William Gerard McIntosh of OCASOMEDIA is exclusive agent for undisputed heavyweight boxing legend James Buster Douglas. Contact me best at: or call 305-396-2806
Undisputed: Buster Douglas vs. Mike Tyson, 25 Years Later
By Anthony Dominic Columbus MONTHLY
Twenty-five years have failed to dim the glory of James “Buster” Douglas’ masterful dismantling of Mike Tyson in a boxing ring in Japan. Relive the fight, its tragic run-up and its glowing aftermath through the voices of the people who were there.
James Douglas is dancing.
He should be sitting, relaxing, meditating, but he’s bouncing around his Tokyo Dome dressing room to a blaring boombox. The red and white tassels on his shoes bob in rhythm to the hip-hop beats as sweat begins to fleck his rangy 6-foot-4-inch frame. The 29-year-old is in the best shape of his life. He knows it, and his team knows it. In nine years as a professional boxer, Douglas’ fighting weight has seesawed between 208 and 260 pounds. This afternoon, the former college basketball player is at a taut 231. His body language, loose and lively, radiates cool.
At a glance, you’d never know he’s moments from a championship fight against “Iron” Mike Tyson, the 23-year-old king of the heavyweight division, whose professional record had improved to 37-0 the previous July following his 93-second knockout of Carl Williams. You’d never know, just the day before, that Douglas had been injected with penicillin to combat bronchitis, the flu and swollen tonsils. You’d never know the mother of his son had recently been admitted to an American hospital with a potentially fatal kidney ailment. And you’d never know his mother and best friend, Lula, had died 23 days ago in her Linden home following a hypertension-induced stroke.
From across the room, J.D. McCauley eyes his nephew. Since leaving behind a job loading tractor-trailers to train Douglas some seven years ago, this is the day they’ve been working for, waiting for, and here it is, unfolding in a haze of surreality.
In the six months leading to this mild February afternoon, Team Douglas didn’t misstep, McCauley’s sure of it. The trainer’s mind wanders to their camp back in Columbus, to his daily runs with Douglas in Sharon Woods, to the high-octane sparring sessions with pro boxers like James Pritchard and Fred Whitaker.
“He did everything that a trainer, a manager, a coach could ask for,” McCauley says of Douglas. It didn’t matter no one gave Douglas a chance in hell at beating Tyson; McCauley and Douglas’ manager, John Johnson, were convinced their fighter had the physical talent and mental discipline to do what 37 others couldn’t.
Yet, there was the weight. The shakable weight that couldn’t be seen, couldn’t be touched. And it was heavy on Douglas’ heart and mind. It had to be.
Nearly every day since his mother’s death, Johnson posed the same question to McCauley: “What do you think?” Translation: Do we call this off? Day after day, Douglas would dismiss the notion.
“I’m fine, I’m fine,” he’d insist. “Ima kill this guy.”
McCauley walks over to Douglas and puts a hand on his shoulder.
“How do you feel?” he asks over the music.
Douglas keeps bouncing. A slight smile. “Ima kill this guy, J.D. Ima kill this guy.”
Moments later, McCauley and Johnson are whisking Douglas to the ring. It feels more like floating. The whole Douglas posse, in matching black coats and red hats, is shouting, fist-pumping, almost galloping. To most of the 40,000 in attendance, it’s a cute scene; Douglas and his team are the only ones who don’t believe he’s trotting to his execution.
Public Enemy sounds over the loudspeakers, and Tyson emerges in a tattered white shirt. Word near ringside is the champ has been pounding the wall in his dressing room with his fists for the last 30 minutes. The same story circulated before his knockouts of Larry Holmes and Michael Spinks two years earlier; the latter took 91 seconds.
Tyson enters the ring and paces behind promoter Don King and trainer Aaron Snowell. A Japanese boxing commissioner tries to present the champ with a “Joe Louis heavyweight superbelt,” but Tyson turns his back to the man, whom King begins waving away. They’re not interested. There’s a get-in-and-get-out vibe among the Tyson camp. Snowell and his assistants didn’t even bring an enswell and ice to treat cuts. They won’t need them.
“All right, fans, here we go,” ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. trumpets. “This is it. The main event scheduled for 12 rounds of boxing. Introducing to you the challenger on my right in the blue corner. He’s entering the ring wearing white trunks with red trim and fighting out of Columbus, Ohio. ... Please welcome the challenger, James ‘Buster’ Douglas!”
A modest reaction from the otherwise hushed crowd.
“And his opponent, the defending champion on my left, really needing no introduction the world over ...”
Douglas gazes off into the black of the arena.
“Had I not been in the ring, had somewhere to go to explode, no telling where I’d be,” he says. “And I had every reason to go out and put on some bullshit performance. People would have said, ‘Well, I understand, man. I don’t know how many people could do that after that happens.’ I didn’t want that to be my legacy to her-like I was unable to continue because she passed. She wasn’t that type of woman, and she wouldn’t have allowed me to be like that.”
The two men are toe to toe in the center of the ring. Douglas looks through Tyson’s unwavering glare. Fear was the champ’s weapon as much as his punching power and hand speed. But what did Douglas have to fear? The worst had already happened.
“Gentleman, remember the dressing room instructions,” referee Octavio Meyran says. “Shake hands, and good luck both.”
HBO commentator Jim Lampley, stationed ringside, makes one last proclamation about the challenger: “He would shock most of the world if he could make it into the middle rounds.”
The fighters charge, Douglas from the left, Tyson from the right, whirling counterclockwise.