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Facing Mike Tyson

What it was like to FACE MIKE TYSON in the boxing ring:  
The powerful Pole faced Tyson in Oct. 2000  in Detroit. Tyson won by TKO 3 but the verdict was later ruled a no-contest after Tyson refused a post-fight a drug test.
“Tyson – I was confident, except he stepped in and cut my eye with a headbutt. How do I continue fighting after that? And I was the one they warned to fight clean. And he headbutt me. He opened my eye and gets away with that. And what kind of position am I in? I was cheated big time. And it is not possible to go the distance with a cut like that, in first round. It doesn’t make sense to go through with the fight. Especially when the referee was watching only one side of the competitors. His eye was on me, he didn’t see what Tyson did. “
40-1 underdog James “Buster” Douglas became a worldwide household name on February 11, 1990 – the night he shocked just about everyone by knocking out the seemingly unbeatable “Iron” Mike Tyson in Tokyo, Japan to win the world heavyweight championship.
Scoop: When did you first believe in your own mind you were going to defeat Mike Tyson?
James “Buster” Douglas: “I always thought I had a good chance to beat him. Confident in my abilities. I moved up the rankings and got closer to get another shot at the title. It just grew, you know, it just grew from there. ”
Scoop: Do you remember a specific time in your mind when you first believed that you were gonna beat Tyson?
James “Buster” Douglas: “Once I signed to fight him I knew that I could beat him. And then, of course, it intensified as my mom passed and prior to my mother passing, she came over and checked on me – because I was going through a lot in my life – at the time my wife and I were separated – and it was just really bad outside of my boxing career. And then I was really adamant about it with my mom. And she was like, Oh, you’re so mean. From that point on she was confident I was prepared to fight. It was a trying time but through the grace of God I made it through all the things I was going through. There I was preparing for one of the biggest nights of my life, and then all the things in my life were going bad. But I still stayed focused and was able to lean on boxing to bring me through that, that storm. It was really a difficult time in my life, but boxing helped me make it through it because it took my mind off it, you know, my personal life. So, therefore, he (Tyson) was the least of my worries. ”
Scoop: When did you first notice that Mike Tyson was beginning to realize he was in trouble with you?
James “Buster” Douglas: “I would say probably about the 5th round or so. Because quite a few people have had a good first round with Mike. But after three rounds, four rounds, five rounds, he took a real good look at me, after about the 5th round, like, DAMMNN [laughs]. You know, one of those kind of expressions. It just continued from there. But the thing I was impressed about Mike was, he fought like a son of a bitch. Because we all thought, once he got five or six rounds behind, that he would be like, Oh, fuck it, things aren’t going my way. But, shit, he stepped it up too. So, you know, it was a helluva thing. ”
Scoop: When did you first see the look of defeat etched on his face or in his…(eyes)?
James “Buster” Douglas: “(Cutting me off) I never saw defeat in Mike’s face, never. And that’s, ironically [laughs], in the 8th round, when I wanted to take a, like, reflect, like, Mike, look at this going on…BANG! He caught me with a shot. And that’s when I was like, Oh, better stay serious, because he’s focused. He was focused throughout. ”
Scoop: How many times have you watched the video?
James “Buster” Douglas: “Oh, I’ve seen it over, of course, when it happened, quite a few times. But I haven’t watched it much lately. But I still have it definitely [smiles]. Whenever I feel bad or something, I watch it, you know [smiles]?”
Scoop: It was a night of genius you had in Tokyo. How much better did you feel that night than all your other fights in your career?
James “Buster” Douglas: “Well, I could have easily gone out there and given a lackluster performance, or probably try once or twice and say, Aw, the hell with it. And put a face back on, well his mother just died, he was under a lot. But that was the last thing I would allow to happen. Because my mother was such a very strong woman and I couldn’t go out like that. She raised me to be a really strong man. So, really, like I said, that just intensified my training and my last couple of weeks before the fight. 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. So I knew I had the tools to do it. It was just sorting a few things out along the way to becoming champion. ”
Scoop: I’ve always believed that the way you boxed Tyson that night – how good you looked and moved – like poetry in motion – that you might have beaten anyone in history that night. Your comment?
James “Buster” Douglas: “Oh, after that it was just a whirlwind. It was just an unbelievable experience. Just a lot going on. I felt…I made it, I won the title. Unfortunately I didn’t get the chance to defend it like I would have liked to have – went in there four or five times and defended the title. Those are true champions. To go through and hold it together the whole time. I had my moment. I knew I could be a heavyweight champion. I accomplished that and that’s it. ”
Ribalta, 22-3-1, faced 25-0 Mike Tyson at the Trump Plaza hotel in Atlantic City on August 17, 1986. The Cuban-American actually gave the ferociously intimidating Tyson a memorable, tough battle, showing no fear and lasting until being stopped in the 10th round. Tyson, of course, was a terror back then, and just months away from capturing the WBC Heavyweight title from Trevor Berbick in Las Vegas by second-round KO.
Scoop: What memories come to mind from your fight against Mike Tyson?
Jose Ribalta: “It was like, he was so powerful, like grounded to the ground. Just powerful, very, very powerful. Very strong man. ”
Scoop: Before the fight, how did he treat you?
Jose Ribalta: “We really didn’t say too much. He looked at me, I looked at him. I was nervous but I didn’t fear him. After the fight, I saw him downstairs in the hotel and he gave me a hug and said I was a helluva fighter. We were supposed to fight a rematch, when Tyson fought Douglas I was supposed to be the opponent. But earlier that year I fought Jeff Sims and got knocked down and they turned me down. I was the original guy to face Tyson in Japan. I won against Jeff Sims but I got knocked down. ”
Scoop: What was your strategy against Tyson?
Jose Ribalta: “I actually, it was more…one thing I did when I fought Tyson, I said to myself, when he came to me, I’m gonna hit him with my elbow. When he knocked me down in the second round with a left uppercut, I lost all my memory [laughs]. I wish I had told my trainer that. ”
Scoop: You had some success in the fight with Tyson, giving him a competitive fight and lasting to the 10th round. What were you able to do to offset Tyson?
Jose Ribalta: “Jab, jab and hold. Was frustrating him. I exposed Tyson. He told me the same thing. If you look at the way Douglas and Holyfield fought Tyson and my fight with Tyson, I exposed him. And just I guess really, just not be afraid of him. So many opponents were intimidated by Tyson. For example, Bruce Seldon, I heard on the night of the fight he didn’t even want to go to the ring with him. I was shocked about that. I thought he would do well with Tyson, he was quick, strong but he got intimidated. If you got intimidated, you had no chance. That was one of his strategies – to intimidate. ”
Scoop: Did Tyson try to intimidate you?
Jose Ribalta: “I guess. When he came into the ring, I guess so. He had respect for me. Two weeks before the fight in Miami on the news (TV) said that people thought I’d last two or three rounds with Tyson. My mother looked at me, I looked at her, and we just smiled. I said, ‘No way. ’ Then in the second round he hit me with an uppercut. I was like, Wow. The uppercut he hit me with – 90% of the people on earth wouldn’t have got up from that. ”
Scoop: Have you crossed paths with Tyson since?
Jose Ribalta: “We sparred in ’96 for his second fight with Bruno. I was there for seven weeks. They didn’t want to spar with me because I was looking too good on the heavy bag. They kept telling me, Not yet. I was there four weeks before I sparred with him. We sparred only three or four times in the seven weeks. Okay, no problem, I still got paid $1,850 a week. That included food and everything. Tyson was droppin’ em in the gym. ”
After losing to Tyson, Ribalta continued to box until 1999 when he lost his last fight by KO to Razor Ruddock in West Virginia. Ribalta says, he was set up by his manager Mike Acri, as Ruddock was a late replacement for his original opponent, though Ribalta did earn an extra $10,000 for accepting Ruddock on such late notice. His final ring record was 38-17-1 (27 KO’s). Today, now 48, Ribalta lives in Miami Gardens, FL and works with autistic people at a group home. He says he would still like to box, particularly Tyson Fury in England because though he is good he does a lot of things wrong. Ribalta also has aspirations and the knowledge to train a heavyweight prospect boxer to the heavyweight title. Ribalta thinks the emphasis on searching and cultivating heavyweight talent from football is wrong and that basketball athletes, with their superior agility and elusiveness, would translate better to boxing than football players like Seth Mitchell, who Ribalta observes, “…can’t fight. ”
McBride was the last man Mike Tyson ever fought in a professional boxing ring.
Scoop:  When did you realize you would defeat Mike Tyson?
Kevin McBride:  “Before I ever fought him. Because I dreamt about it since I was a kid that I would fight him and beat him. ”
Scoop:  When did you first see defeat in his eyes, that you knew you were going to win the fight?
Kevin McBride:  “You don’t ever see it because Tyson has a good facial – he don’t change his reactions. You never know till the fat lady sings. ”
Scoop: I saw the photo of you and Tyson after the weigh in, you two had the stare-down and you looked so self assured and confident and he looked small next to you. You looked totally unafraid, smiling at him.
Kevin McBride:  “I trained hard. I actually had a lot of belief in myself. I knew I could do it. It’s all about belief and self-belief. ”
Scoop:  Did Tyson say anything to you after the fight?
Kevin McBride:  “‘Damn man, you hit hard [smiles]!’”
Scoop:  He was nice?
Kevin McBride:  “He was okay. He was just shocked that an Irishman was the last man to beat him. ”
Scoop:  He tried to intimidate you before the fight?
Kevin McBride:  “Yeah, he said he was going to gut me like a fish. ”
It was the last time we ever saw Mike Tyson compete in a boxing ring. McBride went on to defeat Bryon Polley the following April but then lost three consecutive fights to Mike Mollo, Andrew Golota, and Zach Page. Another loss to Matt Skelton in the UK Prizefighter Tournament last October and this past Saturday’s loss to Toomasz Adamek spelt the end of McBrides boxing career which began in 1992 at the Broadway Theater in London with a six-round draw against Gary Charlton.
Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson earned over $30 million each for their June 8th, 2002 Memphis Super Fight.
Scoop: You first sparred Tyson as a teenager at the Catskills, where Cus D’Amato prophetically remarked that someday you both would fight with the world title at stake. Do you remember the next time you saw Mike Tyson after that early 1980’s sparring session in the Catskills?
Lennox Lewis: “The next time I saw him was on TV, he was at the Olympics in 1984. He was at ringside watching fights. When I was fighting Tyrell Biggs, Tyson was telling me at ringside to hit him to the ribs. We always had a mutual respect for each other since we sparred those early times. We got that over with. ”
Scoop: Do you remember Tyson showed up at your public workout at Grand Central Station in New York City before the David Tua fight, for like two minutes? Why do you think he did?
Lennox Lewis: “You remember that one? That was weird. I don’t know why he came. He was welcome to come watch. I was lookin’ good in sparring that day [smiles]. I remember someone said, ‘There’s Tyson. ’ I looked over and couldn’t see him. I just saw a crowd of people. I thought, What’s he doing over there?”
Scoop: Do you remember when you first got the idea in your head that you could actually become the world Heavyweight champion?
Lennox Lewis: “For me, it was a long journey. I realized it was going to be lots of curves and bumps and hills – I just wanted to make it to the top. In the amateurs, it was the East Germans, Russians and Cubans. I had to try to find the way to beat each one. What’s his weakness? Go to the body. Then I’d try that way to beat them. This guy can’t take a right hand. Then I’d just train that way to beat him. My fear was losing. How do I win? How do I prepare to win? Then I would prepare in this manner. Tyson didn’t have an extensive (international) amateur career like I did. A lot of people don’t realize how that helps you. I’ll try to put it like this: after about 25 fights you don’t always have to keep going to the bathroom before the fight. Then after you get over that, you still get the butterflies before the fight. Then you eventually get over that and the butterflies are gone. You no longer get nervous or scared before fights. Then you have enough experience where, before the fight, you can start to break down the fights – what do I need to do? How do I beat him?”
Scoop: Who was the most talented boxer you faced?
Lennox Lewis: “[Pause]…I don’t know. It’s funny. Razor Ruddock was real talented, when I first came on the scene. He had a great jab. He had an excellent jab. It was like a right hand. He actually was a converted southpaw. But then he started lifting weights and his style changed. ”
Scoop: How did the public’s treatment of you change after the Tyson fight?
Lennox Lewis: “The main thing about that – I was trying to retire a year before. But I couldn’t because I never fought Tyson. For us to never have met, people would always say if I was like getting a haircut, Yo, you never fought Tyson. I was stuck on that image of Tyson. I had to fight him. In a sense, it’s kind of weird. A lot of fans said I should give him another chance, they want to see it again. I’m like, They want to see that fight again?! They felt that Tyson wasn’t right, if he trained longer he’d do better. The way I see it is, when I saw Tyson knocking everybody out on TV, I thought, He’s goooood. But when I saw him in person, he didn’t look as awesome. It’s like in the amateurs. Fighters used to be afraid of the Russians, Cubans but then I’d figure them out and figure out how to beat them. Tyson was the same way. As good as he was, he was always more one-dimensional. I was five-dimensional. ”
Scoop: An aspect of your fight with Tyson is that, in a sense, it really was a confrontation between good and evil, light vs. dark. At the time, the way Tyson was behaving and living his life, he was almost a symbol of evil. And your reputation was always very good and positive. Did you feel that extra pressure to prevent evil from triumphing? And the influence it would have had on society to see a man like Tyson rewarded with around $100,000,000 if he beat you?
Lennox Lewis: “There was a big thing like that. He helped with that. He just made me train harder. The Tyson fight was like the hardest I ever trained for a fight in my entire career. The press conference in New York – when he bit on my leg – I was mad. I came to promote the fight, wearing a $2,000 suit and he bit me on the leg. And I couldn’t say anything. Because if I said something, it would look like maybe I didn’t want the fight. But then I realized he was just trying to take the sucker’s way out. I’m not saying I know the person from the outside, that’s how it looked to me. Then the guy surrounded himself with kind of illin’ people, who’s that guy who did the dirty stuff? (Panama Lewis. ) I thought, They can’t come to the ring with him. These guys aren’t going to fight for him. He mentally needs them to get him going. If he needs them, then he’s at a weak point. ”
Scoop: When you and Tyson are in the ring, you two had a pretty long staredown. What did you see in his eyes?
Lennox Lewis: “He had to come up to the human line to look at me. My body was hard and I hit it, I was saying like, ‘Come and hit it. ’ I was very confident. I just looked at the Buster Douglas fight. That’s the only fight I need to see. He didn’t become Superman after that fight. He only deteriorated. ”
Scoop: What was your last meal before the fight?
Lennox Lewis: “Spaghetti (with red sauce). ”
Scoop: In the fight did Tyson do anything that you did not expect?
Lennox Lewis: “I’m glad that he fought fair. Because I was definitely ready for anything. Even after (the fight), I had respect for him. I was hitting him with some shots. It was the first fight where my hands were a little sore. I said it was because of the size of that neck. He’s like a shock absorber. He’d take it, shake it off and come back at you. Like that Rhino Man in Spiderman (cartoons). ”
Scoop: I remember at the Cory Spinks-Ricardo Mayorga fight in Atlantic City in December of 2003 you and Tyson were at ringside watching the fights in the same area, with him one seat in front of you. I was wondering if you both talked at all that night?
Lennox Lewis: “Yeah. I don’t know. For me, there’s never any bad blood – unless you do something to me. When we sat there, everyone was tense, looking at us, everybody was tense like that. I could tell. I said, What’s goin’ on Mike? He looks back at me, (says in a high strung voice), What’s goin’ on with you?! And that was it [laughs]. ”
Scoop: In what fights were you at your very best? When did you feel the best in the ring, the sharpest?
Lennox Lewis: “Definitely the Tyson fight. Rahman fight. Tucker. Holyfield (first). I think the aftershock of the first fight affected the second fight. I thought, I won, but now I have to win again?”
Scoop: When do you think Tyson was at his very best?
Lennox Lewis: “I’d have to say even before I turned professional. He was like a whirlwind, knocking everyone out. At that point, he was at his best. I think the environment affected him. Coming from nothing to suddenly having millions, and having everybody adoring him…you know, I’m an analyst. I analyze everything. Even his relationship with Robin Givens helped me. She helped a lot of athletes. It showed there was those types of woman out there, watch out. Playin’ the game, it’s only one thing they want. That’s all I want to say about that. But Emanuel Steward said Tyson was going to be my easiest fight. I was like, Really? I never let myself think that until after the fight. ”
Danny Williams beat Mike Tyson in Louisville, KY in 2004. It was Tyson’s second to last pro fight.
Scoop: When did you actually realize you were going to defeat Mike Tyson?
Danny Williams: “When I went back to the corner, the referee got to eight and he wasn’t up properly. I thought – I’ve got this guy, you know? It was amazing, unbelievable. ”
Scoop: Before the fight though, did you think it was 50/50 or did you really believe? Did you see weaknesses?
Danny Williams: “No, I really believed that I could beat him. I believed that. I trained so hard, I believed that he was taking me lightly. Really, I was so confident that I could beat him. ”
Scoop: Trained harder than you ever trained?
Danny Williams: “Yeah, I trained harder than I ever trained. I sparred more than I ever sparred. Done really, really good training. ”
Scoop: Most people thought you were going to be like the other guys, Etienne, pretty much come to lose. Please ensure you follow the steps below carefully, since we’ll be using the terminal app and writing commands which, if meddled with inappropriately, could potentially throw up further issues. What made you want thisfight so bad?
Danny Williams: “Because this is a fight I’ve been asking for for years. I’ve been boxing at British level for many years, fighting C class opponents. I’ve always wanted to fight the top Americans. And I had the opportunity against Mike Tyson. And I said I’m going to take it with both hands. In my mind, you had to kill me to beat me. ‘Cause I was going out, I was going to leave everything in the ring. ”
Scoop: So you’ve been waiting years and years for this chance?
Danny Williams: “Yeah, definitely. You could see it in there. Tyson was really giving it to me for the first three rounds. But I wouldn’t give up, I’m there to win. ”
Scoop: Were those the hardest punches you ever took?
Danny Williams: “OH EASY, BY FAR! He was really sinking them in. Really, really a powerful guy. It’s amazing a guy of that size, that stature, could throw such powerful punches. ”
Scoop: When did you first see defeat in his eyes? When in the fight did you sense it was coming? When did you first see defeat etched on his face?
Danny Williams: “I didn’t actually see it in his face. But when I start to push him back, he was getting tired, he was starting to load up with his punches. Certain points, he would look to the referee and start complaining. I knew I had him. Because I remember that in the Holyfield fight. When he started to complain to the referee…that’s when things weren’t going right for him. And I thought, I’ve got this guy. I’ve got this guy. ”
Scoop: What round did he complain to the referee? I don’t remember seeing that.
Danny Williams:“In the third round he looked to the referee, like, to make a little complaint. And I think he said a few words. That’s when I knew I had him, when he started to complain to the referee. ”
Scoop: After the fight – Tyson’s been a gentleman lately – did he say anything to you? Was he a good sportsman?
Danny Williams: “I just went to him and said, ‘Unlucky. ‘” And he just looked at me. He didn’t say anything. ”
Scoop: What did you say?
Danny Williams: “Unlucky. Bad luck. And he just moved his head as if to say, Well done, really. But he didn’t say anything. ”
Scoop: Said it non-verbally.
Danny Williams: “He gave me respect. From his look he gave me respect. But, you know, I didn’t really want him to speak to me. I don’t take it as bad sportsmanship, as people have said. ”
— By Scoop Malinowski


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