Sportswriter Layden (The Great American Baseball Strike, 1995, etc.) colorlessly recounts Buster Douglas’s 1990 upset of Mike Tyson.
Douglas was a 42-1 underdog when he defeated the fearsome brawler in Tokyo, but this text doesn’t match the excitement of simply watching the fight on video. The truth is, neither Tyson nor Douglas are interesting characters, and Layden’s rambling, often repetitious narrative doesn’t make them any more compelling. Tyson had become the youngest heavyweight champion ever in 1986, and his undefeated record included many first-round knockouts. Douglas, meanwhile, despite growing up in a family of boxers (his father was a tough middleweight), was a reluctant warrior who would have preferred a career in basketball. Prone to weight gain and often passive in the ring, he somehow summoned one great night of boxing that, coupled with Tyson’s taste for fast living and disdain for prefight training, propelled the unknown fighter to the title. His success was short-lived. The following year, Evander Holyfield knocked out Douglas, who promptly ate himself into a near-fatal diabetic coma. He gamely recovered and returned to the ring for several forgettable bouts, finally retiring in 1999. Tyson, imprisoned on a rape conviction following his loss to Douglas, fought with mixed success until 2005, but his aura of invincibility had been erased on that fateful day in Tokyo. Layden walks us through the milestones of both fighters’s careers and provides some revelations concerning infighting among Douglas’s ever-changing handlers. He rarely provides interesting behind-the-scenes material about the sport. Quotes garnered from interviews with the two principals (Tyson’s via cell phone) prove only how inarticulate and unappealing they both are—which may the book’s most lasting revelation.
Familiar headlines rehashed with no value added.