Inspirational Fighters – James “Buster” Douglas

Inspirational Fighters – James "Buster" Douglas

Combat sports are an ever-changing landscape of fighters, with new names popping up constantly. All fighters have heart, and all fighters have talent, yet of all the fighters who have stepped up over the years, there are some who stick in our minds, who changed the way we think about the sports we love, and who are truly inspirational to today’s generation of martial artists.

In this new series we wanted to take a moment to appreciate some of the true legends of fighting, looking at some of the most inspirational, most influential, and the most fearsome fighters out there. You can find the whole of the series here. Give us a shout in the comments section at the end of this article to let us know which fighter is an inspiration for you.

In this part, the focus is Buster Douglas, a boxer who defied all odds and overcame the challenge before him.

Inspirational Fighters – James "Buster" Douglas

So who was Buster Douglas?

James “Buster” Douglas was an American former professional boxer who competed throughout the 80’s (and later during the late 90’s).

He’s best known for his brilliant triumph against Mike Tyson to win the undisputed heavyweight title. At the time Tyson was undefeated and considered to be the best boxer in the world, as well as one of the most feared heavyweight champions in history due to his domination of the division over the previous three years.

Many thought it was just an easy tune-up for Tyson before a future mega-fight with undefeated Evander Holyfield. The only casino to make odds for the fight had odds at 42-to-1, showing just how much of an underdog Buster was. Couple this with the emotional stress of separating from his wife and his mother passing away just a few weeks before the fight, and many would think his chances were hopeless. What makes Buster’s story so inspirational is that it shows how you can overcome all odds if you want something enough. Before passing away, Buster’s mother told him she believed he could do it, and the thought only pushed him harder.

Inspirational Fighters – James "Buster" Douglas

The fight that will never be forgotten

Douglas had had trained hard, and had an advantage in the fight from the beginning, using his 12-inch reach advantage to perfection. He used his jabs jabs and straight punches, keeping out of range of Tyson’s own punches. The champion had not taken Douglas seriously, expecting another quick and easy knockout victory, throwing big hooks in the hope of beating Douglas with single punches. By the fifth round, Tyson’s left eye was swelling shut from Douglas’s many right jabs, with the announcers commenting on how it was the most punishment they had ever seen Tyson absorb.

Tyson was still a vicious fighter though, and in the eighth round Tyson landed a right uppercut that knocked Douglas down.

The fight could have ended there. It could have all been over, with Douglas just another one of Tyson’s many victims, but Douglas refused to lose. He got up and was luckily saved by the bell, but Tyson now had the taste of blood. Tyson came out aggressively in the dramatic ninth round and continued his attempts to end the fight with one big punch hoping that Douglas was still hurt from the knockdown. Both men traded punches before Douglas connected with a beautiful combination that staggered Tyson back to the ropes. With Tyson hurt along the ropes Douglas unleashed a vicious attack to try to finish off a dazed Tyson, but the bell rang once again.

“There was no doubt in my mind that I could do it. I felt very confident. It was one of the most confident days going to a fight in my career. I always knew I had the ability, that’s why I did it.”

– Buster Douglas

Round 10, and the fight was going his way – he was managing to do what had never been done before. Douglas dominated the round from the outset. While setting Tyson up with his jab Douglas scored a huge uppercut that snapped Tyson’s head upward. He then followed with a rapid four-punch combination to the head, and knocked Tyson down for the first time in his career. After a long count, Tyson attempted to get up, his mouthguard hanging out of his mouth, but was caught out by the bell.

He’d done it. Through all his struggles and issues, despite being an ‘easy fight’ in the eyes of Tyson and the entire boxing world, he pushed through. Nobody ever got knocked down by Tyson and got back up. But Buster fought back – he put in the time, effort and determination, he believed in himself and he defeated the Undisputed heavyweight champion.


Buster Douglas’ story is a true underdog story about someone who went out there and fought back like nobody else had. If you want to see more about Buster, Check out the motivational highlight video below from Mateusz M.

If you liked this article, let us know. We’d love to hear the things you remember most about him, and which other inspirational fighters you think deserve to be featured in an article like this.

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