News No place like Dome: Boxing back at Tyson-Douglas Tokyo upset venue

TOKYO: When 42-1 underdog James ‘Buster’ Douglas shocked ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson 34 years ago at the Tokyo Dome, the result reverberated around the world.

Spectators at the 45,000-plus seater venue witnessed one of boxing’s biggest upsets as unbeaten heavyweight champion Tyson was knocked out in the 10th round by the unheralded Douglas in February 1990.

Boxing returns to the famous venue on Monday for the first time since that unforgettable encounter when Japan’s undisputed super-bantamweight world champion Naoya ‘Monster’ Inoue puts his belts on the line against Mexican Luis Nery.

The 31-year-old Inoue (26-0, 23 KOs) is a huge star in Japan and is just the second man to become undisputed world champion at two different weights since the four-belt era began in 2004. American Terence Crawford was the first.

But Inoue faces a stern test against the 29-year-old Nery, a former two-division world champion.

Inoue will be wary of suffering the same fate as Tyson, who arrived in Tokyo more than three decades ago with an aura of invincibility.

“Tyson’s status at that time was of being this godlike, completely unbeatable heavyweight,” James Sterngold, who reported on the fight for the New York Times, told AFP.

“He was really one of a kind — he was up on a pedestal that only a small number of athletes can occupy.”

Tyson was expected to win so easily that Sterngold, a news reporter based in Tokyo, was asked to cover the fight because the New York Times did not want to send a specialist boxing writer “halfway around the world for 90 seconds.”

Veteran Japanese boxing writer Shoji Tsue, who has covered the sport for 50 years, was also expecting a quick win for Tyson, even after seeing the American knocked down by sparring partner Greg Page in training.

“Everyone thought that because Tyson was Tyson, there was no way he would lose, no matter what happened,” said Tsue.

Tyson’s autobiography said he had been too busy partying to prepare properly for Douglas, who had an unspectacular win-loss-draw record of 29-4-1 (19 KOs).

Sterngold interviewed Tyson in his hotel room days before the fight and found him wrapped in a bedsheet watching martial arts movies.

“He seemed like he didn’t really care,” said Sterngold. “He clearly wasn’t in a revved-up frame of mind.”

The fight began at lunchtime and Tsue said the Tokyo Dome was “surprisingly quiet,” with fans anticipating another Tyson demolition job.

But Douglas began to control the fight, and although he was knocked down in the eighth, he got up and sent Tyson sprawling to the canvas two rounds later.

The world heavyweight champion failed to beat the count, with those watching trying to make sense of what they had just seen.

“I was sitting in the press seats closest to the ring, and Tyson went down right in front of me,” said Tsue.

“My heart was thumping. I wondered if it was possible that something like this could even happen?“

The drama was not over as promoter Don King rushed to reporters and tried to convince them that Tyson had not lost.

“He told us that we shouldn’t file stories because it was not a knockout, that the ref had miscounted and that King had already affirmed that it was going to be overturned,” said Sterngold.

“This story was very fishy, but it added to the drama.”

King failed to have the result thrown out and Tyson never regained his superhuman status.

Monday’s crowd at the Tokyo Dome will expect Inoue to maintain his perfect record against Nery, but he will be wary of suffering the same fate as Tyson.

Nery said the choice of venue could be an omen.

“If Mike Tyson can lose his unbeaten record there, then so can Naoya Inoue,” Nery said recently at his training camp.

Tsue predicted a Inoue victory but warned that the Mexican, who has a 35-1 record with 27 KOs, was capable of an upset.

Inoue was, he said, the right man to bring boxing back to the historic stadium.

“There hadn’t been any boxers who would have been a good fit for a match at the Tokyo Dome before,” said Tsue.

“And if Inoue wasn’t around, there wouldn’t be any world title fights at the Tokyo Dome for a while yet.”

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