Life's a knockout these days

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:50 AM ET

The bookies had the odds stacked high against James 'Buster' Douglas on the night of Feb. 11, 1990.

But Douglas actually believed they were in his favour when he climbed into the ring to face fearsome Mike Tyson for the world heavy-weight championship in Tokyo.

"Everything that could have been going wrong in my life was going wrong at that time," Douglas said last week. "My mother had just died. My marriage was in shambles. And my relationship with my father was in a bad way.

"I tell ya, man, I just knew it was my turn for some good."

Right he was.

Douglas, then 30, would go on to pull off one of sports' great upsets. After going down in the eighth round, he bounced back hard in the ninth. With momentum on his side, he put Tyson to the canvas with a five-punch, belt-claiming flurry in the 10th.

It was the first time Tyson had been knocked down in a career that, to that point, was one of mass destruction.

"It was awesome ... it was my moment," said Douglas, who will be guest of honour at Thursday's 15th annual Ringside for Youth, the popular fight, food and beverage night at the Aberdeen Pavillion that raises money for the Ottawa Boys and Girls Club and is again being sponsored by Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson.

"Basically, I was working off my jab, getting off first, not standing in the same spot. I was making sure I was giving him angles. The only time I squared up with him was in the eighth, when he dropped me. I wasn't hurt, and I was able to recover because of my conditioning. But it was the first time he caught me with a clean shot.

"What I hit him with in the first, I hit him with in the 10th and the ninth and the eighth. It was an uppercut that really rocked him, but they were all my best shots."

Almost as quickly as his fortunes rose, they fell. Hard. Douglas' life as champ was too good, and he savoured every ounce of it. Celebrity appearances on late night TV talk shows. Parties. Food. Booze.

"I was ready for the fight," said Douglas, "but not the aftermath."

Douglas, who was 231 1/2 lbs. for the Tyson fight, ballooned to almost twice that size. The abuse to his body pushed him into a five-day diabetic coma. When he finally emerged, he realized how lucky he was to be alive.

"It was like, whoa ... I can't believe this. I can't believe I got to that point," said Douglas. "I remember the doctors looking at me and saying, 'That's not him.' I was like, 'It's me, it's me!'

"I got really upset at myself. I said, 'Man, you better get in the game or you're going to check out.' "

With a new lease on life, Douglas amazingly dropped 200 lbs. and even made his way back into the ring.

Many of his secrets in re-claiming control of his life can be found in a new book he has co-authored with Tony Reynolds called Buster's Backyard Bar-B-Q: Knockout Diabetes Diet.

"I'm still taking medication for diabetes, and I'm still working on getting to the point where I don't have to take it any more," said Douglas. "I feel really good. I'm excited about life and I'm happy to still be here."

Douglas' advice for young boxers is simple: "Just learn your trade and enjoy it, have fun with it.

"I got to meet a lot of people and do a lot of travelling. Boxing brought me closer to my dad (former middleweight contender Billy 'Dynamite' Douglas) and it was exciting (to win the title) in front of him.

"If you dream it, you can achieve it," added Douglas. "That's the way I feel."

DON.BRENNAN@SUNMEDIA.CA


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