16: Evander Holyfield Vs James “Buster” Douglas
October 25, 1990
Las Vegas, Nevada
Venue: The Mirage Hotel
Going into 1990, the most anticipated fight in the boxing world was the potential super fight between Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield. Tyson was the undisputed heavyweight champion and Holyfield was his number one contender. All Tyson had to do was destroy another contender in Buster Douglas and the biggest fight of the new decade would proceed as planned. Unfortunately, someone forgot to hand Douglas a copy of the script. In the most incredible upset of all-time that I will write about in a future article, Douglas was now the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world. Immediately plans were made for Douglas to defend his newly won title against Holyfield.
My father knew Holyfield was special when we first saw him fight in the 1984 Summer Olympics. Right away, my father claimed that Holyfield reminded him of Ezzard Charles, the greatest light heavyweight that ever lived and former heavyweight champion of the world. As undisputed cruiserweight champion, Holyfield cleaned out the division before moving up to heavyweight. In stopping contenders James Tillis, Michael Dokes and Alex Stewart, Holyfield proved that he was a serious threat to defeating who many people felt was an unbeatable Tyson. My father was convinced that Holyfield would handily defeat Tyson because he was much more skilled and hungrier than Iron Mike. Douglas, however, beat him to the punch when it came to beating Tyson, setting up their fight in October of 1990.
I took my father to see the fight on closed circuit at New York City’s historic Beacon Theatre. My father at first thought this would be a very difficult fight for Holyfield to win because he loved the way Douglas fought against Tyson. Pop felt Douglas looked like a young Larry Holmes in that fight in the way he moved and popped his jab. However, when we saw that Douglas was a flabby, 246 pounds the night of his fight versus Holyfield, 15 pounds heavier than the night he knocked out Tyson, he changed his opinion. He told me that no fighter that out of shape could defeat a hungry, great fighter like Holyfield.
The first two rounds were all Holyfield as Douglas fought very listless. Holyfield was out-jabbing the taller champion at will and landing his signature combinations as well. A minute into round three, Douglas made a novice mistake by attempting a right uppercut from the outside. Holyfield easily slipped the punch and countered with a picture perfect right cross that dropped Douglas. Douglas sat on the canvas like a wounded walrus, unable to get up. Evander Holyfield was now the heavyweight champion of the world. Buster immediately retired from boxing.
Douglas would make his return to the ring six years later, winning nine of 10 fights before retiring for good at the age of 39 in 1999. His return to the ring was a great feel good story as after the Holyfield fight, Douglas had gotten so fat that he slipped into a diabetic coma and almost died. The comeback helped ease the pain of the Holyfield loss and his subsequent battle with near death. As for Evander, after knocking out Douglas, he had one of the most decorated runs in heavyweight history, culminating in finally meeting and beating Tyson twice. Just like my father predicted.