LAS VEGAS -- James "Buster" Douglas, a one-fight wonder, lay sprawled on his back, rubbing his eyes and shielding them from the bright ring lights.
Douglas appeared to make no effort to regain his feet. At 1 minute, 10 seconds of the third round, Evander Holyfield, the bionic man, ushered in a brave new world for heavyweights. Holyfield, a Georgian who used a unique combination of muscle builders, aerobic experts and ballet instructors to make his taut, 208-pound body a perfect fighting machine, disposed of Douglas with a classic right cross after ducking under a wide uppercut. Referee Mills Lane counted out the champion, who needed three minutes to regain his senses.
Holyfield had predicted that even such mammoth-sized
heavyweights as Douglas, who scaled 246, could be chopped to size. But it was this one mighty right hand that left the capacity crowd of 16,100 at The Mirage gasping in amazement.
Indeed, the unbeaten Holyfield (25-0, 21 KOs) entered the ring as a slight favorite. But few ring experts anticipated his making such quick work of Douglas, who, himself had shocked the world eight months ago by knocking out Mike Tyson in Tokyo.
Lane seemed to question Douglas' courage, saying, "He did not try to get up." Later, he softened the criticism by adding, "But he was definitely hurt."
Hurt, but apparently not embarrassed.
"Evander just fought a tremendous fight," Douglas said. "He's a great fighter, and I chose to fight him because of his talent and credibility."
It will be suggested that Douglas, who weighed 15 more pounds than he did for Tyson, was overweight and undertrained, a ready-made target for the quicker Holyfield's combinations.
"I don't think weight had any bearing on it," Douglas said. "I just couldn't get started. I overextended myself in throwing an uppercut, and he caught me with a good shot. I started to pick up the count, but I just wasn't able to lift myself off the floor."
Although Douglas got the major share of the record $32 million purse with his $24 million guarantee, it will be small solace for the Columbus, Ohio, heavyweight, who was determined to prove his victory over Tyson was not a fluke.
A rematch with Tyson already was in the works at The Mirage for the spring of 1991, but the boxing world now will focus on Holyfield, who reportedly has agreed to fight George Foreman in his first title defense.
Boxing's three major organizations -- the International Boxing Federation, the World Boxing Council and the World Boxing Association -- had threatened to strip Holyfield of his newly won crown if Tyson was not his initial defense.
But last night, IBF president Bob Lee softened his stand, suggesting his group would sanction a Holyfield-Foreman match Tyson could challenge the winner within a year.
For Douglas, 30, who lost the battle of the bulge and his championship belt, the future is uncertain. He was accused of quitting when first challenging for the IBF title against Tony Tucker in May 1987, but his lack of resistance in abdicating his heavyweight throne will be even more of a living nightmare.
From the opening bell, Holyfield took the fight to the champion. The challenger, 28, used a stiff jab and crisp combinations to capture the first two rounds on all three score cards.
"I took my time and used my jab and speed," said the new champion, who previously had claimed the light heavyweight and cruiserweight titles after having to settle for a bronze medal in the 1984 Olympic Games when he was disqualified in a semifinal.
"In the third round, I saw him step in and lower his shoulder, ready to throw a punch. I countered with my right. When he went down, I was hoping he wouldn't get up so I didn't have to throw any more punches."
Holyfield had the perfect battle plan, with chief trainer George Benton as its architect. He forced the pace and kept the champion on his heels, retreating or countering ineffectively.
In seven minutes, Douglas never got Holyfield's attention with a telling blow. It was as one-sided a fight as most of those short-lived affairs during Tyson's reign as heavyweight champion.
1984 Nov. 15 Lionel Byarm, New York W 6
Jan. 20 Eric Winbush, Atlantic City, N.J. W 6
March 13 Freddie Brown, Norfolk, Va. KO 1
April 20 Mark Rivera, Corpus Christi, Texas KO 2
July 20 Tyrone Booze, Norfolk, Va. W 8
Aug. 29 Rick Meyers, Atlanta KO 1
Oct. 30 Jeff Meachum, Atlantic City, N.J. KO 5
Dec. 21 Anthony Davis, Virginia Beach, Va. KO 5
March 1 Chisanda Mutti, Lancaster, Pa. KO 2
April 6 Jesse Shelby, Corpus Christi, Texas KO 3
May 28 Terry Mims, Metairie, La. KO 5
July 20 Dwight Qawi, Atlanta W 15
(won WBA cruiserweight title)
Dec. 8 Michael Brothers, Paris KO 3
Feb. 14 Henry Tillman, Reno, Nev. KO 7
retained cruiserweight title)
May 15 Rickey Parker, Las Vegas KO 3
won IBF cruiserweight title)
Aug. 15 Ossie Ocasio, St. Tropez, France KO 11
(retained WBA-IBF cruiserweight titles)
Dec. 4 Dwight Qawi, Atlantic City, N.J. KO 4
(retained WBA-IBF cruiserweight titles)
April 9 Carlos DeLeon, Las Vegas KO 8
(won world cruiserweight title)
July 16 James Tillis, Lake Tahoe, Nev. KO 8
Dec. 9 Pinklon Thomas, Atlantic City, N.J. KO 7
March 11 Michael Dokes, Las Vegas KO 10
July 15 Adilson Rodrigues, Lake Tahoe, Nev. KO 2
Nov. 4 Alex Stewart, Atlantic City, N.J. KO 8
June 1 Seamus McDonagh, Atlantic City, N.J. KO 4
Oct. 25 James "Buster" Douglas, Las Vegas, KO 3
W25, L0, KO20.