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THE FIGHT OF HIS LIFE
Gary Smith
October 22, 1990
Buster Douglas, the heavyweight champion, has had a harder time dealing with his father, Bill, than with any of his ring opponents.
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October 22, 1990

The Fight Of His Life

Buster Douglas, the heavyweight champion, has had a harder time dealing with his father, Bill, than with any of his ring opponents.

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"Douglas still landing the jab! Right hand by Douglas right on Tyson's chin!"

Everything has changed now. Everything has changed.

Buster starts thumbing through a magazine. Let the old man speak up. Let the old man squirm.

His father rises from his seat.

"Another right hand!"

His father walks into the kitchen.

"This is the most trouble Tyson has ever been in!"

His father starts talking about nothing much at all.

Maybe Buster should write the old man off, right here, right now. That's what some people thought the new champ should do, carve his father right out of his life. Those who knew Buster well had this feeling: That at age 29, in a ring in Tokyo, he had finally begun to become a man. And the only way to finish the job, to make certain that what happened against Tyson in February had not been an aberration, was to somehow end this long, uneasy stalemate between father and son.

But no, he couldn't do it. People just didn't understand. "You sec, that boy didn't want to box," said his grandma Sarah Jones. "Boxing was just the only way he knew of feeling close to his daddy." None of the other psychic pangs that compel men to hit men for a living were Buster's. As a kid, he would drift out of the ring and grab a basketball if he was sparring in a gym with a hoop. At 15, he quit boxing altogether. Then one day in 1980, at Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., he bumped into the truth. He wasn't going to be a pro basketball player. He wasn't going to study all night for a test. He couldn't think of anything else to do—so he did it. He called his dad and asked him to help him become a pro fighter.

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