I WAS there when Buster Douglas beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo. Of the hundreds of newspaper men who predicted a winner, only the man from Douglas’ local publication in Ohio picked him to win. I’d watched Douglas lots of times and he had a reputation for swallowing it. When we interviewed him in his hotel room before the fight and he told us what he was going to do to Tyson and how he’d been inspired by the death of his mother, we wrote it all down and took it very seriously, but once the door was closed and we were down the corridor, we said, ‘He’s f****** mad.’
There were a few signs that all was not well with Tyson. Even then, there was trouble with his wife at the time, Robin Givens, and the mother-in-law, plus rumours that Greg Page had put him over in training. There was no real indication he was going to get beat but it clearly wasn’t the same Tyson who had won the title. Jim Jacobs had gone, Bill Cayton was no longer there, Cus D’Amato and Kevin Rooney were long gone and he was allowed to do exactly what he wanted. He didn’t train properly and he was obviously drinking and carousing although his wife
was with him; it just didn’t seem like a proper camp.
The Douglas defeat was the beginning of the end for Tyson. For one thing, he lost his aura of invincibility. Most of his wins came outside the ring, intimidating the opponent to such an extent that they were s******* themselves before the fight. That went after Douglas, people said, ‘If Douglas can do it, then I can.’ Evander Holyfield of course was not scared of any man and certainly not Tyson.
Tyson went to prison for three years, was out of the ring for four and that time out could never be put back. Muhammad Ali was out for a similar amount of time and while he was still terrific when he returned, he had lost speed and was a different kind of fighter. Likewise with Tyson.
He didn’t have the same mindset as on the way up, he was tremendous back then. But would he have intimidated Holyfield in 1986? I doubt it. There are five heavyweights from my era I believe would have beaten Tyson in his prime: Larry Holmes, Ali, Sonny Liston, George Foreman and Joe Frazier. When Tyson beat Trevor Berbick we thought he could be one of the all-time greats but then his flaws appeared. So he was a very good heavyweight but not a great one.