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.”
Holyfield: “Mike looked at me and I looked at Mike, I made it clear that whatever he did, however he played, I would do it all night…”
Lewis: “All of a sudden Tyson turned into King Kong. Where did that guy come from?…”
Williams: “It was the second or third round when I just thought, ‘Forget it, I’m going to war with you.’…”
McBride: “Thank God he had the mouthpiece in, or I’d be the only guy in Ireland with just one nipple…”