Mike Tyson Feels He Won Buster Douglas Fight: The Referee Counted The Wrong Time, Buster Got Long Count
According to the record books, Mike Tyson experienced his first loss in February 1990 when he fought James “Buster” Douglas. However, upon further examination, many argue that Tyson actually won the fight.
The controversy arose from a questionable eighth-round “slow count,” which marred the entire narrative of what would later be considered the most significant upset in the history of the sport.
During the fight, Tyson managed to knock Douglas down near the end of the round, and the referee, Octavio Meyran, appeared hesitant to begin the count. Had the count been conducted at the usual pace, Douglas might have been counted out before reaching three or four.
Thirteen seconds passed before Douglas was saved by the bell, and many believe that Tyson should have retained his title right then and there.
No matter what decision the boxing authorities ultimately make, James “Buster” Douglas is now the new world heavyweight champion in the eyes of the boxing public. Although he may have received an incorrect and extended count from the referee after being knocked down by Mike Tyson in the eighth round of their Tokyo title bout, that error was the referee’s responsibility, not his. In such situations, the fighter cannot be held accountable for the referee’s mistakes.
During any round, it is the referee who holds the authority, not the knockdown timekeeper or the officials from the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association. These organizations have now placed the heavyweight title in a state of uncertainty, pending a review of Douglas’s convincing 10th-round knockout of the once-undisputed, undefeated, and seemingly invincible champion.
Octavio Meyran Sanchez, the Mexican referee, has admitted to making a mistake in relaying the knockdown timekeeper’s count. In a videotape viewed at the Home Box Office studios, it became evident that the referee’s count was nearly 2 seconds behind that of the knockdown timekeeper, who was visible in the background wearing white gloves. For instance, when the referee said “Two,” the timekeeper was about to display four fingers.
James “Buster” Douglas, on the other hand, was focused on listening to the numbers that Meyran was shouting, as they were just inches away from him. When the referee called out “Nine,” Douglas was already back on his feet, standing firmly without any signs of wobbling or instability.
Although Douglas might not have been on his feet until the timekeeper’s count had reached at least 12, he managed to rise before the referee completed the count to 10. In the history of boxing, only the referee’s count is officially considered as the determining factor.
Jack Dempsey learned a valuable lesson in his bout against Gene Tunney in 1927 at Chicago’s Soldier Field when a controversial “long count” was reported to have lasted anywhere from 14 to 18 seconds. Referee Dave Barry didn’t start the count until Dempsey had moved to a neutral corner. Tunney managed to get up and was eventually declared the winner by decision after 10 rounds, successfully defending the title he had won from Dempsey the previous year in Philadelphia.
Dempsey shared his perspective on the incident in his autobiography, stating, “The count had already started when I was pushed toward a neutral corner, losing valuable seconds. I was a fighter of the old school and couldn’t adapt to new rules. I was used to standing over my opponents to ensure they stayed down after I knocked them down. The count paused and then restarted at one. Tunney was up by the count of nine.”
Another instance of a “long count” occurred in Muhammad Ali’s first-round knockout of Sonny Liston in 1965 in Lewiston, Maine. During the fight, the referee, Jersey Joe Walcott, became confused, and the timekeeper, Nat Fleischer, shouted that Liston had not beaten the 10 count. Walcott stopped the fight approximately 17 seconds after the knockdown, while Liston was on his feet in a clinch. Fleischer was later reprimanded for overstepping his authority and interfering with the referee’s decision-making process.
As James “Buster” Douglas went down from Mike Tyson’s right uppercut, he expressed apparent frustration by slamming his left glove to the canvas, seemingly knowing that he had dominated Tyson throughout the fight. Despite this, he quickly gathered himself when the referee shouted, “Seven,” and managed to rise to his feet gradually but steadily. If the referee’s count had been in sync with the timekeeper’s count, Douglas seemed capable of beating the count.
In his own words, Douglas later stated, “I wasn’t really hurt. When I looked up, the count was at six. I got up between seven and eight. I clearly heard eight.”
In boxing, it is essential for a boxer who has been knocked down to listen for the referee’s count and observe their fingers. It’s not practical for a boxer to search for the timekeeper while trying to recover from a knockdown. As long as Douglas rose before the referee counted “Ten,” he had the right to continue the fight. Despite the referee’s mistake, it was Mike Tyson’s problem, not James Douglas’s problem.
Thankfully, the International Boxing Federation president, Bob Lee, made a wise and fair decision by recognizing James “Buster” Douglas as the world heavyweight champion of their organization.