toast — and that Tyson appeared to be on an unstoppable tear. “The Beatings Go On” was the headline on Pat Putnam’s story in Sports Illustrated. And everyone, from the two hair-raising Donalds at ringside (Trump and King), to boxing writers, to the millions of fans who in those days actually cared about boxing, assumed they would continue to do so.
Meanwhile, on the undercard that night, 29-year-old James “Buster” Douglas earned a 10-round decision over Oliver McCall. There had been a time when Buster was viewed as a comer. The year before, on the Tyson-Michael Spinks card, he’d looked sharp in stopping Mike Williams in seven (dropping Williams at one point with a jab), and coming into the McCall fight Douglas was being mentioned as a possible challenger for Tyson. But, in what was something of a pattern for Buster, he seemed to torpedo his own cause; he beat McCall, but was lackluster at best. Commenting on the fight for HBO, Jim Lampley observed, “Douglas is a plodding fighter who has difficulty looking spectacular.” (Remember those words.) I know that I sat at ringside and thought, “Well, we won’t have to watch Buster Douglas again after this.”
Indeed, promoter Don King, who had wrested control over Tyson’s career from the fighter’s longtime manager, Bill Cayton, quickly moved on from Douglas. Other possible opponents were mentioned — Michael Dokes, Italy’s Francesco Damiani — but the real focus was on a showdown with undefeated former cruiserweight champion Evander Holyfield sometime in 1990. That bout, all concerned agreed, would make real money. Who Tyson ground up in the meantime was of little consequence.
Besides, there was just so much wildly entertaining, People magazine-worthy stuff going on in Tyson’s life. There were the contract battles between King and Cayton and the marital battles between Tyson and actress-wife Robin Givens (Tyson would file for divorce in October of that year). There was even Tyson’s burgeoning academic career. (He had recently been awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Central State University in Ohio — a fact I mention only so that I can cite his speech at the commencement ceremony, in which Tyson said he wasn’t sure what sort of doctor the degree made him but that looking out at “all the fine sisters in the audience,” he hoped it was a gynecologist. Clearly, this was a man with issues.) By the time everything was settled and Douglas, by process of elimination (read: willingness to accept less money), was installed as the next opponent, the focus was less on inside the ring than out.
Which, of course, through hindsight, helps explain why Douglas’ 10th-round knockout of the 42-1 favorite Tyson in the Tokyo Dome on Feb. 11, 1990, was anything but “unbelievable,” no matter what Leonard proclaimed and most observers felt. Indeed, hindsight has helped turn the Tyson-Douglas fight into the urtext of the inevitable upset: Mike was distracted; he wasn’t motivated; he was looking past Douglas; he had abandoned his original trainer, Kevin Rooney, and was no longer doing the things that had made him invincible; he was working with an inexperienced corner; Douglas, meanwhile, was fighting over his head, inspired by the death of his mother, Lula Pearl, 23 days before the fight.
Knowing all that, it is almost impossible to watch the fight fresh today. The original feeling at the opening bell — that it was just a matter of time (Ninety-one seconds? Ninety-three?) before Iron Mike finished this guy off — has been replaced by the knowledge that in less than 10 rounds Tyson is going to be crawling around on the canvas groping blindly for his mouthpiece. As a result, Tyson looks somehow reduced from the start, short and comically stumpy. However, if you can look at it with fresh eyes (and, thanks to ESPN Classic and YouTube, you have infinite opportunities), you will see a hell of a fight.
The 6-foot-3½ Douglas, fighting at a for-him-trim 231½ pounds, was anything but plodding. And Tyson, though a touch heavy at 220½ and showing less movement than once did, was still a formidable force. The early rounds feature a lot of action and some real back-and-forth exchanges. Douglas, fighting tall and moving Tyson back with that thudding jab, shows the blueprint for how to beat a fighter who until then everyone assumed was unbeatable. By the fifth round, it was becoming clear that Tyson was taking some real punishment. Yet at the time, almost everyone watching — listen to the announcers — assumed it was still only a matter of time before Tyson turned the tide with some huge punch. The truly amazing thing, looking back now, is that he almost did.
In the eighth round, Tyson, battered and tiring, landed a huge right uppercut that dropped Douglas to the canvas. It was the signature moment of the bout for me, one that defied the accepted wisdom about both men — that the bully Tyson, once backed down, would give up and quit trying to win; and that Douglas, though capable of excellence, would fold when the going got tough. Tyson was never more serious or committed than he was with that uppercut. And Douglas, though clearly rocked, looked more disgusted with himself than discouraged and he beat the count and went right back to work.
Two rounds later, he finished his remarkable job with a devastating combination that put Tyson down and out and prompted Leonard’s “Unbelievable!” It may not have been that, but certainly Tyson-Douglas was surprising, revealing and thrilling. It turned boxing on its head and proved to be the dividing line in the career of the sport’s most important figure. For all those reasons, it’s worth looking back at in every detail. Believe it.
|2000s: Top 10 Boxers|
By Dan Rafael
Manny Pacquiao’s historic 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto in Las Vegas on Saturday night did big business.
The Top Rank-promoted fight generated 1.25 million buys and $70 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue, HBO announced Friday. If historical trends hold, the numbers will increase when all of the buys are officially audited.
The 1.25 million buys, the most for a boxing pay-per-view this year, came from 650,000 from cable homes and 600,000 from satellite services.
[+] Enlarge David Becker/Icon SMIManny Pacquiao’s 12th-round TKO of Miguel Cotto on Saturday generated 1.25 million buys and $70 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue.
Cotto, who is from Puerto Rico, helped drive the fight at the MGM Grand Garden Arena to an all-time record for buys on the island with 110,000 units sold.
Last night, a short drive from Los Angeles up I-15, boxing continued its Renaissance.
The sport, left for dead prior to the Mayweather-De la Hoya hype machine-turned-snoozefest, has revitalized itself in the last two years due to an increased internet presence (fans can see highlights, find fight info, follow the sport in a manner more organized than the fight game itself), the plateauing of MMA, some attractive matchups, and of course – great fighters.
Alarmists labeled De la Hoya “the last great draw,” but subsequent bouts (Mayweather-Marquez, Mayweather-Hatton, Pacq-Hatton) have shown that the boxing market robust and its consumers rabid.
The move back into the mainstream continued at the MGM Grand due to a spectacular fight between two classic warriors (with a nod to ).
Cotto, devastatingly focused (“here take a photo/walk in serious like Miguel Cotto” 1:03 mark) walked into the ring fearless, despite being destroyed by a cheating Antonio Margarito 16 months earlier. The stronger of the two fighters – with good speed – Cotto needed to take the fight directly to Manny, and he was acting the part.
Manny walked in the ring in quite a different fashion – with Eye of the Tiger blaring and the well-constructed MGM Garden Arena featuring Pacquiao on its huge mega-screens, the six-time (six different weight classes) title holder smiled, winked and high-gloved his way into the ring, seeming eager & enthused to ‘go play.’
As La Diva of the Phillipines sang an absolutely stunning rendition of the Phillipine National Anthem, Lupang Hinirang, it was clear that the electricty was back in Vegas, and it was back in boxing.
Michael Buffer rumbled and the crowed roared, and the two champions went at their business.
The first round had Cotto establishing his size; clearly the bigger, stronger fighter, he went right at Pacquiao. No real action but Cotto won the round, 10-9.
The second round was solid with punches throughout; Pacquiao was clearly the more active fighther, landing stiff blows to Cotto – though with no real damage – and Pacq won, 10-9.
In the third round, a solid knockdown on a quick right to Cotto’s temple at the end of a three-punch combo established the momentum as clearly on Pacq’s side. Pacquaio 10-9.
Round Four was one of the best fight rounds I’ve seen in 2009. Both fighters standing and delivering bombs, with Pacq’s speed winning the beginning of the round and the end of the round, when Pacq rocked Cotto with a left uppercut, sending him careening to the canvass and ending hopes of a 10-9 round. This would also be the last round in which Cotto hurts Pacquiao, as he did have a strong ‘middle minute,’ flummoxing Manny with sharp jabs and a couple left hooks. Pacq wins, 10-8.
The Fifth Round was a recovery round for both fighters, as Cotto perhaps exposed Manny’s one weakness with a strong uppercut early in the round. That said, Pacquiao is clearly smelling blood in the water, as his attack sensors are beaming, foreshadowing his ‘kill radar’ utilized at the end of his fights. Pacquiao 10-9.
The Sixth Round was the beginning of the end for Miguel. The first signs of his backpedaling strategy begin, as his left eye is bloodied, and its clear he quite literally can not see where Pacq’s punches are coming from. Pacquiao is just too good a fighter. Good round overall, Cotto’s heart is keeping him around. Pacquiao, 10-9.
Round Seven showed a faint glimmer of hope for Cotto – or maybe it was just heart – as he valiantly chased Pacquiao “through every foot of the 400-square foot ring” (Jim Lampley), but Manny’s quickness is not subsiding at all, and he continues landing every punch from every angle. Cotto’s energy level is still very high, but he just can’t hit Pacquiao with a strong blow. Pacquiao 10-9.
Round Eightbegins and ends with shots from the HBO PPV cameras of Miguel Cotto’s wife & son, unable to watch Cotto getting meticulously picked apart by Pacq. An easy round for Manny, ringsiders Emmanuel Steward & Larry Merchant join with Lampley in calls for Kenny Bayless to begin watching this fight for a moment to stop the carnage. Pacquiao wins, 10-9.
The Ninth Round was yet again furious, though all in Pacq’s favor. Cotto (who actually kissed his father/trainer between rounds as if to tell him that he loves him) was more “back, back, back” than Chris Berman calling a homerun derby, bloodied more and more with each crisp, off-angle shot from Pacq. Pacquiao 10-9, though it could have been a standing 10-8.
Round Ten began with Cotto’s corner telling Miguel “one more round,” and continued with a cacaphony of pleas to stop the fight from the triumvarate of Steward/Merchant/Lampley. I’d love to criticize, but they weren’t off the mark. Miguel’s amazing stamina & heart were the determining factors in Bayless’s decision to allow the fight continue, because Cotto’s wife actually left the arena with their son at this point in order to avoid watching the beating. Pacquiao wins, 10-9.
The Eleventh Round was more “Run, Miguel, Run” than anything boxing-oriented, and Pacquiao kept right on going at Cotto, though Miguel’s deft ducking and sliding abilities helping him avoid more damage. Pacq actually stopped chasing toward the end of the round, essentially begging Cotto to take the fight to him. Cotto opted not to, smartly. Pacquiao wins this one too, 10-9.
The Twelth and Final Round was simply a showcase for Cotto to prove yet again that he has unrivaled heart and dedication. Though a quick (ironically in the grand scheme, late?) stoppage from Bayless ended the match 55 seconds after the bell is struck, it is clear that Miguel Cotto belonged in the ring with this Legend, but just wasn’t as good of a fighter.
Lance Pugmire in today’s L.A. Times sums it up:
* Pugmire’s take: We’re seeing an athlete at his peak, a dominating, charismatic boxer who has speed, power and smarts. That was Pacquiao’s plan, and he carried it out brilliantly against a powerful foe, sending Cotto to the hospital. Bring on Mayweather.
YallKiltIt Summary: Boxing is Back, and I eagerly await this $60mm matchup. Floyd is Fast, but Pacquiao is Amazing. Should be a True Classic.
**Also, congratulations to Yuri Foreman, the first Israeli Boxing World Champion, who according to Kevin Baxter of the L.A. Times, “scored a shocking and one-sided decision over Puerto Rican Daniel Santos in a WBA super-welterweight title fight Saturday night on the Miguel Cotto-Manny Pacquiao undercard. “