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Three days before the bout, he came down with a heavy cold. The next morning, he ran six miles. "Let's do it again," he said to J.D. when he finished. The morning of the fight, he spent another zillion yen and called Bill for the fourth time that week. Buster had to hear it in his old man's voice once more, he still had to.
"Hit him," Bill told him. "Fight that sissy. Attack him. Be first. Throw cross punches. Get your guns off. He's a psycho. Wish I could fight him. Just hit him."
Buster walked into the ring double-dosed on penicillin. It made no difference. He was relaxed. He was fighting a man who never stopped coming, a man who needed it like he needed food. "That same mentality as my dad," Buster would say. "And you know what?"
"What an uppercut by Douglas!"
Life happens to fathers and sons; that's often how they come together. The father's body begins to sag or a grandchild is born or someone dies whom they both love. But this father has turned 50 and his body's still taut, and this son has long ago made a grandchild, and this father has seen his wife dead on the floor. And none of that has been enough to bring them together, none of it.
Maybe this would do it. Look, right there on the screen moments after the bout; listen, the son is saying it: "Dad, this one is for you! I love you!" In front of millions of people, replayable millions of times at the push of a button—doesn't that count?
And on the day after the fight, there was his father on NBC telling millions more, "James is one of the most outstanding...." And he hesitated, his breath coming hard, his eyes filling with tears, and he waved his hand at the camera and shook his head no, no, no and said, "I can't say any more.... I don't know...." Isn't that enough, doesn't that count?
The videotape of Buster's fight against Tyson ends. There's fuzz on the screen. The son puts the magazine down on the table and slowly rises. For the first time, he speaks.
"See you later," he says.
"See you later," says his dad.