Buster Douglas – 25 years after one of boxing’s biggest upsets
(Daily Mail) COLUMBUS, Ohio –
Boxing legend James ‘Buster’ Douglas stunned the world when he knocked out previously undefeated champion Mike Tyson in what became one of the biggest upsets in the sport’s history.
But while Tyson – nicknamed ‘The Baddest Man on the Planet’ – went on to have a long and lucrative career both in and out of the ring, boxing hero Douglas’ moment in the spotlight was short lived.
In the years after his historic victory, his boxing career came crashing down and the heavyweight champion fell into a pit of drinking, binge-eating and depression.
He struggled to cope with losing both his parents and the shooting deaths of two of his brothers.
At his lowest point Douglas ballooned to almost 450 pounds and slipped into a diabetic coma that almost killed him.
Now as the 25th anniversary of the dramatic fight approaches, Douglas is celebrating getting a ‘second chance at life’ and admits that life outside the ring has been much harder than his ten hard fought rounds with boxing giant Tyson.
‘Life is definitely harder than fighting Tyson or anyone else,’ he told DailyMail.com.
‘Life outside the ring is real, it’s hardcore.
‘But you know once I came out of my depression, and quit drinking all the time, I felt like I got a second lease at life.
‘I look forward to every day now.’
Douglas, 54, who lives in his hometown of Columbus, Ohio, was the 42 to 1 outsider when he entered the ring In Tokyo, Japan on February 11, 1990 to take on the world champion in a match billed as ‘Tyson is back’.
Most casinos in Las Vegas had refused to even offer odds on the fight, so certain they were that Tyson would annihilate his opposition.
But Douglas had trained hard and despite losing his beloved mother Lula to a stroke just 23 days before the fight, he was sharply focused.
Recovering from a knock down in the eighth round, Douglas claimed victory a minute into round 10, slamming ‘Iron Mike’ Tyson to the ground with a flurry of powerful punches.
Even now, Douglas still remembers the jubilation of that night, the crowd chanting his name, as he became heavyweight champion of the world.
“It was just great – I have great memories of that night, the preparation, just focusing, feeling good about going in there and doing something everybody thought was impossible,” he said.
“I fought hard that night, I was in shape and he went down.”
But Tyson was not willing to hand over his title that easily, and soon after the fight launched a campaign to strip Douglas of the title – claiming he should have been counted out in the eighth round.
Although Tyson ultimately lost the appeal – it spoiled what should have been a night of celebration for Douglas and embroiled him in a legal battle that lasted months.
Even now, Douglas brands Tyson a ‘sore loser’ and admits the pair barely spoke to each other when they met for the first time since the fight two years ago.
‘He’s a big time sore loser,’ Douglas said. ‘He was upset that night I beat him. He was whining and complaining like a baby in a crib.
‘It was an enjoyable win, having everyone chanting my name, but after that I was stuck in a legal battle for about four months trying get the right to call myself champion of the world so that was pretty difficult.
‘I still celebrated with my trainer and stuff but it did spoil it.
‘I met Tyson in Cincinnati a couple of years ago at a boxing event and took pictures and stuff. He didn’t say much – we didn’t speak much at all in fact.’
Just months after beating Tyson, Douglas lost his title to Evander Holyfield in a championship match on October 25, 1990, and the boxing hero’s life began spiraling downwards.
Still struggling to deal with the death of his mother – Douglas, a diabetic, stopped training, began downing bottles of cognac and beer – and his weight doubled to nearly 450 pounds.
Then finally in 1994, Douglas, who had always managed his diabetes well, hit rock bottom and slipped into a near fatal diabetic coma.
‘I was drinking and eating whatever I wanted. I just didn’t give a darn. I was depressed.
‘It was never about money I was financially secure, it’s just the way everything didn’t go as I planned after I won that title, then there was the readjustment to get over that, but I kept wallowing in self pity.
‘My lowest point was when I went into the diabetic coma.
‘I put on all that weight and I almost passed away. But I got a second chance and I came through.
‘I woke up after being in the coma for about three days and I decided right there and then it was my time to get back on the horse and start riding again instead of sitting around moping and feeling bad about myself.’
As well as surviving the coma, Douglas has had more than his fair share of personal tragedies to cope with.
His father Bill, who was also Douglas’ trainer and manager died in 1999 after a hard cancer battle.
And two of his brothers were shot dead in separate incidents.
‘My youngest brother was shot in 1981 and my brother who was a year younger than me he was shot in 1998.
‘It’s been hard to deal with. But we just keep the faith and keep moving on it’s all we can do.’
Douglas believes it was a combination of tragedies and setbacks that drove him to drink.
‘It was depression, the way everything went, my boxing career, the way everything came crashing to an end.
‘I was really down about everything but I didn’t really have anyone to talk to about it. My wife was always someone I talked to and confided in but she wasn’t around then so I had to just get through it.
‘I just had to get back involved in life, back involved with my family and I did.
‘After my coma I decided to look at the brighter side of life, how fortunate a person I am and ever since then I’ve lived a wonderful life.’
The dad-of-four, who lives with wife Bertha, has now successfully battled his demons and has found a new lease of life as a boxing coach.
He coaches amateur and professional boxers from his gym in Columbus – including two of his sons Kevin, nine, and Artie, 21, who he hopes may follow in his footsteps.
‘I have a couple of professional fighters who I manage and I also coach amateur fighters trying to create a dynasty here.
‘I’m really enjoying working with these kids – it’s like full circle for me coming back to the place where I started and I’m having a blast.
‘It’s like I’m going all over again from the beginning but I’m at the end – I’m the coach now.
‘I know what all the kids are going through because I’ve been there done that.
‘When they struggle I tell them it’s going to be alright – that there will be better days ahead.’