James ‘Buster’ Douglas: I would have beaten Mike Tyson even better in a rematch

Buster Douglas
Buster Douglas tells James Slater what came before, during, and after his fight with Mike Tyson

COLUMBUS, Ohio’s James “Buster” Douglas will always be remembered for one incredible fight/upset: the one that occurred the day he challenged the seemingly invincible Mike Tyson on February 11th 1990 in Tokyo, Japan.

Douglas simply shocked the entire world with his tenth-round KO win and his name will forever live in the history books as a result. But Douglas, who exited with a 38-6-1(25) record in 1999, had a number of other interesting fights, not all of them wins, and here he recalls his career for Boxing News:

Q: I’ll come to the Tyson fight a bit later if that’s okay, James! As talented and as gifted as you were, how did you lose to David Bey (TKO by 2) and get held to a draw by Steffen Tangstad, both in your early days as a pro?

James Douglas: “Well, the Bey fight, that was my first shot at the big time, my first fight on a big card. He was a strong guy. I guess I was just overwhelmed, but that was a learning experience for me and I did learn from it. Tangstad, that was a good fight. I hit him with what I thought was a good punch but they said I hit him on the break and took a point from me. That made the fight a draw. But all those fights, they were just learning experiences, or growing pains as I called them at the time. I had left the amateurs at age 15 and come back [as a pro] at age 21 and I had to learn the game and adjust.”

Q: And the 1987 fight with Tony Tucker, for the IBF title, you were winning that but got stopped in the tenth-round. What happened? I know the critics gave you a tough time after that loss.

J.D: “The Tucker fight, it was pretty tough, that whole experience. In the camp and during the lead-up to that fight, I wasn’t mentally focused as I should have been. You know, you’ve gotta be right in all aspects when going into a big fight. I wasn’t and I fell short. Again, all I can say is, growing pains. Tucker was a good fighter and once again I made sure I learned from that experience. I learned from all my setbacks on the way up.”

Q: Despite the Tucker loss, you still believed you’d become world heavyweight champion one day?

J.D: “Oh yeah! The lessons that I’ve talked about, they made me even more determined. I knew I could compete with the best – those losses told me that – and I knew I had a lot to offer the game.”

Q: Another often unmentioned fight of yours is the one you had with the tough Randall “Tex” Cobb, who you beat on points. How tough was he?

J.D: “He was a good fighter, too. In fact, he was an awesome fighter. He just came with so much pressure. He actually reminded me of my father (former middleweight, Billy “Dynamite“ Douglas), who I sparred with a lot as a teenager. The pressure was just crazy, whatever you hit him [Cobb] with, he just came right at you. My jab was underestimated and a lot of fighters, when I hit them with a stiff, firm jab, they were not sure if it was a jab or a right hand. But he [Cobb] just kept pushing through. I had to make sure that pressure never psyched me out. Yeah, I faced some good fighters in the lead up to the Tyson fight. I was experienced at that time and I had earned my stripes.”

Q: So much has been written about the Tyson fight and you must have been asked just about everything about that incredible fight. But I’ll give it a shot: how badly hurt were you in that eighth-round when he knocked you down?

J.D: “I wasn’t hurt at all. I was more off balance, he hit me while I was squared up. The force of the punch knocked me down as I was trying to stop myself from going down. But I was totally into the fight and I was totally aware of everything. I saw in his [Tyson’s] eyes that he was all woken up and ready to get the win and I knew I had to get right back at him.”

Q: You got up at “nine” as I recall. Have you ever thought about what might have been if the referee had given you a quick count and waved the fight off?

J.D: “I could’ve gotten up quicker, earlier. But I took the eight-count and gave myself a body check, to make sure I was on point. But I was able to get up at any time. If he’d have counter faster, I’d have gotten up faster than I did.”

Q: Going into the fight, did you always think you’d stop or KO Tyson, or did you think that with your skills you’d out-point him?

J.D: “All I knew was that I’d give it my best and fight hard. I knew I was in great shape.”

Q: Does it seem as long ago to you as it actually was?

J.D: “Yeah, it’s the anniversary coming up. It’s pretty exciting.”

Q: After what you’d achieved by beating Tyson, in a fight that no-one will ever forget, was it almost impossible to get as “up” physically and mentally for your next fight, which came against Holyfield?

J.D: “I went through a lot, with all the B.S that came – we had to go to court (as Tyson and Don King protested the fight, citing the so called “long count”), and it was like I never stopped fighting after I won the fight and the title. By the time I go t to camp, it was tough. It was my fault, in that I shouldn’t have allowed all that to effect me like it did, but I wasn’t properly prepared. There was so much pressure. What had been a wonderful childhood dream come true became a nightmare. I’m still mad at all that today. But I know I had a great career. I achieved what I set out to achieve, and became heavyweight champion of the world. I know I achieved far more than a lot of people felt I would achieve.”

Q: People still talk about what would have happened had you and Tyson fought a rematch. Have you given that much thought?

J.D: “Of course. I would’ve beaten him even better in a rematch!”

Q: Are you a promoter now, James?

J.D: “No, I’m working with amateurs. I have a nice group of kids, aged from eight up to 21 and above.”

Q: One other fighter you might have met in 1990 or 1991 if you were still champion was George Foreman. How do you think you’d have done against the old exp-champ if you’d fought him instead of Holyfield?

J.D: “Well, my plan was to beat Holyfield, then defend against Foreman, and then give Tyson a rematch before calling it a day. Unfortunately it didn’t work out that way. But I’m happy and I’m content with what I did achieve and today I have no regrets.”


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  • Buster did get up at 9 and that took 13 seconds – but a fighter only has to get up before the referee’s count of 10 and so that was fine. I disagree that Douglas would have beaten Tyson in a rematch because Tyson would have trained properly for it and it would have been before he went to jail and returned a shadow of his former self.

    • Is Buster Douglas serious ? Tyson would’ve Obliterated him QUICKLY if a re-match came to fruition. Knowing Douglas mind set, I seriously DOUBT he would repeat that same success. Tyson would be pumped the second time.


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