Did the internet exist in 1990? I don’t recall. I know that I didn’t have access to it, and if I did it would have been slow as hell and would have had what Dave Barry called “a duck playing a kazoo”. But I didn’t have it, so I turned on the TV.

It seemed like years since it started. Understand that I live in Columbus, and while I’ve never met the man, I did meet his father once, and John Johnson too. There had been hype aplenty, or at least more than usual, because Buster was from Columbus, was one of ours.

During his ‘comeback’ (after the loss to Tucker) there would be an article in the paper every couple weeks and invariably they would mention the tantalizing possibility that Buster would get to fight Tyson.

When he did get the fight, it was announced months in advance. And of course (you know) no one gave him a chance. I remember one local sportswriter opined that Buster did have a chance, and that because Buster was a talented fighter with a stiff jab and a huge reach advantage. I filed that information away in my mind, cherished it, pulled it out every so often to look at it and say, “I believe in you!” And I did this in private. I didn’t want to hear the raspberries of derision that showing faith in Buster would prompt.

Plus, I just didn’t like Tyson. I mean I enjoyed watching him work, who didn’t? The man was an amazing talent. But at that time I was convinced that he was evil, and was bad for boxing. I’m struggling to remember now the things that I knew about or thought I knew about him that lead me to think that way. Had he been accused of the sexual assault yet? I don’t recall. I think maybe there had been a story about him getting rough with Robin Givens. Some hard quotes, I don’t know. But in my mind he had taken heavyweight boxing to the Dark Side. I wanted to see him unseated in the worst way.

It must have been a wedding that kept me from seeing it. I don’t remember that either. So when I got home, I turned on the TV to catch the 11:00 news, to see how Buster had done.

The newscast started with the usual teasers and such, but within the first couple minutes the anchor said “We can’t show you footage from the Douglas / Tyson fight, so we sent Jim to a bar where they are showing the fight. Let’s go to Jim now and see how Buster is doing.”

And they switched to a shot of a reporter standing in front of a blank wall; you could see some people to his right, all looking to his right.

“Well Buster is doing surprisingly well. The fifth round just ended, and the commentators are saying that he has likely won all five rounds so far”

They chatted back a forth for a couple moments then went back to the studio. The news cast went on for several minutes, local news, national news, before they switched back over to Jim at the bar.

“It doesn’t look good for Buster. He was knocked down at the end of the eighth round. He was saved by the bell, but he looked pretty wobbly. He gave it good try, and did remarkably well, but it looks like Mike Tyson is now going to close the show.”

And some more banter: “Aw darn” and “too bad”.

Then after sports they went back to the bar and Jim “one last time” and: Chaos! – People shouting! Jumping! Jostling! Spraying beer! “Unbelievable! Buster Douglas has won the fight, and by a knockout!” (More jostling and spraying) “What?”

“He knocked out Mike Tyson in the tenth round, and is the new heavyweight champ!”

And that’s the way I experienced it. A week later I located a VHS tape of the fight a friend had recorded.

Of course Buster put on some weight and lost to Holyfield in three rounds in his first defense, and the raspberries of derision started anew. Of course you can blame much of that on Don “the Weasel-Heart” King. I think Buster only got out of court with him like two weeks left before the fight.

And I was briefly saddened that he lost the title so quickly. I was hoping for a long reign, to be able to brag about our local boy for a few years. But in the end it didn’t matter. His place in history is fixed. He was the undisputed champ, if only for a few months. Everybody knows it.

Klitschko said winning the belt was easy compared to hanging on to it. And he kept it for a long time. It is difficult, he said, to convince yourself to train hard year after year, for your fourth, fifth, or tenth title defense. He did 14 in a row. Dr. Steelhammer had an iron will to stay at the top.

Buster? Maybe not so much. He climbed the mountain, why climb it again? It doesn’t take away from his achievement.

So sure, when we get around to arguing who is the best of all time (you know we eventually will) I probably won’t put Buster in my top ten, but if we’re talking favorites, yeah, he’s right near the top for me.

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