Heavyweight boxer James “Buster” Douglas waves his gloved hand to the cheering crowd as he makes his way to the dressing room following a 10th round knockout victory over Mike Tyson in a scheduled 12-round championship bout at the Tokyo Dome, Feb. 11, 1990. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)
ASSOCIATED PRESS

Heavyweight boxer James “Buster” Douglas waves his gloved hand to the cheering crowd as he makes his way to the dressing room following a 10th round knockout victory over Mike Tyson in a scheduled 12-round championship bout at the Tokyo Dome, Feb. 11, 1990. Others are unidentified. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

From boxing’s Muhammad Ali and Sonny Liston to hockey’s Sidney Crosby, Androscoggin Bank Colisee is synonymous with past and present legends of sport.

This Saturday night, yet another champion will grace Lewiston’s venerable arena.

James “Buster” Douglas, known worldwide as the first man to knock out the unsinkable Mike Tyson and claim the undisputed heavyweight belt, is scheduled to meet and greet fans in conjunction with a joint boxing and mixed martial arts card presented by New England Fights.

Opening bell at “NEF 29: Stars and Stripes” is set for 7 p.m. Douglas’ appearance is scheduled for the hour preceding the fights.

“It’s my first time ever in Lewiston,” Douglas said. “It’s exciting. I’m looking forward to the nice weather.”

The state, city and venue became part of boxing’s permanent lore in May 1965, when the ballyhooed rematch between Ali and Liston was diverted from Boston in the days leading up to the bout.

Ali successfully defended the belt by first-round knockout, an ending so abrupt and controversial that it left many spectators convinced Liston was felled by a “phantom punch.”

“Muhammad Ali is one of my favorites,” Douglas said. “To be going to a place where he fought, there’s going to be a lot of history, for sure.”

It was the start of a reign in which Ali evolved into a hero around the globe, his legend cemented by a series of unforgettable fights against the likes of Joe Frazier and George Foreman.

A youngster from a tough section of Columbus, Ohio, Douglas, now 57, had no idea at the time that one night in Tokyo would forever put him in that stratosphere.

Douglas was the son of a prize fighter, William “Dynamite” Douglas, but was best known in his hometown as a college basketball player before gravitating to a local recreational gym and joining the family business in 1981.

He won his first five fights before losses to David Bey and Mike White and a draw with Steffen Tangstad briefly sidetracked his rise to the top. Douglas’ career trekked upward again in 1985 and ’86, when he defeated Greg Page and David Jaco to earn an unsuccessful IBF championship bid against Tony Tucker.

All the while, Douglas found himself on fight posters with a fast-rising phenomenon from upstate New York. Moments before Tyson memorably mauled Michael Spinks to unify the world title on June 27, 1988, Douglas knocked out fellow contender Mike Williams.

“I knew I had a good chance to beat Mike,” Douglas said. “I watched him come up and fought on a lot of his undercards. I didn’t get caught up in the hype. I didn’t listen to everyone else’s expectations.”

Douglas won unanimous decisions over a previous champion, Trevor Berbick, and a future titleholder, Oliver McCall, within the next year. It moved him to the top in a rapidly thinning herd of would-be Tyson challengers.

The fight was scheduled for February 11, 1990, at Tokyo Dome. Other than the cursory live broadcast on HBO, there was little initial fanfare. Las Vegas gambling houses were so uninspired by the pairing that only one bothered to issue odds, declaring Douglas a 42-to-1 underdog.

“Even today, people are like, ‘Man, I didn’t think you could do it.’ Tyson was considered unbeatable at the time,” Douglas said. “He was knocking out everybody.”

In retrospect, there were signs that Tyson was due for a fall. He had split with original trainer Kevin Rooney. Footage leaked of the champion being knocked down in training camp. Marital strife with actress wife Robin Givens was weekly tabloid and TV fare.

Drawing inspiration from his own personal tumult – Douglas’ mother died only three weeks earlier – the challenger used his 12-inch reach advantage wisely and dominated the early rounds. Douglas nearly closed Tyson’s eye by the fifth. The champ’s corner scrambled to find tools to cut down the swelling, as his seconds hadn’t accounted for the possibility that the fight would extend so long.

A desperate Tyson scored a flash knockdown at the close of the eighth round, although Douglas appeared more angry at himself for allowing the punch than injured by it. He rallied in the ninth with a fusillade that early finished Tyson before the bell intervened, then floored the champ for a 10-count early in the next frame.

“It was a childhood dream come true,” Douglas said. “To be announced as the heavyweight champion of the world, that’s something I’ll always remember. That’s something that can’t be taken away from you. And it’s been pretty good ever since.”

The reign was short-lived. When the Douglas and Tyson camps couldn’t reach an immediate accord for a rematch, the new champion chose to defend the belt against Evander Holyfield. “Real Deal” scored a third-round KO and went on to a stellar career that included two wins over Tyson.

Douglas promptly retired. He returned to the ring six years later, primarily for health purposes after his weight ballooned to nearly 400 pounds.

Today, his life has come full circle.

“Right now I’m in Columbus training fighters in a rec gym,” Douglas said. “Not the same one I started in, but one just like it. It’s like going back to square one. I’m really enjoying it.”

He believes fight cards such as the one in Maine, where NEF added boxing to its cage fighting stage three years ago, are a sign that the sweet science is enjoying a renaissance.

“Not only is boxing making a comeback, but there are a a lot of great opportunities for American heavyweights,” Douglas said. “Most of the titles are over the pond. You have to go out and get them.”

Only three U.S. fighters have held a piece of the heavyweight title since 2006.

“A lot of athletes go to other sports. It’s not like it was before, but it’s coming back around,” he said. “(WBC champion Deontay Wilder) is bringing a lot of attention to it, and it’s going to generate some interest.”

Douglas looks forward to his ringside seat as Portland Boxing Club (PBC) standouts Russell Lamour, Casey Kramlich and Jason Quirk showcase their talents Saturday night. All three have developed under the watchful eye of PBC head coach Bob Russo.

One would be hard pressed to find an individual who has done more for Maine’s youth and the sport of boxing over the past quarter-century than Russo. The coach distinctly remembers the night Douglas shocked the world and the impact his win had on the boxing world.

“The Tyson/Douglas fight was definitely the biggest upset in boxing — and maybe in all sports history,” Russo recalled. At one time, the Las Vegas odds were 42-to-1 in favor of Tyson. It wasn’t so much that the odds makers didn’t respect Douglas’ ability, it was the fact that Tyson had destroyed every opponent he had previously faced and seemed unbeatable. The performance that Buster put on against Tyson was incredible; his boxing ability was awesome. He controlled Tyson with his jab and his footwork but more than anything, he was not afraid of Tyson. Buster told me when he was in Portland that he knew he was strong enough to control him on the inside and that he could out-box him from the outside. He clearly beat Tyson that night, and I believe that he would have won again if there had been a rematch.”

From Columbus to Portland to Lewiston, Douglas is living proof that any city in America is a possible cradle of champions, and the history of his travel destination speaks for itself.

“I also like watching the smaller weight classes and see who’s coming up,” Douglas said. “There’s a lot of talent out there.”

Former heavyweight boxing champion James “Buster” Douglas stands Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, at Thompson Recreation Center in Columbus, Ohio. Wednesdayis the 25th anniversary of Douglas’ 1990 defeat of then-champion Mike Tyson in Toyko. Tyson was 37-0 with 33 knockouts heading into the fight. Las Vegas oddsmakers made him a 42-1 favorite to do his wrecking-ball thing against Douglas. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
AP

Former heavyweight boxing champion James “Buster” Douglas stands Tuesday, Feb. 10, 2015, at Thompson Recreation Center in Columbus, Ohio. Wednesdayis the 25th anniversary of Douglas’ 1990 defeat of then-champion Mike Tyson in Toyko. Tyson was 37-0 with 33 knockouts heading into the fight. Las Vegas oddsmakers made him a 42-1 favorite to do his wrecking-ball thing against Douglas. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)

Heavyweight Champion James “Buster” Douglas photo show on Feb.1990.(AP Photo)
AP

Heavyweight Champion James “Buster” Douglas photo show on Feb.1990.(AP Photo)

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