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A strange sweet feeling ran through him.
"His eye is closing!"
"Like cool air," Buster would say, "being blown into my chest through a straw."
No. It wouldn't be that easy. Buster beat McCall and came home. Bertha packed up and left. Buster was arrested for drunken driving. The mother of his son was near death. He was told he would fight Tyson on Feb. 10. He stared at the posters of two of his dad's wars in Philly that he had recently framed and hung in his garage. He whispered for God in the night.
His own family thought he was crazy to take on Tyson—he couldn't believe it, his own mom. He shouted at her. She started crying. "You're mean," she said.
"Damn right I am," said Buster. "I'm mean. I'm mean."
A few weeks later, eight days before he would fly to Tokyo for the bout, he got a call at 4 a.m. He rushed to his mom's house. She had been found dead on the floor, at age 47, of a stroke.
He gazed down at her face in the casket. In his grief, it came to him: Here was the perfect excuse. If he backed out of the Tyson fight or lost it, no one, not even his father, could shake his head. For the first time in his life, he was free of expectation, almost off the hook of being Bill Douglas's son.
He closed his eyes and said goodbye to her. There was no one in the world now for Mama's boy to lean on, no one. But that only made him stronger. He could feel it in his arms and legs. He wasn't going to use the perfect excuse.