One of my favorite moments from that “42 to 1” ESPN 30 For 30 doc came when we heard from Buster Douglas’ bro.
Bill Douglas was recollecting a conversation he overheard, between Buster’s mom and his dad. Lula Pearl and Billy.
Bertha asked Billy if Mike Tyson was actually the brand of badass she’d been hearing. Yep, the son/boxer told her.
“Is he like you,” Bertha asked ex pro boxer Billy.
“Yeah, he’s like me, honey, he’s a killer.”
Mama said she didn’t want her Buster to go through with it…but that ship had sailed. Money had been spent…and money was going to be recouped.
The son of the fighter assured his mommy that the other guy should be doing the worrying. The mama believed it…she saw it in Buster’s eyes, and heard it in his voice, he’d spring that upset for the ages.
By the way, that doc sent me down a bit of a rabbit hole, when we glimpsed a snippet of Billy Douglas in action. You might not know, Top Rank matchmaker Bruce Trampler, a Hall of Fame talent, actually managed “Dynamite.”
I spoke with Trampler about Buster’s dad, who last fought in 1980, and retired with a 42-16-1 record. He died in 1999. The snippet of film I saw showed a badass, an aggressor type who looked like he’d be trouble for any level of boxer on a good night.
“My early years were a mix of managing, training, referee and judging, ring announcer, corner work, cut man, booking fighters, and then into matchmaking full time in 1978 so it was a good solid all around background,” Trampler shared with me.
So,”Dynamite”…was he what that tape snippet suggested? “He turned pro at 27 after long amateur career but had wife and four kids and full time job. Was a beast at 160 and always a threat as he gained weight…Very few middles today could beat him back then. Tremendous puncher, great finisher. Solid skills, was in several of the most exciting fights I ever saw. I was blessed to have him as my first fighter.”
OK, so is there lots of good footage of Buster’s pop we can all check out? “Unfortunately no. Russell Peltz has some footage, like the Bennie Briscoe fight (in 1973), but I think the Willie Monroe fight (1974) was stolen from his car and the great action fights like Pedro Soto (1976) and Octavio Romero (1973) weren’t filmed back then.”
I admitted to Bruce, I wondered if I look back too fondly, through a haze of nostalgic fondess…and if that doesn’t influence me when I see film of a “Dynamite,” and decide he looks like he could be a helluva player on the scene today…even though his record indicates he was a “journeyman” type.
“I often see how far back I have to go to find guys who could beat any of today’s guys — Floyd, Loma, Manny, Joshua, et al in an objective fashion, no fond memories. Try it yourself. And yes, they were tougher. It wasn’t that long ago that they routinely fought 15 rounds and didn’t get tired. So were baseball pitchers like Gibson, Drysdale, Ryan, Morris, and dozens of others who weren’t coming out after five innings,” Trampler told me.
He finished up with a summation of a helluva fighter, who will be best known as having helped conceive the man who pulled off the greatest upset in the history of all sports, but in his own right, owned skills that coulda paid the bills and then some in a different era…
Who was Billy “Dynamite” Douglas?
“Very few like him in my experience,” Trampler finished. “Good worker, family man, and real fighter.”