Buster Douglas: “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”

Buster Douglas

by Geoffrey Ciani (Interviewed by Jenna J & Geoffrey Ciani) – Last week’s 119th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio (brought to you by CWH Promotions) featured an exclusive interview with former undisputed heavyweight champion of the world James “Buster” Douglas (38-6-1, 25 KOs) who currently trains John L. Smith Junior (2-0, 2 KOs). Douglas talked about training his young heavyweight, spoke about his career and his fight with Mike Tyson, reflected on the Klitschko Brothers and the current state of the heavyweight division, gave his views on Pacquiao-Mosley, and more! Here is what he had to say:

On training young heavyweight John L. Smith Junior:

“His name is John L. Smith Junior. I’m pretty excited about it. He’s a heavyweight and I think he’s got a bright future ahead of him. He works hard and he’s got a lot of talent and he’s eager to fight.”

On making the transition from boxer to trainer:

“There hasn’t really been that much of a transition. I’ve always been working with kids in the gym when I go to the gym, so this has just been more intense, of course. It’s been a nice ride so far.”

His views on whether he can train someone to a world championship:

“That’s my goal to help him become a world champion. I’m giving him advice and stuff and helping along the way.”

Regarding how he first got involved with the sport of boxing:

“Well I was introduced to the sport of boxing through my father. He was a National Amateur Champion and a light middleweight and a light heavyweight contender, so that was kind of what brought me to it.”

On what made him decide that he wanted to be a professional boxer:

“I decided after my junior year in college to give it a shot. I really felt that I had the desire to go professional and see where it would take me and it led me to the heavyweight championship.”

Whether he had added pressure on him given his father’s prior involvement in the sport:

“Well a little bit, because my father fought with a little different style than I did and everybody was expecting me to emulate him I guess. Once I kind of established myself as a fighter/boxer more so than a banger it kind of let itself be known I guess.”

On taking a fight on three day’s notice to replace Trevor Berbick against Randall “Tex” Cobb and what that victory did for his career:

“That was a big win because Cobb was a contender. So with the opportunity, John called me and he asked me, ‘What do you think about “Tex” Cobb?’ and I said ‘He can be beat’.”

The experience of his first title shot against Tony Tucker:

“Yeah that was a pretty tough time for me. We were still really, John and I, and J.D, and my dad were still kind of gelling and coming together. There were a lot of problems that we were having in the camp leading up to that fight and I think it just spilled over into the fight. It kind of came out in the fight because we had a lot of problems. That’s why I think that fight didn’t really go like we planned, but then we just had to go back to the drawing board and we restructured our camp. We started fight again until we got another opportunity.”

His views on the current state of the heavyweight division:

“Well you know it’s just kind of different now because you don’t have very many or any American champions now in the division. When I was coming up the top ten was dominated by Americans and today there are a lot of different contenders out there and as far as the world champions they’re all foreigners. It’s different and I look at it as an opportunity and I always tell Junior that. It’s an opportunity for a good American heavyweight to go in there and really do well.”

On why he believes we have not had a good American heavyweight to seize the opportunity and fill that void:

“I think that sometimes you got to really test a kid along the way as he comes up through the division and I think a lot of these heavyweights now are really being tested as they progress into becoming contenders and getting lined up for an opportunity to fight. What I mean is put him in with a good opponent coming up where you can see how his progress is. I’m not saying overmatch him, but there is just a way about doing things and when they finally get a chance for a title shot they’re a lot more prepared and they feel more confident going into the fight.”

His views on the Klitschko brothers as champions in today’s heavyweight division:

“Well I think they’re good fighters and you’re going to have to definitely go in there and know what you’re doing when you get in there because of their experience. They’re in great shape and they come to fight in each and every fight. I think there is an opportunity for a good American heavyweight to go in there and really put up a good challenge against them. To me it just looks like an opportunity but you got to be ready when you go in there because those guys, when they come in each and every night they’re ready to fight.”

His views on how the Klitschko brothers would have fared in his era of the heavyweight division:

“I think they would have done well, because they’re good fighters. Like I said you’d have to come to fight. They’re good fighters and they’re being brought up right. Each and every night the Klitschkos are ready to fight so you got to be on your A-game when you go in there.”

On whether he believes “Junior” has a chance to become the next great American heavyweight:

“I really do. I really do! I think that he’s hungry, he’s eager and he’s got the size, and he’s got a lot of ability. Once he gets in really great shape I think he’s going to be someone to be reckoned with.”

His views on the greatest strength that “Junior” brings into the ring with him:

“It’s his overall desire. He has the desire to want to do this and I think that’s a great big part as well as his ability. He’s a big man that can really do a lot of things that a big man is not accustomed to doing. He can move, and he’s got good hand speed, and he carries a good punch. So he has all the tools to accomplish and become the heavyweight champion if he really applies himself. Like I said, I’m just looking forward to this ride.”

On building his way back to contender status after his loss to Tony Tucker:

“Well you know by then with the loss, everyone was willing to fight me and we had no problems with having the opportunity of getting people back in there to catapult my career back to contendership. It was up to me to get in great shape and to be ready to fight anybody that would get in there to get back into title contention. So it was a long road back but I was willing to and my group was willing to put forth the effort to get another opportunity to get another shot for the title.”

Regarding his victory over a young Oliver McCall in July 1989 prior to fighting Mike Tyson:

“Yeah, it was a tough fight. Oliver came to fight. He was kind of an awkward fighter. He’d throw punches from every different angle, unusual angles. The game plan was to just put pressure on him and keep him backing up. We didn’t think he could really fight on his heels backing up so that was the game plan. It was just to keep pressuring him and keep the hands up and it worked out for us.”

His initial reaction when he got the call to fight Mike Tyson:

“Well I was excited about this opportunity and I knew I had my work cut out for me for sure, because he was destroying everybody that they put in there and it had really been proven that he was the legitimate heavyweight champion because he had beaten some important guys along the way. We really had our work cut out for us and we just put it all together, and worked very hard and got in the past shape, and put it all together that night.”

His views on Mike Tyson going into that fight:

“Well I knew he was going to be a great challenge, but I felt confident that I had the ability to compete. I know John and J.D. were even more confident than I was about the opportunity and we just put it all together and we were blessed enough to have a great performance and win the heavyweight championship.”

His views on how the loss of his mother affected him going into the fight:

“My mother had come over to see me a couple of weeks before she passed and we had a real long talk. Then once she talked to me and had seen that I was really ready to go in there and put up a great effort against Mike, she was confident enough to tell her friends that I was going to beat him. They were all telling me that she was telling them. They would tell my mother, ‘Oh my God! I can’t believe Buster is going to fight this guy!’ She would say, ‘He’s going to win! He’s going to do his thing!’ So she believed in me and I felt very confident going into that fight.”

His thoughts getting into the ring with Mike Tyson and how he was able to handle him from the opening bell:

“Well I’m telling you, Johnny, J.D., and I, we were just really pumped up! The biggest fear we had going into that fight was that something was going to go wrong and that there was going to be a cancelation or something, because that’s how well and confident we felt going into that fight. I truly felt it was just my time to put it all together and to take advantage of this great opportunity that was presented in front of me.”

Regarding the uppercut Mike Tyson knocked him down with in the eighth round of their fight:

“You know really it seemed like a flash knockdown because I was pushed. I wasn’t hurt. I was very coherent. I picked up the count immediately and took my time with getting up. When I got up I was on solid legs and I was ready to continue to fight. Then the bell just happened to ring and I got the chance to go back and get even more time to recover, but I wasn’t really hurt at all.”

His views on changing the momentum in round nine after his corner had warned that Tyson would attack him with everything he had:

“Of course I knew he was coming because even though he was pretty much beaten, he had new life once I got dropped and I knew. My corner instructed me and said he was going to come like hell and I was ready for that challenge.”

On whether he thought Tyson was going to get up after he had dropped him with a brutal combination in round ten:

“I did! 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.”

The feeling on first becoming the heavyweight champion of the world when the fight was waved off:

“It was a dream come true. It was a childhood dream come true. It was one of the most awesome feelings in my life.”

Regarding the controversy after the fight surrounding the so-called long count and whether he thought they would succeed in taking the victory away from him:

“You know that was really the sad part about the whole ordeal was the aftermath, because of having to even go to court. It was a dream come true, a fascinating experience, and that it slowly turned into a nightmare because of everything that went on afterwards. It was just a horrible time. It wasn’t where once you win the heavyweight title you get to just kick back and relax and enjoy, and then you prepare for your first defense. It didn’t work out at all like that for me. It was like a fight that I had to continue to keep fighting outside the ring just to even be acknowledged as the heavyweight champion and I think that had a lot to do with leading up to that first defense. That was really a horrible time for me.”

On whether reflecting back on what he accomplished today as a 42:1 underdog is more enjoyable for him now than it was during the tough times that followed his victory over Tyson:

“Oh yeah! Even that 42 to 1, there were no odds on that at all. That was something they created after the fact because the bookies weren’t even taking bets for the fight when we were over in Japan. It wasn’t even on the books. So it was a wonderful great experience with being positive and determined and having a great group of people around me to help fulfill a childhood dream. That was the most awesome experience and feeling that one man could have in his life other than watching my kids being brought into the world, but it was truly a childhood dream come true becoming the heavyweight champion of the world.”

On whether he believes he could have done anything differently to perform on the level he did against Tyson on a more consistent basis:

“Yeah, for sure! I mean to me looking back at it now, we were left alone to train and prepare for this fight with Mike Tyson and we were totally focused. Then going from not being really paid any attention to, to where every move you make you’re under the eye. That was definitely a night and day experience. We did the best we could with trying to deal with that, but the main thing is I did win the title. I know I didn’t go out the way I wanted to go out, but we fought and got there to become the heavyweight champion of the world and we did it at an extraordinary time.”

Regarding which fighters today he most enjoys watching and has the most respect for:

“I really like that Manny Pacquiao. I think he’s a great fighter and I really enjoy watching him work. He really has it all together, and again I’m just excited about the heavyweight that we have now, as far as American fighters, John L. Smith Junior. I’m really excited about this kid because he’s a determined kid. I really like him. He listens and he’s just an overall great kid. He’s excited about this opportunity to be a professional fighter.”

His views on the upcoming fight between Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley, and what he thinks of the fact that many observers are counting Mosley out the way he was counted out against Mike Tyson:

“Yeah, you can’t do that though. Mosley is a crafty veteran and he is going to come to fight and I look for that to be an exciting fight. I think it’s going to go deep into the rounds, too. If it’s a stoppage it’s going to be like in the eleventh or twelfth round, but it’s going to be a great fight because Mosley is going to bring it! He’s up for the challenge I know. Just from watching his past experience he can put up some great fights. So he’s going to be ready to fight. Don’t sleep on Mosley!”

Regarding the most important thing he emphasizes to his fighters as a boxing trainer:

“Running! Running, hitting that road and doing that road work. You have to run, because if you got the steam to do whatever you need to do then you’re fine. You have the ability but you just have to have the gas in the tank to perform up the best of your ability.”

On whether he believes he could win his first title defense against Evander Holyfield:

“I felt that I could win the fight just with the determination I had at the start of my career, but it was a really bad time I’ll tell you. It was bittersweet. It was just a bad time, but we’re back now! John Johnson and I are back together and we’re doing great things and we got a nice kid we’re working with here who has a lot of great ability and talent. We’re just excited about the future.”

Regarding his decision to comeback to boxing almost six years after the loss to Evander Holyfield:

“It was just a fact of getting back into life, and that was the way that I felt I could get back into life and get some more normalcy about myself. So I got the weight off and gave it another shot and just continued to be positive from that point on. I have been and it’s been working out great for me.”

On whether he was gunning for a rematch at Mike Tyson during his comeback:

“No, I was just trying to get a shot at the world champion with whoever was the world champion at that time. So it was actually getting back into life as well, getting the weight off, getting back healthy, and just moving my life in a more positive direction.”

On whether Don King or anyone had ever approached him regarding a rematch with Mike Tyson at that time:

“No, not at all.”

His views on the fight that almost happened between him and Roy Jones Junior:

“Yeah, yeah! I was ready to take that with open arms, but I think they decided to go another route. Yeah, it was offered to us but then it didn’t last. It was on the table for a short period of time. We accepted it, but it never came about.”

Regarding his decision to retire from professional boxing:

“Well that was it. I just felt like it ran its course and I just stayed positive and got involved with other things. That was it.”


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