Coming back from the dead
By Nick Lewis
He became the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in 1990. He knocked out a supposedly invincible kid by the name of Mike Tyson in the 10th round. Nine months later Evander Holyfield stole the crown. Now, seven years since the loss, James "Buster" Douglas wants his title back.
Life has been tough for Douglas since Oct. 25, 1990, the day Holyfield knocked him out in the third round. Shamefully lying on his back as the new champion wore his belt, Douglas started a journey to hell, one filled with the turmoil and confusion of his inner demons. He binged on drinking and eating and at 350 pounds, entered a diabetic coma and became another cartoon character in the corrupt world of boxing. The world quickly forgot his name.
"Mentally I was just out of it," he says. "I put most of the responsibility on myself because I'm the one who goes in there and performs. I let myself down.
"But now I'm back. I'm back from the dead."
Down to his fighting weight of 246 pounds and finally back in shape, he faces Dickie Ryan Feb. 12 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. But the former champion is looking beyond the Ryan fight regarding the 40-2 kid as a roadblock to his real dream.
"I want to regain the heavyweight championship of the world and I want to do that by fighting the winner of the Holyfield-Tyson rematch," he asserts. "I've always said that if I could have one big rematch it would be Evander but I'm just looking to beat the winner of their rematch.
"I was in good shape the first time I fought Evander but mentally I just wasn't there. That's one of the reasons I'm here today.
"I've seen Evander on the TV where he's said he wants to fight at least a few more times before he retires. As a former champion I think that puts me in line. I gave him a shot at me seven years ago, so I think he'll return the favour."
At 36 he may be a lot older, but he feels he has never been in better shape.
"I get my inspiration from George Foreman," he says. "It's people like him that show me that age is just a number so it makes me feel good to know it's all right for me to be around.
"Right now I'm not the Buster Douglas I was seven years ago," he says. "Right now I'm the new and improved Buster Douglas. I'm a more appreciative Buster Douglas because I'm just happy to be where I am right now and not where I was two years ago. I just wanted to give back to the sport that gave me. Now I'm back on my feet and I'm just glad to be living."
Douglas watched the initial fight between his rivals Holyfield and Tyson with mixed emotions and was not surprised at the result.
"Not a bit," he says. "I wasn't surprised that Evander won that at all. If Evander goes out and fights the same way he did in the rematch in May, he should beat him again. But Mike should come out strong.
"It'll be a great fight either way."
For now though, Douglas has to look to the present and that includes a fight with a tough contender in Ryan, a boxer who has 30 knockouts under his belt and is looking to add another.
"I don't really know too much about him," Douglas says. "I've seen a few tapes of him and he comes out to fight he's a banger. He takes a punch to give a punch. I've just got to give him more than I get and I've got to give them harder. The opportunity to be the champion again is my driving force."
Douglas doesn't know what the future holds for him but he knows it looks positive.
"I'm going to keep boxing as long as my health and ambition continue to stay strong. Hell, I'll fight once a month if I have to, I just want to fight. And I'm going to keep fighting till I force someone's hand and they have no choice but to fight me."
Fighting is what Douglas does best it's the only thing he knows how to do. And no man fights better than the one who has already conquered himself.
Photo courtesy of Mike Munden
MAMA SAID KNOCK YOU OOOUUUT! James "Buster Douglas hits the speed bag at the Lula Pearl Center in Columbus, Ohio, a recreation centre named after his late mother