Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson this week.
Thirty-two years ago this week that is.
And while consoling myself to the idea I’m old enough to clearly recall an event more than 30 years old, part of me still reacts with the same slack-jawed shock I displayed upon initially learning the fateful Tokyo result in real time back on Feb . 11, 1990.
It’s only been 32 years, but, in context, it feels like the Stone Age.
George HW was still the only Bush to occupy the White House. Michael Bolton and Paula Abdul were still vying for the top spot on the Billboard charts. And as any red-blooded Niagara Falls native a month shy of legally drinking in the US was apt to do, I was headed for Canada.
For a single 20-year-old with a tank of gas and a week’s pay, it was Mecca. Comely tourists from around the world. Respectable bars with favorable exchange rates. And laws allowing anyone 19 or about to participate in whatever alcohol-flavored hi-jinks they could find.
That Saturday night wasn’t so productive on the hi-jinks front, so my wingman – high-school hockey star Dan Cline – and I ultimately trekked to our favorite dive to drown sorrows with glass upon glass of our drink of choice… the tequila sunrise.
Think what you will about the utility of tequila, orange juice and grenadine as individual entities these days, but I unashamedly vouch for their 1990 efficacy as a concoction whose objective was leaving users capable of little other than off-key juke box singing to the Eagles ‘ song of the same name.
Take another shot of courage/Wonder why the right words never come/You just get numb.
It’s another tequila sunrise/This old world still looks the same/Another frame.
Somewhere between the first and 50th verses of our performance, I hazily recalled that my going out had been at the expense of a night in front of the television awaiting HBO’s broadcast of Tyson’s 10th title defense against the perceived no-hoper from Columbus, Ohio.
After taking the bait and staying home to watch Saturday blowouts of Tony Tubbs, Frank Bruno and Carl Williams over the previous 23 months, I’d been bound and determined to recognize the impossibility of an upset this time and instead catch highlights of “Iron Mike’s ” sure win along the way on ESPN.
With that quest for knowledge in mind, I dispatched trusty Dan for another round with a request to ask the bartender if he’d seen the result of the fight. He dutifully returned a few minutes later, casually slid my refilled glass across the table and deadpanned, “Oh, by the way, Tyson lost.”
Suffice to say, I was unamused.
“Get the (heck) out of here,” I snarled back agitatedly. “What round did Douglas lose in?”
“I’m serious, man,” he replied. “Go ask the guy yourself.”
Applying my fully imbibed logic, I was immediately convinced the two had schemed just to jerk me around, so I stumbled to the bar with a similar query in hopes of getting a straighter answer.
“Tyson got knocked out,” the bartender said plainly. “Why would I lie?”
I was mentally preparing a suitable retort when, on cue, the television over his right shoulder switched back from commercial to live programming, which just happened to be SportsCenter reporting the big news of the night from around the world at the Tokyo Dome:
Mike Tyson’s shocking KO loss to Buster Douglas.
Had I still been holding my drink I’d have dropped it. And had I not known Dan was laughing hysterically when I returned to the table, I’d have sworn he was having a seizure.
In fact, over the hundred times I’ve watched the replay and throughout the days I paged through Joe Layden’s terrific book “The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changed Their Lives Forever” a few summers back, I could still hear his cackle loud and clear.
Though Tyson was slapped silly by Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis and eventually ended as a career-maker for middling heavies Danny Williams and Kevin McBride, those losses combined don’t pack nearly the “Holy #%^$$&!” wallop of the initial time his invincibility was stripped.
It’s the sort of moment I’ve only felt a few times in boxing.
When Iran Barkley dropped Thomas Hearns in 1988. When George Foreman dumped Michael Moorer in 1994. When Antonio Tarver starched Roy Jones Jr. in 2004.
And most recently, when Juan Manuel Marquez cock-cocked Manny Pacquiao in 2012.
I was watching each as they happened, but somehow none prompted the same gasp.
And regardless of how many times I play the DVDs, none make me crave tequila quite as much either.
Come to think of it, I haven’t seen Danny Boy since the ’90s.
But I bet the little bastard’s still laughing.
This week’s title fight schedule:
No title fights scheduled.
Last week’s picks: None
2022 picks record: 2-2 (50 percent)
Overall picks record: 1,211-394 (75.4 percent)
NOTE: Fights previewed are only those involving a sanctioning body’s full-fledged title-holder – no interim, diamond, silver, etc. Fights for WBA “world championships” are only included if no “super champion” exists in the weight class.
Lyle Fitzsimmons has covered professional boxing since 1995 and written a weekly column for Boxing Scene since 2008. He is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter – @fitzbitz.