(The following is a Multi-Part interview with Former Heavyweight Champion James “Buster” Douglas on the 20th Anniversary of his victory over Mike Tyson)
Though it may not quite seem like two decades have passed since snatching the Heavyweight Championship away from Mike Tyson, James “Buster” Douglas says that his very own heavybag serves as a steady reminder.
The former champion says that every times he “decides to hit the bag a little, it feels like twenty years.”
The Columbus, Ohio native has once again found himself at the center of much box-talk, as the fight community marks the 20th Anniversary of his victory over “Iron” Mike Tyson. On February 11, 1990, just two months before his 30th birthday, Douglas managed to pull off what is widely considered the greatest upset in boxing history. A 42-to-1 underdog, Douglas met Tyson in Tokyo, Japan in what was set to be an added chapter to the champion’s already multi-volume reel of knockouts. But what fans in attendance, as well as those watching around the world, had failed to realize was that “Buster” Douglas’ moment had finally arrived.
“I just felt that with everything going on, this had to be it. All that stuff was happening, and I for some reason, I was staying focus. I just knew this was it,” said Douglas last week from his Johnstown home.
Just 23 days prior to the Tyson bout, Douglas’ mother, Lula Pearl, succumbed to a fatal stroke. While lesser men would have relied on such a loss as an excuse to give up, Douglas channeled his emotion into strength and managed to focus on the challenge that laid ahead.
Of course, that challenge was Mike Tyson at a time when he was, by all measure, still considered “the baddest man on the planet.” Long before he crumbled before the likes of Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis, and Danny Williams, Tyson had blazed through the heavyweight ranks collecting the WBA, WBC, and IBF titles to create an alphabet soup all his own. At the time, he was equal parts a fearsome reality and growing legend. A fighter whose thirst to annihilate reached far beyond any need to simply win.
But Tyson, despite that spellbinding ability to crush whatever was placed before him, had never been truly tested. Never before had he been hurt nor forced to rise from the canvas and soldier on. Douglas recalls that his team knew this and viewed it as their key to victory.
“Everyone in camp said, ‘if he goes down, he ain’t gettin’ back up.’ Look, we were right.”
The fight that ensued between the two boxers, in great part, defined both men. For Tyson, it marked the poignant ending to a kind of title reign that hasn’t been seen since; and for Douglas, it was the completion of a childhood dream.
Be sure to read Part II tomorrow.