James "Buster" Douglas (born April 7, 1960) is an American former professional boxer who competed between 1981 and 1999. He is best known for his upset victory over Mike Tyson on February 11, 1990, in Tokyo, to win the undisputed heavyweight title. At the time Tyson was undefeated and considered to be the best boxer in the world as well as one of the most feared heavyweight champions in history due to his domination of the division over the previous three years. The Mirage was the only casino to make odds for the fight (all others declining to do so as they considered the fight such a foregone conclusion), and had Douglas as a 42-to-1 underdog, making his victory, in commentator Jim Lampley's words, "The biggest upset in the history of heavyweight championship fights." Douglas reigned as the world heavyweight champion for eight months and two weeks, losing on October 25, 1990, to Evander Holyfield via third-round knockout, in his only title defense.

Buster Douglas
Real nameJames Douglas
Height6 ft 3 12 in (192 cm)
Reach83 in (211 cm)
Born (1960-04-07) April 7, 1960 (age 59)
Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
Boxing record
Total fights46
Wins by KO25
No contests1

Early lifeEdit

The son of professional boxer William "Dynamite" Douglas, Douglas grew up in Columbus, Ohio, in the predominantly black Linden neighborhood of Windsor Terrace. It was his father, who ran a gym at the Blackburn Recreation Center near Downtown Columbus, and subsequently introduced young James to boxing (in the same way James had later brought his son Lamar to the same gym.) He attended Linden McKinley High School, where he played football and basketball, leading Linden to a Class AAA state basketball championship in 1977. After high school, Douglas played basketball for the Coffeyville Community College Red Ravens in Coffeyville, Kansas, from 1977 to 1978; the 17-year-old was a 6'0" power forward. He is in the Coffeyville Community College Men's Basketball Hall of Fame.[1] He also played basketball at Sinclair Community College from 1979 to 1980 in Dayton, Ohio, before attending Mercyhurst University on a basketball scholarship. He moved back to Columbus to focus on boxing.[2] For a brief period of time during his early twenties, Douglas was known as the "Desert Fox" within the Columbus boxing community. This moniker was affixed to Douglas because of a misinterpreted encyclopedia entry regarding Douglas MacArthur and Erwin Rommel. Several friends of Buster Douglas mistakenly believed that Douglas MacArthur was known as the "Desert Fox" and subsequently addressed the future heavyweight champion as such. However, Buster Douglas distanced himself from the "Desert Fox" label no later than 1985 because of clarification from his promotional team and the concern that he might be confused with Syrian boxer Ghiath Tayfour.[3][4]

Professional careerEdit

Douglas made his debut on May 31, 1981, and defeated Dan O'Malley in a four-round bout. He was managed by John Johnson (former Ohio State assistant football coach.) He won his first five fights before coming into a fight with David Bey twenty pounds heavier than he usually did in his early fights. Bey knocked Douglas out in the second round to hand him his first defeat. After six more fights, all wins, Douglas fought Steffen Tangstad to a draw on October 16, 1982. He was penalized two points during the course of the fight which proved to be the difference.

After the draw Douglas beat largely journeyman fighters over the next fourteen months. Two of his wins were against Jesse Clark. Douglas fought him a total of three times and knocked him out all three times. In his last fight of 1983, Douglas was dominating opponent Mike White, but White knocked him out in the ninth round.

On November 9th, Douglas was scheduled to fight heavyweight contender Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas. Berbick pulled out of the bout three days before it was scheduled and Randall "Tex" Cobb elected to take the fight in Berbick's place. Douglas defeated the former heavyweight contender by winning a majority decision. The next year, he fought up-and-coming contender Jesse Ferguson, In 1986 Douglas fought only three times defeating former champion Greg Page and fringe contender David Jaco in two of the fights. This earned him a shot at the International Boxing Federation championship that Michael Spinks was stripped of for refusing to defend it. Douglas started well against Tony Tucker and was ahead on points, but he ran out of gas and was stopped in the tenth round.

After the Tucker defeat and series of disagreements James split with his father, the Douglas family was shattered, James started business from scratch and handpicked another team for himself, particularly a new trainer. This won him four consecutive fights and he went on to fight Trevor Berbick in 1989, winning by a unanimous decision. He followed that up with a unanimous decision victory over future heavyweight champion Oliver McCall, and earned a shot at the undisputed heavyweight championship held by Mike Tyson, who became the universally recognized champion after knocking out Spinks in one round in 1988. (Douglas fought on the undercard of the event and defeated Mike Williams by TKO in seven rounds.)

Undisputed heavyweight championEdit

The fight against Mike Tyson was scheduled for February 11, 1990, and took place in Tokyo at the Tokyo Dome. Almost everyone assumed that the bout was going to be another quick knockout for the champion. No challenger had taken Tyson beyond the fifth round since 1987. Many thought it was just an easy tune-up for Tyson before a future mega-fight with undefeated Evander Holyfield, who had recently moved up to heavyweight from cruiserweight where he became the first boxer to be the undisputed champion of the weight class. Douglas was given so little chance of lasting against Tyson, let alone beating him, that nearly every betting parlor in Las Vegas refused to hold odds for the fight. The one casino that did, The Mirage, made Douglas a 42-to-1 underdog.

Douglas's mother, Lula Pearl, suddenly died at the age of forty-six, 23 days before the title bout.[5] Douglas, who had trained hard, surprised the world by dominating the fight from the beginning, using his 12-inch reach advantage to perfection. He seemingly hit Tyson at will with jabs and right hands and danced out of range of Tyson's own punches. The champion had not taken Douglas seriously, expecting another quick and easy knockout victory. He was slow, refusing to move his head and slip his way in (his usual effective strategy) but rather setting his feet and throwing big, lunging hooks, repeatedly trying to beat Douglas with single punches. By the fifth round, Tyson's left eye was swelling shut from Douglas's many right jabs, and ringside HBO announcers proclaimed it was the most punishment they had ever seen the champion absorb. Larry Merchant memorably added, "Well, if Mike Tyson, who loves pigeons, was looking for a pigeon in this bout, he hasn't found him."

Tyson's cornermen appeared to be unprepared for the suddenly dire situation. They had not brought an endswell or an ice pack to the fight, so they were forced to put tap water into a latex glove to hold over Tyson's swelling eye. By the end of the fight, Tyson's eye had swollen almost completely shut. In the eighth round, Tyson landed a right uppercut that knocked Douglas down. The referee's count created controversy as Douglas was on his feet when the referee reached nine, although the official knockdown timekeeper was two seconds ahead. In the ring, the final arbiter of the knockdown seconds is the referee and a comparison with Douglas's winning knockdown count issued to Tyson two rounds later revealed that both fighters had received long counts.[6]

Tyson came out aggressively in the dramatic ninth round and continued his attempts to end the fight with one big punch hoping that Douglas was still hurt from the eighth round knockdown. Both men traded punches before Douglas connected on a multi-punch combination that staggered Tyson back to the ropes. With Tyson hurt along the ropes Douglas unleashed a vicious attack to try to finish off a dazed Tyson but, amazingly, Tyson withstood the punishment and barely survived the ninth round. In the tenth round, the severe punishment Douglas had inflicted on Tyson finally began to take its toll on the champion. Douglas dominated the round from the outset. While setting Tyson up with his jab Douglas scored a huge uppercut that snapped Tyson's head upward. He followed with a rapid four-punch combination to the head, and knocked Tyson down for the first time in his career. Tyson struggled to his knees and picked up his mouthpiece lying on the mat next to him. He awkwardly attempted to place it back into his mouth. The image of Tyson with the mouthpiece hanging crookedly from his lips would become an enduring image from the fight. He was unable to beat the referee's count, and Douglas was the new world heavyweight champion.[7] As Douglas said in an interview years later, “I thought Tyson was getting up until I had seen him looking for that mouth piece and then I knew that he was really hurt. So anytime you know you only got ten seconds to get up so you aren’t going to worry about anything but just getting up first. So when I had seen him looking around for that mouth piece I knew he was really hurt.”[8] By contrast, during Douglas's knockdown two rounds earlier, Douglas showed he was ready to beat the count and continue (he bangs his fist against the canvas in frustration at having let Tyson land the crucial counterpunch, showing no signs of being seriously hurt). Douglas was clearly showing he was waiting for the referee to count to 8 before getting up.

Douglas's joy over the victory soon turned to confusion and anger as manager John Johnson informed him in the dressing room that Tyson and Don King were lodging an official protest about the referee's knockdown count in the eighth round. A week later, during a television interview, Douglas said that the protest and the post-fight confusion ruined what should have been the best time of his life.

Losing the titleEdit

Although the IBF immediately recognized Douglas as its champion, the WBA and WBC initially refused due to Tyson's protest.[9] However, Tyson withdrew his protest four days later amid worldwide public outcry and demands from boxing commissions around the world, and Douglas was officially recognized as undisputed heavyweight champion.[10][11]

While still champion, Douglas appeared on the February 23, 1990 episode of the World Wrestling Federation's The Main Event III, as special guest referee for a rematch between Hulk Hogan and "Macho Man" Randy Savage. Originally, Tyson was scheduled to be the guest referee, but following the upset, the WWF scrambled to sign on Douglas for the event. At the end of the match, Douglas was provoked into a kayfabe punch and knockout of Savage, who was the heel wrestler in the match.

The defeated Tyson clamored for a rematch and Douglas was offered more money than he had ever made for a fight. Not wanting to deal with Tyson's camp or his promoter Don King, Douglas decided to make his first defense against #1 contender Evander Holyfield, who had watched the new champion dethrone Tyson from ringside in Tokyo. Douglas went into the October 25, 1990 fight at 246 pounds, 15 pounds heavier than he was for the Tyson match and also the heaviest he had weighed in for a fight since a 1985 bout with Dion Simpson, in which he tipped the scale at just over 247 pounds.

Douglas came out rather sluggish, and was thoroughly dominated by Holyfield during the first two rounds. In the third round Douglas attempted to hit Holyfield with a hard uppercut that he telegraphed. Holyfield avoided the uppercut and knocked an off-balance Douglas to the canvas with a straight right to the chin. Douglas merely lay flat on his back, motionless and disoriented, as referee Mills Lane stopped the fight. Buster Douglas retired after that bout.

Later careerEdit

Douglas vs Holyfield was a reported $24.6 million payday for Douglas. Doing little for the next several years, Douglas gained weight, reaching nearly 400 pounds. It was only after he nearly died during a diabetic coma that he decided to attempt a return to the sport. He went back into training and made a comeback. He was successful at first, winning six straight fights, but his comeback almost came to a halt in a 1997 disqualification win over journeyman Louis Monaco. In a bizarre ending, Monaco landed a right hand, just after the bell ending round one, that knocked Douglas to the canvas. Douglas was unable to continue after a five-minute rest period and was consequently awarded the win by disqualification (on account of Monaco's illegal punch).

A fight with light-heavyweight champion Roy Jones, Jr. was touted in the late 1990s, although ultimately fell through.[12] In 1998 Douglas was knocked out in the first round of a fight with heavyweight contender Lou Savarese. Douglas subsequently had two more fights, winning both, and retired in 1999 with a final record of 38–6–1.

In the mediaEdit

Douglas made a guest appearance in the 1990s cop show Street Justice.

Douglas made his feature film acting debut in the Artie Knapp science fiction comedy film Pluto's Plight.

Douglas was the star of the video game James 'Buster' Douglas Knockout Boxing for the Sega Master System and Sega Genesis. (In reality, Sega took a pre-existing game, Final Blow, changed the name, and changed one of the character's names to Douglas'.) This game is considered as a response to Nintendo's Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!, especially since Tyson lost to Douglas, which Sega took advantage in order to promote their early "Genesis does what Nintendon't" advertisements - an advertising campaign in which Douglas frequently participated.

In 1995, HBO aired Tyson, a television movie based upon the life of Mike Tyson. Douglas was portrayed by actor Duane Davis.

Douglas' upset against Tyson is the inspiration for The Killers' song "Tyson vs Douglas" from their Wonderful Wonderful album. Singer songwriter Brandon Flowers used the childhood memory of watching the seemingly invincible Tyson lose, as the motivation for a song that's about "me and my family, and the way I’m perceived by my kids. I don’t want them to see me go down like Tyson." [13]


Douglas is one of the few non-students to be honored by Ohio State University with the opportunity to dot the "i" during the performance of the Script Ohio by The Ohio State University Marching Band.[14]

Professional boxing recordEdit

Professional record summary
46 fights 38 wins 6 losses
By knockout 25 5
By decision 12 1
By disqualification 1 0
Draws 1
No contests 1
No. Result Record Opponent Type Round, time Date Location Notes
46 Win 38–6–1 (1)   Andre Crowder TKO 1 (10), 1:11 Feb 19, 1999   Memorial Auditorium, Burlington, Iowa, U.S.
45 Win 37–6–1 (1)   Warren Williams KO 1 (10), 2:56 Dec 12, 1998   Bank of America Centre, Boise, Idaho, U.S.
44 Loss 36–6–1 (1)   Lou Savarese KO 1 (12), 2:34 Jun 25, 1998   Foxwoods Resort Casino, Ledyard, Connecticut, U.S. For vacant IBA heavyweight title
43 Win 36–5–1 (1)   Quinn Navarre TKO 4 (10), 2:25 Jul 13, 1997   Grand Casino, Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S.
42 Win 35–5–1 (1)   Louis Monaco DQ 1 (10), 3:00 May 13, 1997   Grand Casino, Biloxi, Mississippi, U.S. Monaco disqualified for hitting after the bell
41 Win 34–5–1 (1)   Brian Scott KO 6 (10), 0:30 Mar 30, 1997   Mohegan Sun Arena, Montville, Connecticut, U.S.
40 Win 33–5–1 (1)   Dicky Ryan UD 10 Feb 12, 1997   The Theater at Madison Square Garden, New York City, New York, U.S.
39 Win 32–5–1 (1)   Rocky Pepeli UD 10 Jan 10, 1997   Mohegan Sun Arena, Montville, Connecticut, U.S.
38 Win 31–5–1 (1)   Tony LaRosa RTD 3 (10), 3:00 Jun 22, 1996   Etess Arena, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
37 Loss 30–5–1 (1)   Evander Holyfield KO 3 (12), 1:10 Oct 25, 1990   The Mirage, Paradise, Nevada, U.S. Lost WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal heavyweight titles
36 Win 30–4–1 (1)   Mike Tyson KO 10 (12), 1:22 Feb 11, 1990   Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan Won WBA, WBC, IBF, and lineal heavyweight titles
35 Win 29–4–1 (1)   Oliver McCall UD 10 Jul 21, 1989   Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
34 Win 28–4–1 (1)   Trevor Berbick UD 10 Feb 25, 1989   Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
33 Win 27–4–1 (1)   Mike Williams TKO 7 (10), 2:45 Jun 27, 1988   Convention Hall, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
32 Win 26–4–1 (1)   Jerry Halstead TKO 9 (10) Apr 16, 1988   Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
31 Win 25–4–1 (1)   Percell Davis RTD 9 (10) Feb 24, 1988   Pioneer Hall, Duluth, Minnesota, U.S.
30 Win 24–4–1 (1)   Donnie Long KO 2 (10), 2:18 Nov 19, 1987   Downtown Sheraton, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
29 Loss 23–4–1 (1)   Tony Tucker TKO 10 (15), 1:36 May 30, 1987   Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S. For vacant IBF heavyweight title
28 Win 23–3–1 (1)   Dee Collier UD 10 Sep 6, 1986   Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
27 Win 22–3–1 (1)   David Jaco UD 10 Apr 19, 1986   Las Vegas Hilton, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
26 Win 21–3–1 (1)   Greg Page UD 10 Jan 17, 1986   Omni Coliseum, Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.
25 Loss 20–3–1 (1)   Jesse Ferguson MD 10 May 9, 1985   Caesars Boardwalk Regency, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
24 Win 20–2–1 (1)   Dion Simpson KO 1 (8), 3:01 Mar 27, 1985   Steel Pier, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
23 Win 19–2–1 (1)   Randall Cobb MD 10 Nov 9, 1984   Riviera, Winchester, Nevada, U.S.
22 NC 18–2–1 (1)   David Starkey NC 1 (10) Jul 9, 1984   East Dallas Club, Columbus, Ohio, U.S. NC after both boxers' corners stormed the ring
21 Loss 18–2–1   Mike White TKO 9 (10) Dec 17, 1983   Sands Hotel and Casino, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
20 Win 18–1–1   Eugene Cato TKO 1 (8) Sep 28, 1983   Sands Hotel and Casino, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
19 Win 17–1–1   Dave Johnson MD 10 Jul 5, 1983   Sands Hotel and Casino, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
18 Win 16–1–1   Henry Porter TKO 2 (8), 1:36 Apr 28, 1983   Sands Hotel and Casino, Paradise, Nevada, U.S.
17 Win 15–1–1   Jesse Clark KO 2 (8) Apr 16, 1983   Catholic Central Highschool, Muskegon, Michigan, U.S.
16 Win 14–1–1   Leroy Diggs TKO 7 (10) Mar 29, 1983   Tropicana, Atlantic City, New Jersey, U.S.
15 Win 13–1–1   Jesse Clark KO 2 (8) Mar 9, 1983   V.I.P. Club, Niles, Ohio, U.S.
14 Win 12–1–1   Tim Johnson KO 1 (8) Nov 20, 1982   Infinity Club, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
13 Draw 11–1–1   Steffen Tangstad UD 8 Oct 16, 1982   Bismarck Hotel, Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
12 Win 11–1   Mel Daniels TKO 1 (6) Apr 24, 1982   War Memorial Arena, Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
11 Win 10–1   Rick Enis MD 6 Apr 8, 1982   Sherwood Club, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
10 Win 9–1   Marvin Earle TKO 2 (6) Feb 15, 1982   Stan & Ollie's Lounge, Kalamazoo, Michigan, U.S.
9 Win 8–1   Donny Townsend UD 6 Feb 13, 1982   Central Tech High School, Erie, Pennsylvania, U.S.
8 Win 7–1   Hubert Adams KO 1 (6) Jan 23, 1982   Morgan High School, McConnelsville, Ohio, U.S.
7 Win 6–1   Don Johnson TKO 3 (6) Dec 23, 1981   Memorial Civic Center, Canton, Ohio, U.S.
6 Loss 5–1   David Bey TKO 2 (4) Nov 6, 1981   Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, U.S.
5 Win 5–0   Jesse Clark KO 3 (4) Oct 23, 1981   Swayne Hall, Toledo, Ohio, U.S.
4 Win 4–0   Abdul Muhaymin TKO 5 (6), 1:56 Oct 14, 1981   Tyndall Armory, Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S.
3 Win 3–0   Mike Rodgers TKO 3 (4) Sep 27, 1981   Veterans Memorial Auditorium, Columbus, Ohio, U.S. Professional debut according to some sources
2 Win 2–0   Mike Lear UD 4 Jul 24, 1981   Mount Vernon Plaza, Columbus, Ohio, U.S.
1 Win 1–0   Dan O'Malley TKO 3 (4) May 31, 1981   Mount Vernon Plaza, Columbus, Ohio, U.S. Listed by some sources as an exhibition

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Men's Basketball Hall of Fame". Coffeyville Community College. Retrieved 25 June 2011.[dead link]
  2. ^ "A changed Buster Douglas reconnects with true self". Dayton Daily News. Retrieved 13 January 2012.
  3. ^ Arabic Eurosport: اغتيال الملاكم السوري غياث طيفور برصاص مسلحين (in Arabic) Archived March 14, 2012, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Long, Bill (2007). Tyson-Douglas: The Inside Story of the Upset of the Century. Potomac Books. pp. 122–124.
  5. ^ "Timeline James "Buster" Douglas". The Columbus Dispatch. 2007-06-08. Archived from the original on 2011-05-23. Retrieved 2008-05-30.
  6. ^ Anderson, Dave (1990-02-12). "SPORTS OF THE TIMES; Referee's Count Is What Counts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-02-07.
  7. ^ "The Lineal Heavyweight Boxing Champs". The Cyber Boxing Zone Encyclopedia. Archived from the original on 2009-06-03.
  8. ^ "Buster Douglas on the Tyson vs Douglas fight". boxingmemories.com. Retrieved 2011-04-18.
  9. ^ Berger, Phil (1990-02-12). "Boxing Officials Could Overturn Defeat of Tyson". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  10. ^ "What They Really Meant to Say Was..." Los Angeles Times. 1990-02-14. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  11. ^ Berger, Phil (1990-02-14). "Tyson Concedes; Wants Rematch". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  12. ^ "Will He Be A Tyson Chicken?". Sports Illustrated. 1998-05-04. Archived from the original on 2008-12-08. Retrieved 2008-12-07.
  13. ^ Q Magazine The Killers: Brandon Flowers Fights Back From The Brink Retrieved 23 September 2019.
  14. ^ The "i"-Dot Tradition Archived March 4, 2016, at the Wayback Machine, OSU Marching and Athletic Bands Online

14. "Buster Douglas' Knockout BBQ" Fox News. 2010-07-20.

External linksEdit

Sporting positions
World boxing titles
Preceded by
Mike Tyson
WBA heavyweight champion
February 11, 1990October 25, 1990
Succeeded by
Evander Holyfield
WBC heavyweight champion
February 11, 1990 – October 25, 1990
IBF heavyweight champion
February 11, 1990 – October 25, 1990
Undisputed heavyweight champion
February 11, 1990 – October 25, 1990
Lineal heavyweight champion
February 11, 1990 – October 25, 1990
René Jacquot
UD12 Donald Curry
The Ring Upset of the Year
KO10 Mike Tyson

Azumah Nelson
KO8 Jeff Fenech