February 11, 2015

KO's Ringside Notes & Quotes VI — The "Undisputed Truths" Edition

Iron Mike got busted up by the Tyson Buster
By Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest

Exactly 25 years ago today in 1990, the greatest upset in the history of boxing took place in Tokyo, Japan. A 42-1 underdog named James "Buster" Douglas shocked the sporting universe with a tenth round knockout of an "invincible" Iron Mike Tyson to lay his claim to the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the World. The fight itself was incredibly dramatic, Douglas got up from an uppercut knockdown to win it for his Mom & Dad, and it all had a little touch of controversy too with the long count by referee Octavio Meyran. And just like the assassination of JFK or the 9/11 terrorist attacks on America, we all remember exactly where we were and what we were doing when we saw it happen or heard the news. I was 20 years old, and actually walked off my job in a Brockton, MA. restaurant kitchen to rush home and watch the fight on HBO.

I requested the night off weeks in advance but they scheduled me anyway, upsetting me greatly, pun intended. It turned out OK in the end though because they hired me back the next day and I didn't miss the most unbelievable thing to have ever taken place in a boxing ring. Where were you? What were you doing? What is your Douglas-Tyson story? Share it today on KO's Facebook page.

The "Long Counts" Explained — They say that controversy is to boxing what salt and pepper are to a juicy steak, a little added spice that turns something good into something great. When defending World Heavyweight Champion Mike Tyson knocked down challenger Buster Douglas in the fateful eighth round of their 1990 title fight in Tokyo, Douglas was down on the canvas for somewhere between 13 and 14 actual seconds before he was up on his feet and ready to continue fighting. These are the facts and they are undisputed. This is also where things get spicy. You see, referee Octavio Meyran made a mistake. The experienced "big fight" referee failed to pick up the "official" knockdown count from the official timekeeper seated at ringside whose responsibility it was to do that. One guy did his job, the other did not. While Tyson waited in a corner during the last truly "great" moments of his boxing career, Douglas simply did what he was trained to do in this situation, he got up before the referee said "10" and counted him out.

If the fight had been held in a British ring where referees don't muck about, Douglas would surely have been counted out.

Douglas beat Tyson, King, and the count
Two rounds later, it was Tyson on the canvas. Though Meyran correctly picked up the official count for this second knockdown of the fight, the actual count also lasted somewhere between 13 and 14 real time seconds. When Tyson made it to his feet, he was in no condition to continue and Meyran mercifully stopped the title bout, hugged Tyson to keep him from collapsing, and awarded the championship victory to Buster Douglas by way of tenth round KO. So went the greatest upset in the storied history of boxing.

Now, nobody liked Tyson's crooked promoter Don King or late WBC President José Sulaimán very much, but the pair did have a case to be made ex post facto when they famously claimed a "long count" occurred in the eighth round and that Tyson was therefore still heavyweight champion because as King infamously pleaded to anyone who'd listen, "the first knockout obliterated the second knockout!" Problem was, nobody cared. The protest was doomed to failure. Tyson was a beaten villain and nobody having anything to do with him was catching a break, deserved or otherwise. In the end, the in-ring ruling of Meyran was correctly deemed to be final but this was not a manufactured controversy with no merit. A defending world champion had his challenger knocked down for more than 10 seconds from a punch and still lost the fight—and his title.

These are the facts and they are in fact, undisputed.

Lost Lies in Lowell
The never ending NBC Brian Williams fiasco reminds me of the fraud Dicky Eklund perpetuated for years in Lowell, MA. after the infamous 1978 Sugar Ray Leonard fight on HBO. During the ninth round of their memorable bout in Boston, Eklund, a one-time "Pride of Lowell" nominee, trip-pushed Leonard to the canvas and then casually stepped over his face to accentuate the point. More than just a bit disrespectful, Dicky claimed a knockdown of Sugar Ray for many years back home in the Mill City where the urban legend grew into bar room fact. There remain townies to this day who believe it was a knockdown, and tell their version of the story that way. The exaggeration was all so unnecessary.

The true story of glory was never told. It's a damn shame too. Tricky Dicky stole from himself the valor to which he was entitled for being in a war zone with a baby-faced killer. Against Leonard, Eklund was in a firefight for his life against a ferocious young pugilist that was trying to take his head off for ten long rounds. Eklund himself survived three very real knockdowns and went the distance with one of the best to ever lace up a pair of boots on the ground.

That should have been good enough.

Attitude of Gratitude — I was overwhelmed by all the birthday wishes I received last week from my many friends and readers in the boxing community. Thank you all so much for that. Your roving ringside reporter is now 45 years young, doing what I was born to do and loving every minute of it. You might even say I'm living the dream. Not bad for a kid "from" boxing, i.e. Brockton, Massachusetts, the City of Champions. Because of where I grew up and what that means to me, I set the bar for boxing coverage very high. 

It's good to have such marvelous friends
Rocky Marciano and Marvelous Marvin Hagler would not have it any other way and neither will I. To be the best or die trying, that is the essence of Brockton. 

The KO Digest started in 2010 as an idea to build a boxing blog that was worthy of being read by boxing fans. What I saw when I looked were gaps in the boxing media in need of being filled, so I went about trying to become the change that I was looking for. If KO Digest has achieved that, I am personally satisfied. If KO someday grows into something even more significant, I will be very proud. Where it's already taken me in this sport would blow your mind. My role as an insider has only intensified my immense admiration for boxing's humble, noble warriors. They deserve my very best. They will continue to get it. The sky remains the limit, and honesty my only excuse, but the core concept of KO Digest is a simple one: to be informative and entertaining as a boxing writer in the digital internet age. To deliver accurate, unbiased coverage and commentary.

To provide a friendly environment where good people can learn, interact, and enjoy themselves as boxing fans.

To be read and respected as a voice in the sport that has become my whole life.

Taylor is in a world of trouble
Middleweight Madhouse — Whatever ultimately becomes of the now vacant IBF 160 pound title is irrelevant to me and should be to you as well. Whenever World Middleweight Champion Miguel Cotto signs to fight long avoided #1 contender Gennady "GGG" Golovkin, wake me up with bad intentions and make my press credential out to KO Digest. Do I have your attention now? Good, because deciphering another bowl of boxing's lukewarm alphabet soup after it's been force-fed down my throat always leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I'm sick of it and they say chicken soup is good for the soul? Apparently not. Recently stripped titlist Jermain Taylor is now confined to an Arkansas state sanitarium. Ironically, Taylor is likely to encounter more sane people in there than he ever would have in dealing with any more of the ABC governing bodies of boxing, all of whom seem to exist in a Bizarro World that only they understand.

Collins speaks undisputed truth

"There's no rationalizing boxing. It is a beautiful sickness that charms and repulses in equal measure. We have to accept it for what it is or leave it alone." — Current ESPN.com boxing columnist, longtime Ring Magazine Editor in Chief, and 2015 International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) boxing writer Nigel Collins