IT’S a long way from Tokyo to the MCG but the Grand Final band brought back memories of the wild ways of “Iron Mike” Tyson, as PETER COSTER reports:
IT WAS Jack Riewoldt shouting out Mr Brightside with The Killers after Richmond won the Grand Final that lit up the MCG crowd. Head thrown back, getting into the music, Riewoldt ignited the Tiger army. Another song from the Las Vegas band’s just-released album, Wonderful Wonderful, pays tribute to one of boxing’s greatest upsets. Buster Douglas was at long odds when he demolished “Iron Mike” Tyson, “Kid Dynamite”, the undefeated world heavyweight boxing champion who had never been knocked off his feet. No one, except Douglas’s mother would have expected him to last the 12 rounds, let alone stop Tyson. And Douglas’s mother was dead.
Lula Pearl died 23 days before the fight at the Tokyo Dome and while Douglas grieved, he also dragged himself to his feet when Tyson dropped him with a crashing uppercut in the eighth round. Getting back to his feet, he said, was what his mother would have wished.
Douglas was not the same lumbering and overweight fighter who had been chosen as a warm-up for Tyson before fighting Evander Holyfield, whose ear Tyson was to chew in a disgraceful and desperate spectacle in a later fight in Las Vegas.
At the Tokyo Dome Hotel, where I was staying some years later, I walked over to see the place where “Iron Mike”, who held all three versions of the heavyweight title, found himself on the canvas, staggering to his feet at the count of 10 with his mouth guard hanging from his lips.
Douglas was not declared champion immediately after the fight because Tyson’s camp fired in a protest claiming he had survived the eighth round knockdown only due to the referee giving him the benefit of a long count. Four days later the protest was withdrawn and the title was his. Comparing the count against the time taken when Douglas got to his feet in the eighth, showed the counts were identical. Buster was slightly more upright and the bell sounded immediately afterward.
Tyson had fallen horizontal much earlier to temptations of the flesh. His management banned him from leaving his hotel in case he sought relief elsewhere from the tedium of training. Tyson later admitted on late night television that he was having sex with maids at the hotel and “with a young Japanese girl when my wife went out shopping”.
Tyson was unkind enough to describe the maids at his hotel as “f…… ugly”, which might have been an appropriate description of his performance against Buster Douglas.
Douglas, in the words of the commentators on US television had “come to fight”. When Tyson tried to get inside to avoid Buster’s jabs, Douglas tied him up.
Douglas punched with far greater speed than Tyson, who looked like losing from the opening bell. Lula Pearl might have been the only one to give her boy a chance but he was fighting the fight of his life.
Had he retained the condition and determination he showed that night he might have remained champion, but he got back on the burgers and lost in three rounds to Evander Holyfield in his next bout.
Tyson was never the same fighter. He had always been expected to knock out his quivering victims but it is worth remembering that he did this from a height of little more than 5ft 10in (178 cm) to Douglas’s 6ft 4in (193 m).
It seems strange that nearly 30 years later, The Killers have paid tribute to the Tyson vs. Douglas fight unless it’s something obscure as alluded to by frontman Brandon Flowers.
Flowers explains the song in an interview in Rolling Stone by saying he wants to be a hero to his three sons. Hero was never something said of Mike Tyson and Flowers must not have been at ringside when Tyson munched on Holyfield’s ear at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
That was seven years after the Tokyo upset. Tyson had regained the title and then lost it to Holyfield and this was Tyson vs. Holyfield II. The debacle became known as “The Bite Fight”.
Tyson bit off part of Holyfield’s ear and spat it out on the canvas. The ringside patrons reeled back in disgust and women turned away. A piece of Holyfield’s ear lay on the canvas as Holyfield danced a jig around the ring in pain.
Incredibly, the fight was not stopped, although referee Mills Lane could stomach no more of it when Tyson bit Holyfield a second time. “One bite was enough,” said Lane. “The second bite was dessert.”
America has always been a land of opportunity and a confectioner made a fast buck by selling chocolate ears in the shape of Holyfield’s mangled lobe.
So who was the rock star’s hero, I wondered, as I looked up the lyrics to Tyson vs. Douglas:
“You’re used to winning, how did it feel?
“Did you hear the screaming? It was unreal
“What did they pay you? What did it cost?
“How long did it take you to know that you lost?”
There was more about Tyson’s mother calling her son’s name, but it was Douglas’s mother whose cries of encouragement seemed to have been heard that night in Tokyo.
Jack Riewoldt might know what The Killers were on about. I prefer Bob Dylan singing Hurricane, the story of middleweight contender Rubin “Hurricane” Carter.
I looked up the lyrics:
“Put in a prison cell, but one time he coulda been the champion of the world
He was number one contender for the middleweight crown….”
Rubin Carter was jailed for triple murder and served nearly 20 years before his convictions were overturned.
At least no one died in Tokyo.
Author: Peter Coster
PETER COSTER is a former editor and foreign correspondent who has covered a range of international sports, including world championship fights and the Olympic Games in Los Angeles.