Douglas left himself open, and Holyfield closed in on title

John Steadman

October 26, 1990|By John Steadman

ALL IT TOOK was an overly aggressive mistake by the defending world champion, leaving himself off-balance and vulnerable for destruction. He was quickly and with finality dispatched to the floor, spread out like wall-to-wall carpeting, and no doubt wondering if he had left a wakeup call. This was the first time he met a challenger and, faster than a high-roller can lose a fortune at a Las Vegas gambling table, he was down and out. A painful and embarrassing way to go.

James "Buster" Douglas will now be spoken of in the past-tense. He scaled the heights and then crumbled apart in a fashion of Humpty Dumpty.

That's when he was temporarily separated from his senses and the richest crown in boxing by a jackhammer right hand delivered by Evander Holyfield that administered a paralyzing dose of sleeping powder.

After 7 minutes and 10 seconds of what for the most part was inconsequential action, Douglas left himself wide open after missing the only strong blow he had delivered up to that climactic second. The opening was there and Holyfield took aim.

He got the maximum drive of his strong right shoulder into the punch and Douglas fell harder and more awkward than a Douglas fir tree of the same name. On the canvas, he put both gloves to his face as if he was powdering his nose but, in reality, was reacting while in a semi-conscious state.

Douglas was similar to a drunken man who fell down and couldn't explain how he got there or what he was doing sprawled on a barroom floor. Holyfield had tagged him with his "Sunday punch" on a Thursday night in Las Vegas and it was all over.

There are those cynics ready to make unfounded charges, just because he raised his gloves to his face, while on his back, that he wanted to take the easy way out. You know, grab the $20 million he made and vanish from Las Vegas faster than a tapped-out country bumpkin.

Explaining later why he happened to move his hands in such fashion, Douglas wasn't attempting to be humorous, only accurate, when he said, ". . . I got a glove caught in my eye." He talked, in the vernacular of the business, that he "caught a shot" and there was nothing he could offer as an antidote.

The "shot" exploded on his jaw, short-circuited the nervous system and the lights went down. This wasn't Jack Johnson in 1915 trying to shield the sun and use it as a cop out after being soundly beaten by Jess Willard in Havana.

Holyfield connected with a classic jolt and Douglas had as much control over his body machine as an old rag doll. Therein ended the one-fight championship existence of Douglas, a nondescript heavyweight who shocked the world last February when he went off to Tokyo and flattened a man with a body of iron, one Mike Tyson.

But Holyfield, with almost pencil-thin legs but a strong upper body, gave away 38 pounds to the taller Douglas, who enjoyed a 5 1/2 -inch reach advantage. The first two rounds, the about-to-be-newly titled Georgia native, double and triple jabbed his older and more experienced rival.

It was rat-a-tat-tat and more of that, with Douglas doing nothing in return. Finally, he got a move on in the third round that literally and physically became his undoing. Odd, but Douglas throws one strong blow and Holyfield also retaliates . . . with one. The difference is Holyfield made contact and Douglas missed connections.

So the incumbent winds up on the deck and the contender becomes the champion. In short description, a one-punch fight. Holyfield was a man on a mission; Douglas unable to even get warmed up.

The ample poundage Douglas was carrying might have been a factor if this had been the late round and the boxers were tiring. But that wasn't the case at all.

Douglas never expended any energy or even tried to extend himself when, crash, boom, bah, he's taking a chin-induced siesta. Holyfield is workmanlike, well-conditioned but doesn't dispense knockout drops.

Praise for a new world champion but with the full awareness that he's a warrior with valuable yet limited resources.

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