© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

ESPN Documentary Highlights Triumph Of Columbus Native Buster Douglas

In February of 1990, a Columbus native pulled off the greatest upset in boxing history. James "Buster" Douglas was set to square off against Mike Tyson in Japan. Everyone favored Tyson. 

John Johnson, Douglas's manager at the time, says that to most viewers, the match was a foregone conclusion. He says it took place in Tokyo because "no one would pay a penny for it here." He recounts the story of a Cleveland-based reporter who traveled there to cover the match.

"He was going through customs, they said, 'What are you here for?' and he said, 'To work.' And they said, 'How long are you going to be working?' and he said, 'A minute and a half.' And that's how most people thought the fight would go," Johnson says.

Indeed, the odds were 42-to-1 in Tyson's favor. But Buster came through, knocking Tyson out in the ninth round. A new ESPN documentary debuting Tuesday night, as part of their 30 For 30 series, recounts the fight, which Johnson says changed everything for Douglas.

"When we left, it was nobody at the airport," Johnson says. "When we came back, there were thousands."

That was followed by parades, fan adoration, and global recognition, for both Douglas and for his hometown.

"Because it took place in Tokyo and it was a shock to everybody throughout the world, it got Columbus more worldwide attention than any other single event ever," he says.

"42 to 1" airs Tuesday night on ESPN at 9 p.m.

Clare Roth was former All Things Considered Host for 89.7 NPR News. She joined WOSU in February of 2017. After attending the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, she returned to her native Iowa as a producer for Iowa Public Radio.