LAS VEGAS -- Buster Douglas -- bigger than life, much bigger than life -- fell with an awful thud last night. Once the hope of every underdog, Douglas will now be remembered as a fluke, a fraud, a bloated myth. When his bubble burst, you could hear the sound for miles.
It was an awful thing to watch, Douglas lumbering into the ring, all 246 pounds drooping from every part of his body. You could see Evander Holyfield's eyes go wide at the sight of this slow-moving, ponderous target.
This was the conqueror of Mike Tyson?
Well, no. They kept telling us you never knew which Douglas would show up on a given night, and the one we saw last night was a guy who obviously got lost on the way to the 99-cent, all-day breakfast. This was the guy who lost to Mike White, to Jesse Ferguson.
Actually, Douglas gave away his title in favor of chicken necks, his meal of choice. With the heavyweight title and millions of dollars at stake, Douglas couldn't make himself get up from the table. No wonder he couldn't get up from the canvas, although it seemed that he might have struggled to his feet. Douglas, who has been accused of quitting, will hear the accusations again.
Was that February night in Tokyo when Douglas knocked out Tyson really a fluke? Now, we'll never know. We won't know if a fit Douglas, who came in at 231 against Tyson, could have beaten Holyfield. We know that a fat Douglas was no competition.
There could not have been more of a contrast between the fighters, who, when standing beside one another, looked like a before-and-after ad for Gold's Gym.
Douglas hit Holyfield only once in three rounds. Everyone figured he would lean on Holyfield, using his weight to his advantage, but he couldn't get close enough. Holyfield kept beating him to the jab, aiming at the ample gut. And when Douglas missed with a wild uppercut, he left himself wide-open for a short Holyfield right hand that sent Douglas crashing to the canvas.
Douglas lay flat on his back, the only way he could be lying flat. He kept rubbing his face, although it couldn't have been in disbelief. From the opening bell, this result seemed assured. It took Douglas two minutes to rise, just before the paramedics' specially built crane arrived.
Maybe Holyfield would have beaten any version of Douglas, who, in facing Holyfield, was stepping up in class. Certainly, the unbeaten champ will have a better opportunity to prove his worth. He can bring along the entire entourage, from the ballet teacher on down, for the next fight, the opponent still to be determined. Holyfield's defense will come against either the even fatter George Foreman or against the much-embarrassed Mike Tyson, depending on what the courts decide. This is boxing, folks.
For his part, Douglas didn't even bother to apologize. He said he wasn't embarrassed. What he did say was that he didn't get into his rhythm.
"I was hoping to get some rounds under my belt," said Douglas, who did, however, get everything else under his belt. "If you live by the sword, you die by the sword."
A sword? How about a steak knife?
rTC How could Douglas fail to have been sufficiently motivated to get in shape? After the weigh-in, everyone was saying how he was Bustering out all over. Suddenly, he was not the champ, but George Foreman with hair.
The people in his corner looked shocked. One guy asked for a re-weigh. In the Douglas camp, where scales are apparently not de rigueur but where lunch is, they had expected their fighter to come in at 236. All I know is that when Douglas took off his shirt, he sucked in his gut and held his breath, same way I do at the beach.
After the weigh-in, betting money poured over to Holyfield side, skinny legs and all.
Holyfield is a sensitive, deeply religious person inclined to quote scripture, but who sees no conflict in his decision to become a fighter. In fact, he is sensitive, religious and also keenly focused on the task. He always comes to fight.
Maybe that's why he has been the fighter heavyweights had been assiduously avoiding all these years. And, finally, after some years of waiting, Holyfield got his big shot, made the big money and now gets his chance at more.
Last night's fight was a prelude as much as anything else. Tyson had signed to fight Douglas if he won, and Foreman had signed to fight Holyfield. Of course, the courts would have to decide that, because, according to Don King, bless him, the WBA, WBC, IBF, IBM, AT&T and the rest of the boys had determined that Tyson should fight the winner, regardless.
Whoever gets Holyfield will get a smallish heavyweight with a big punch who will give himself every opportunity to win. You'd guess that if he fought Foreman, it might be more of the same, an overweight fighter whose credentials exceed his reach. Tyson -- which Tyson? -- might be a different story, but it's a story for another time.
This night belonged exclusively to Holyfield, who won the first two rounds easily before getting the knockout in the third. He deserved to win every bit as much as Douglas, who must live with the fact that he never got himself ready for this right, deserved to lose.