8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on November 16, 2008
Some sporting events you can remember where you were when you first heard of them. James "Buster" Douglas' boxing knockout of Mike Tyson for the Heavyweight Championship is one of those events. Arguably one of the greatest upsets in sports history, this fight has taken on a unique historical aura over the years. Joe Layden's engrossing and tragic 2007 book "The Last Great Fight: The Extraordinary Tale of Two Men and How One Fight Changed Their Lives Forever" gives a superb account of this sporting epic.
I was waiting tables on the busy Saturday night this fight took place and was amazed at the cheers coming from the bar. I realized something more was going on than your typical Tyson KO. When the fight ended, the message that Tyson had been defeated spread through the restaurant like wildfire. Luckily, I taped the fight, and went home that night to watch the bout over and over again trying to understand what my eyes could not believe. Over the years, I have re-watched this fight many times and am amazed by the eerie atmosphere of the broadcast. The fight took place in Japan, playing out before an oddly reserved crowd. The HBO announcers, puzzled and shocked, were equally confused. Tyson had such an incredibly invincible reputation that no one could believe what they were seeing.
Layden's book accurately reveals the numerous events leading up to this fight that played a crucial role in the outcome. Douglas, son of a former middleweight contender, struggled from the constant expectations of his demanding father. When his dad was removed from the training team, Douglas seemed to thrive. In addition, the death of Douglas' mother just days before the fight seemed to create a sense of destiny. He lost the fear that seemed to hold him back during his career. Tyson, suffering from an ugly divorce and too much coddling with his new Don King team, had become a man who began to either believe in his invincibility, or no longer cared.
What I liked about Layden's book was his documentation of Douglas. His story, in many ways, is a tragedy. We've read enough about Tyson and Layden expertly gives Douglas equal time with fine interviews with his training team, including long-time friend John Russell. Russell's loyalty to Douglas is especially touching. Several times during the passages detailing the Douglas years following the Tyson fight I was moved to tears. I was also surprised by the sympathetic light Layden shines on Tyson, a man portrayed far too often as a villain. After reading "The Last Great Fight," I feel as if I know Tyson and Douglas and have renewed respect for both men.
Layden hypothesizes that the Douglas/Tyson fight, held in 1990, was a quasi-end of boxing's popularity in the the public mainstream. Tyson, an enormously popular Heavyweight Champion at the time, embarked on an eventual path of shocking self destruction. He would eventually lose millions of dollars and file for bankruptcy. Douglas, in turn, would wisely invest the small fortune he made for his fight immediately following the Tyson victory, an uninspired KO loss to Evander Holyfield. The contrast of the two men's lives, finely detailed by Layden, shows Douglas ironically living in comfort while Tyson desperately struggles with financial and personal issues.
It's a disturbing story, as the cruelties of modern celebrity are revealed yet once again. Most importantly, Layden's work documents the lives of two men who are eventual victims of an ugly and greedy machine vicariously feeding on bodies and spirit. I was deeply moved by Douglas' survival to become a better man after his retirement from boxing. The brilliance of Layden's book is that it covers not only this historic fight, but the struggles of both men for years afterwards. This is a boxing story, granted. But it's also a tragic American tale you will not be able to put down.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on October 9, 2007
I am not a fan of boxing, but I do love a good story, and this book delivers, big time. The author crafts this tale of two men using the historic 1990 championship fight between Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas as not only the pivotal point in their lives, but also, as the title suggests, as the end of boxing in popular consciousness. The book is remarkably structured, centering around the fight, while deftly exploring the poignant past and present of the two main combatants. I could not put it down. The research is astonishing, and the author -- while a very fine writer -- does what all great storytellers do: He has the sense to get out of the way and let the incredible tale unfold, page by page. Oddly, by the end I found myself sympathic to Tyson -- a man I don't admire; as for Douglas, he shines forth as a genuinely good guy in a tawdry environment. This is a great, swift read, full of humanity and drama and insight. . Highly, highly recommended for boxing fans and for others who, like me, simply love a rich, engrossing story.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 25, 2007
In his book THE LAST GREAT FIGHT, author Joe Layden argues that despite how good the 1990 heavyweight championship Mike Tyson versus James "Buster" Douglas fight was, ultimately neither man would prove he wanted the title that badly. Layden says even though Tyson fought hard in the loss to Douglas, Iron Mike had not prepared. As for Douglas, the author says the new champion seemed to have spent all his desire to win by knocking out Tyson.
Discussing Mike Tyson's meteoric rise to the top, THE LAST GREAT FIGHT says that's where many bitter episodes stunk up what should have been the sweet smell of success for the youngest heavyweight boxing champion in history. As Tyson climbed into the ring to fight that February 1990 day, the loneliness of owning the title had left him with little will to keep it.
James Buster Douglas, says THE LAST GREAT FIGHT, could be great when he wanted to be, but wanting it was fleeting. It was as if Douglas knocked out Mike Tyson just to prove he could rather than for the spoils the world's greatest sports title - Heavyweight Champion - would bring.
THE LAST GREAT FIGHT details many of the Mike Tyson stories that made him infamous. But author Joe Layden deserves credit for not leaving it at that, as he includes several remarkable observations that make Tyson more human and less a 24/7 monster.
James Buster Douglas? Although he is the man who knocked out Mike Tyson, how many people outside of hardcore sports fans would recognize his face or name all these years later? Here's hoping THE LAST GREAT FIGHT raises public awareness of a humble individual who for at least one day seemed to step outside of himself to accomplish the incredible.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
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This book is a discussion of how the very different lives of Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas were forever changed by their history making bout in Tokyo. Joe Layden points out that Tyson was considered almost ubeatable at this point in his career, while Douglas had a reputation for being a less than properly motivated fighter who quit when the going got tough.
Instead, both guys fought courageously. Douglas dominated almost every moment of the fight, except for the closing seconds of the 8th round when Tyson dug down deep and floored Buster with an uppercut.
But Buster came back strong in round nine, and then he finished Tyson in the 10th round with a deadly payback uppercut, followed by four concussive blows. The end result was a dazed and battered Tyson, groping around on the canvas for his mouthpiece. Douglas' stunning victory is still considered by many today as the greatest upset in heavyweight championship history, even more of an upset than Braddock decisioning Max baer or Cassius Clay stopping Sonny Liston.
Layden goes on show how Douglas' managerial team was torn apart with dissension, and how Buster lost the itch for fighting. His weight ballooned up to 300 pounds. He lost some of the weight, but his flabby, weak and unprepared for his first title defense against Evander Holyfield. Evander would go on to knock Douglas out in the third round. Douglas would spend years and years fighting the battle of the bulge, putting on so much weight that he nearly died at one point while in a diabetic coma. Buster now raises his kids and enjoys retirement in the central Ohio area. he also has a home down in Marco Island, Florida. He is financially well off and looking for ways to help others.
Tyson, on the other hand, was effectively finished as a prodigy fighter. He would go on to have some decent moments in the ring, but his life would become characterized by an increasing number of brushes with the law. Even his ring performances would become memorable for their controversial moments, such as the ear biting incident in the second Holyfield fight, the punching out of the referee in the Savarese fight, and the leg biting incident in the prefight melee with Lennox Lewis and his entourage.
But Layden goes a step further by contending that not only were Douglas and Tyson in decline after their fight, but that Boxing was in decline after their fight. No one in the heavyweight ranks came forward who had the style and charisma (and circus atmosphere) of Tyson.
While I feel that it is a bit of an overstatement to tie the decline of boxing's popularity with the decline of Tyson himself, Layden makes a very interesting case and his book cannot be ignored.It is one of the best boxing books that I have read, and I highly recommend it.
on February 28, 2008
I did not expect to enjoy the book as much as I did. I Thought it was very well written and researched thoroughly.
The critique about "nothing new" on Tyson seems a little off to me. Granted in and of itself, that claim is true. But the book was not about rehashing Mike Tyson's life. That has been done already. THis book was about the Douglas Tyson Upset and while it logically provides before and after information about both fighters careers, it does not gloss over anything to the point of nearly being vacant. Yet it reasonably doesn't go overboard on well travelled ground either.
Add to the fact that the author was quite up front about the challenges he was presented with talking with Tyson himself and I think what Tyson history was covered in the book, more than was up to snuff for readers who are familiar with his history.
My only issue or rather curiosity with the book is the TITLE itself. "The Last Great Fight?"
Unless I missed an obvious explanation with regards to the books title, I just don't understand what it was supposed to mean.
To claim that there have not been dramatic, great or epic ots since 1990, I think is a gross exxaggeration.
A greater Upset since? Obviously no. But there have been plenty to choose from for better fights. Heck not only wasn't Douglas Tyson the Greatest fight of the 90's, it wasn;t the best fight of 1990! Julio Cesar Chavez KO 12 Meldrick Taylor took place slightly over a month after Douglas Tyson and is generally considered the greatest bout of the decade.
The 2000's have had two Barrera Morales Classics, two Gatti Ward Classics and the Corrales Castillo classic.
Heck, IMO we only need to go back two years to discuss that last truly Great Fight.
THis nitpicking aside re the title, the book is HIGHLY recommended by me, as I thought it was an absolutely wonderful read and excellently done.
I just don't care for the title.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 5, 2008
This story is built around the Heavyweight Championship fight on February 11, 1990 between the Champion Mike Tyson and the challenger James "Buster" Douglas. When Buster entered the ring that day in Tokyo he was a 42 to 1 underdog. When he knocked out the previously undefeated and invincible Tyson in the 10th round it was considered one of the greatest, if not "the" greatest upset in Heavyweight boxing history. The unique storyline for this book was the research put in by the author regarding both Tyson's and Douglas's lives and careers leading up to this fight, the fight itself, and the impact that the outcome of the fight had on the remainder of the combatants lives, as they went their separate ways after the fight. It's interesting that throughout boxing history it's almost a given that when a champion is unseated from his throne, a lucrative rematch almost always follows. But with the unscrupulous behavior that has become common place in modern boxing; "nothing is as it seems it should be", there was never a rematch! Even though this fight took place almost 18 years ago, the evil shadow that has besmirched boxing, in the name of Don King, was already manipulating the sport to his advantage, and to a lifetime boxing fan like myself, that force is what signaled the modern era of boxing, that unfortunately we're still in.
The author's information on Tyson's life exposes nothing new to even an average boxing fan. To me, the most interesting reporting of Buster's life was in the detail of the relatively unknown people in the supporting roles. His Father Bill "Dynamite" Douglas had been a boxer and defines the "old school" mentality of never taking a step back and the measure of a man's heart was the real measure of a man! Unlike his Father, Buster throughout his career was known as a "quitter" except in a very limited amount of his fights. Lucky for him one of the fights he didn't quit in, was one of the two biggest fights of his life, the one against Tyson. On the other end of the spectrum, he was accused of "quitting" on the canvas in his one title defense against Evander Holyfield. The stories of his trainers, managers, wife, and mother who died before he became Champion are quite illuminating. A surprising shortcoming of this book is that as interesting as all these characters are, there are absolutely no pictures in this book. As you get to know some of these lesser known people you start to visualize what they may look like and there is no way to compare your thoughts with reality. Especially when the author describes one of the trainers as looking like he came "straight out of central casting." I have a vast library of boxing books and this is one of the only ones that doesn't have 5-10 pages of pictures. One other quirk of the author is his use of so many "parenthetical" comments. It creates a strange literary flow. As we get to the end of the book, unless you've lived in a cave you already know what happened to Tyson, but other than one Sports Illustrated article in May 1993 I hadn't heard much about Buster till this book. Without giving away too much about the uneven ending of the story I will say that Buster is one fighter that got out with his money. On the other end of the scale is some handy information from Tyson's bankruptcy proceedings on how to spend ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN THREE YEARS: A few of the items were $4.47 Million on cars, $411,777.00 for the care and feeding of "pigeons and cats" which included a pair of white Bengal tigers, a figure that represented more than twice the amount listed under the heading of "child support".
on February 22, 2010
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'The Last Great Fight' will go down as one of the best sports books ever written and I personally believe will be one of the (if not THE) defining books on Mike Tyson. The genius of this book lies in the ability of Joe Layden to construct a narrative structure around one moment in history - the Tyson-Douglas Fight on February 11, 1990 - and use this fight to explain the rise and falls of two fighters, and the sport of the pro boxing as a whole.
The Tyson-Douglas Fight is one of the most underappreciated moments of modern sports history, primarily because (a) it occured overseas right before the advent of the Internet and 24 hours News (b) Mike Tyson has now become more of a punch line than what he was in 1990 - arguably the most feared and greatest fighter in boxing history. Objectively speaking, Douglas over Tyson represents the greatest upset in the entire history of modern sports. In light of that, this is a book that truly had to be written.
Layden does a great job of analzying the fight/fighters in a Before/During/After narrative structure that is extremely detailed, fast-pasted and filled with fascinating ancedotes. I could not put the book down (read it in one day) and found it equally fascinating, depressing, and inspirational. There are many life lessons one to can learn from this story and for anyone interested in sports (and what they mean in a larger life context), this book is a must-read. Tip of the hat to Joe Layden - great job.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on February 14, 2008
Prior to reading the book, I always thought that Douglas won this fight because he was in the right place at the right time. Tyson was dealing with a ton of issues, wasn't prepared to fight, his corner wasn't prepared to support his fight, and the result was more of a Tyson loss than a Douglas win. After reading this book, I changed my mind.
Layden does a wonderful job setting up the numerous back stories and weaving them in and out of the main story - the Tyson/Douglas fight. We learn a lot about Tyson's background (which probably isn't new info to most boxing fans), but more importantly, we learn a lot about Douglas -the boxer and the man. By the end of the book, it is clear that Douglas won the fight because he was the better boxer and because he wanted it more. On that one particular afternoon in Tokyo, Douglas would have even beaten a ready and prepared Mike Tyson.
Although the fight was obviously the highlight of the book, I also enjoyed the "where are they now" aspect of the book. Layden is very detailed in bringing the reader up to date on what Douglas and Tyson have been up to since their fight. Again, we all know about Tyson, but some of stories about Douglas will suprise you - the near death experience, the return to Columbus, the return to boxing.
I recommend this book to anyone who misses the good heavyweight boxing of years past. This book will hold you over until the next Great Fight.
on May 28, 2010
Mr. Joe (as Mike called him) has written what I consider to be a near perfect mass market non-fiction book. The story is based on solid research and many interviews. His conclusions and inferences are well supported and not stretched. There is little to no sentimentalization. The fact that both men suffered from poor parentage and have personality defects is not skirted. Nor does the author use the old trick of making a feel good story; you know the kind where a majorly screwed up person reaches a turning point and suddenly everything good.
The author is a very good writer. The prose is flows and the meaning is always crystal clear. And the story is fascinating, not just for sports fans, but for anyone who likes reading non-fiction biographies.
Also, if you were a fan of boxing at the time (1990) and remember watching the fight, and were riveted to the screen as the unthinkable played out before your eyes, you really should get this book. It's great fun to relive the memories through Mr. Joe's prose.
To sum up, after reading this book I really felt that I had been given the strait goods on a truly riveting story.
on January 31, 2011
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This was a pleasant surprise; a very interesting portrait of two boxers with the emphasis on Buster Douglas. He's a pretty likeable guy and an interesting study. So, too, is Mike Tyson (although not quite as likeable!).
The author does a fine job of detailing Buster's life and his memorable upset bout against "Iron Mike." Few details are spared, as the author, Joseph Leyden, really did his homework. Frankly, I never knew Douglas was such an interesting guy.
The people surrounding both Douglas and Tyson also are fascinating. Especially interesting is the insight on Don King. It all makes for a very good read.
It's a cliche, but you don't have to be boxing fan to enjoy this book.