Betting Underdogs: Douglas vs. Tyson

Betting Underdogs: Douglas vs. Tyson


To get an idea of just how big of an upset Buster Douglas defeating Mike Tyson was in 1990, HBO’s legendary boxing commentator, Jim Lampley, still believes it’s the biggest shock he’s witnessed. “Year in, year out it (the biggest upset) is still Tyson-Douglas,” he explained to in 2018.

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“Twenty-eight years later people still can’t get over it. People freak when I tell them it was an on-merit style loss. Mike had trouble with anyone who was taller, could move and jab, drop the right hand over the top. Buster was the best he had met in those categories up to that moment.”

The fact Douglas was a 42/1 underdog to win on that memorable night, where he won via a 10th round knockout to claim the heavyweight world title, certainly cements his achievement as one of the finest upsets in sports history. Moreover, the bout was considered such a foregone conclusion that most sportsbooks didn’t even take bets on the fight.

They obviously hadn’t observed Tyson’s lacklustre preparation for the fight, where all he did was a few training sessions and a bit of sparring that from all accounts didn’t go well. Promoter Don King even charged fans $60 a ticket to see Tyson do two rounds of sparring with Greg Page. But with Tyson having been given a tough time, King called the session short after a single round.

So going into the fight undercooked yet supremely confident and having not watched any video of his adversary, Tyson was punished for his lack of respect for Douglas. Upon reflecting back, it’s understandable Tyson was so sure he’d win, for he was the world champion with a record of 37-0 that included 33 knockouts.

Douglas didn’t have an ideal build up either, with his mother passing just before the fight. But instead of pulling out, he used this as motivation to do his best. And that he did, in a fight where he got off to a brilliant start by using his jab effectively to limit Tyson’s ability to get close and attack. Douglas would go on to largely control the early stages of the fight despite Tyson landing some notable uppercuts.

While Douglas continued to look good in the eighth round, Tyson struck him with a massive shot to send Douglas to the canvas near the end of the round. Douglas got up and survived a Tyson barrage in the ninth before knocking out the highly fancied Tyson, who famously couldn’t get up after some huge blows from Douglas in round 10.

A joyous Douglas who’d achieved the seemingly impossible feat of beating Tyson was delighted after the fight, as he eventually broke into tears when explaining he dedicated the victory to his mum.

An unlikely victory that’ll never be forgotten, Douglas defeating Tyson in Tokyo 30 years ago rightfully takes its place as one of the biggest upsets ever seen in the sporting world.

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