The Last Great Fight, by Joe Layden
Masterpiece on a bloodied canvas: Buster boxes clever to turn iron into gold
Wednesday 20 February 2008
From bums of the month to champions of the world, boxing's limitless capacity to wreck the lives of its protagonists is well documented. In February 1990, arguably the greatest upset in the history of sport unfolded in front of a silent Japanese crowd who seemed not to realise what was happening. For one man, James "Buster" Douglas, it was his once-in-a-lifetime moment when everything coalesced; for the other, "Iron" Mike Tyson, it was a night from which he would never recover.
Inspiration of the kind that allows limits to be transcended sometimes strikes in unpromising circumstances. In the months preceding what looked like certain defeat, Douglas's life was in chaos: his marriage was in trouble, his mother had died.
But a journeyman who had become known as a quitter located within himself – and, crucially, those around him – the qualities necessary to take on and beat a man who had stated that his aim was to push opponents' nasal bones into their brains.
Tyson was the undefeated, undisputed world champion, a tyrannical and thunderous force who overwhelmed his opponents. Douglas was the 42-1 underdog. Tyson, physically and mentally unready, underestimated him. Douglas was calm and focused, and in the ring outmanoeuvred and out-fought the champion. Tyson would never again dominate his sport. A conviction for rape ensued as his life and career fell apart.
Joe Layden has plunged himself into a world whose golden rule is "screw the talent". He has unearthed a panoply of fascinating characters, the good, the bad and the truly appalling (step forward Don King, the promoter who always wins). Douglas, one of the good guys, defended his belts against Evander Holyfield, but lost abjectly. There were rumours that, having been clubbed to the canvas, he seized the chance to stay down. "Man, I was exhausted," he tells Layden.
Layden believes that Tyson's career came to an end that night in Tokyo. Tyson earned about $300m, but in 2003 was declared bankrupt, and now fights exhibition matches to pay his debts. "Smart too late and old too soon," he said. Happily, Douglas defies the stereotype. Financially secure and raising a family, at the end of the book he is working on an urban renewal project in his home town, Columbus, Ohio. Though his life has panned out better than Tyson's, Douglas found that dreams always end. "I had my moment," says history's biggest one-hit wonder. "It was a beautiful thing."
JR Books, £18.99Order for £17.09 (free p&p) on 0870 079 8897
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 The BBC has just done more to eradicate ‘terrorism’ than all our wars since 9/11
- 2 Dog thinks owner is drowning in lake, dives in and tries to pull him out
- 3 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 4 Chilling drone footage captures Auschwitz ahead of 70th anniversary of liberation
- 5 Narendra Modi: Indian Prime Minister wears suit with pinstripes that spell his name to meet Barack Obama
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after that Wembley Stadium rant
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Taylor Swift banned from Triple J Hottest 100: Fans react to epic #Tay4Hottest100 defeat
Mortdecai becomes Johnny Depp's fifth consecutive box office bomb
Last Tango in Halifax, review: Can we ever really move on from Kate?
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
Islamic history is full of free thinkers - but recent attempts to suppress critical thought are verging on the absurd
Leaked documents show Ukip leaders approve NHS privatisation once it becomes more 'acceptable to the electorate'