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Friday, February 13, 2015


Back in Feb. 1990, when I was the Chicago Tribune's Tokyo Bureau Chief, I covered the Mike Tyson-Buster Douglas heavyweight champion fight in Tokyo, one of greatest upsets ever.

For the past few weeks the Japan Times has been running a fascinating series of stories about that historic event written by reporter Ed Odeven. In them he interviewed a wide range of folks, including Buster Douglas himself.

Ed also interviewed a few of us who covered the fight in the vast Tokyo Dome. You can access those stories by clicking on the links below.

I have also included the story I filed for the Chicago Tribune that day. Take a look.

Douglas KO's Tyson in 10; Champion floored by right hook

By Ronald E. Yates

TOKYO--Mike Tyson, a prohibitive favorite to retain his world heavyweight championship, was floored in the 10th round of his bout with James "Buster" Douglas Sunday in one of boxing history's biggest upsets.
With a mild typhoon howling outside the Dome and an unbelieving crowd of some 40,000 shrieking inside, Douglas peppered Tyson with a right uppercut, several left-right combinations and a crushing right hook to send the former undefeated champion crashing to the canvas.
Tyson, his left eye swollen shut and his knees still weak, couldn't climb to his feet in time to beat the count by referee Octavio Meyran Sanchez.
For a moment those at ringside seemed stunned at what had happened and Tyson, himself, seemed unable to grasp what had just happened. He looked across the ring at a jubilant, unmarked Douglas as Douglas hoisted his 11-year-old son Lamar in the air.
"You did it, Daddy, you did it," the youngster said.
"I sure did," Douglas said, breaking down in tears as he hugged his son.
"I did it for my mother," Douglas said, wiping tears from his eyes. Douglas' mother, Lula Pearl Douglas, died in mid-January just before Douglas was due to travel to Tokyo to train for his fight with Tyson. "I sure did it, didn't I," he said.
Indeed, he did. But earlier in the eighth round, it appeared it would be business as usual for Tyson when he caught Douglas with a crunching uppercut that sent the 6-foot-4-inch, 233-pound challenger crumbling to the canvas.
The fight might have ended there, but the knockdown came at the end of the round and Douglas was able to stagger back to his corner where his cornermen worked feverishly to revive him.
Tyson, who lacked the fire and intensity of previous fights, uncharacteristically failed to press his advantage in the ninth round and allowed Douglas to regain his strength and composure. As the ninth ended, Douglas peppered Tyson with left-right combinations-a harbinger of what was to come for Tyson in the fateful 10th.
Through most of the fight Tyson had difficulty getting inside the awkward Douglas' 12-inch reach advantage and resorted to lunging at the taller fighter. Douglas responded with left jabs to Tyson's head, which kept the former champion at bay.
Though Tyson managed to walk from the ring, when he got under the Dome's stands, his cornermen carried him down the steps to his dressing room.
"No comment, no comment," Tyson's entourage shouted at reporters who mobbed the former champion's dressing room. "This room is off limits!"
Tyson also refused to conduct a post-fight interview with Box Office fight analyst Sugar Ray Leonard. HBO beamed the fight back to the United States.
Back in the middle of the ring, Douglas, who seemed dazed by his historic upset, waved to the crowd and shouted at the Japanese audience:
"Thank you for making me and my son and my trainers feel so at home here in Japan. Thank you for making all of this possible."
Even more dazed than Douglas was Evander Holyfield, the undefeated top-ranked challenger that Tyson was to have fought June 18 at Atlantic City.
"It was a great fight for Douglas," said Holyfield. "He was the best man tonight. No doubt about it. But this didn't look like the Mike Tyson I've watched before."
"We rooted hard for Mike Tyson," said Dan Duva, Holyfield's promoter. "Now it's back to the drawing boards."
A Holyfield-Douglas matchup will not carry the luster nor the money of a fight with Tyson, admitted promoter Don King.
"My goal is to be world heavyweight champion and I don't care who I have to fight to reach it," said Holyfield. "Douglas has the championship now, so he's the one I want to fight."
For their efforts Saturday night, Tyson reportedly earned $9 million and Douglas $1 million.
Douglas, 30-4-1, was too busy celebrating to think about his next opponent.
"Let me enjoy this one first," he said, when asked if Holyfield would be his next opponent.
Douglas seemed to take command of the fight from the opening bell and won the first three rounds as the frustrated Tyson tried unsuccessfully to reach his taller opponent.
By the fourth round Tyson had battled back with punishing body shots that seemed to hurt Douglas. Both fighters appeared to tire in the sixth round with Tyson still unable to connect against Douglas.
In the seventh and eighth rounds both fighters traded jabs and combinations until Tyson connected with a vicious uppercut that dropped Douglas in the end of the eighth.
With Tyson unable to put Douglas away in the ninth, the challenger peppered the champion with five straight punches that closed his left eye completely.
The fight was Tyson's 10th title defense-the last six of which had ended in knockouts.
As Douglas sent Tyson crashing to the canvas, an American judge had the challenger ahead on points 88-82. One of two Japanese judges had the fight scored 87-86 for Tyson while the last judge had it 86-86.
"I don't think Mike was hungry enough today," said Holyfield.
The prospect of Tyson stepping into the ring against Douglas had electrified the Japanese about as much as a plate of yesterday's sushi. That was reflected in the slow ticket sales for the 63,000-seat Dome, a facility normally used for baseball by Japan's champion Yomiuri Giants.
Ironically, some 2,000 ringside "Golden Seats" sold briskly at $1,035 each, snapped up by Japanese corporations as gifts to top customers and perks for executives, and by Japanese and foreign celebrities such as the Rolling Stones (in town for a series of concerts) and New York real estate tycoon Donald Trump, along with several Japanese pop singers, movie stars and television personalities.
However, a Dome official confided before the fight that more than half the remaining 60,000 tickets were still unsold.
It took King to keep the usually kinetic Japanese press and public pumped up for the contest, a formidable task after reporters were invited to watch the 5-foot-11-inch Tyson walk through several listless practice bouts with taller sparring partners such as Greg Page and Phillip Brown.
The most excitement generated during the three-week run up to the fight came when Page floored Tyson with a short right during a sparring session two weeks ago.

Friday, February 6, 2015


For a journalist credibility is everything. Without it what you write, what you say, what you report lacks the critical ring of truth.

Credibility, or more accurately, the loss of it, is what has happened to NBC News anchor Brian Williams in the wake of his false claim that in 2003 while in Iraq he had been in a helicopter hit by an RPG (rocket propelled grenade).

In fact, as Williams himself now admits, that story is simply not true.  

He was never in a helicopter that was forced to make an emergency landing because it was hit by an RPG. In fact, he arrived about an hour after the choppers that had been hit by RPG's had already made their emergency landings.

Williams apologized for the fabrication recently during NBC's Nightly News broadcast:

"I made a mistake in recalling the events of 12 years ago. I want to apologize." He added that: “I have no desire to fictionalize my experience and no need to dramatize events as they actually happened. I think the constant viewing of the video showing us inspecting the impact area — and the fog of memory over 12 years — made me conflate the two, and I apologize.”
NBC News Anchor Brian Williams

Here's the problem with that statement. Anybody who has ever been in war as a combatant or covered war as a correspondent, as I have, NEVER forgets a near death experience--and that's what being hit by an RPG in a helicopter then crash landing would definitely be.

I recall once lying flat in the bottom of a putrid ditch during a mortar attack on a village in Vietnam's Tay Ninh province and thinking for sure that the next shell was going to land on top of me.

"Don't worry," someone who was hunkered in the ditch with me said, "you never hear the one that gets you."

That was little consolation at the time, but the experience is still etched deeply in my memory bank.

That's why the "fog of memory" is simply not a valid excuse. Williams insists he  conflated his inspection of the impact area of those damaged choppers with "thinking" or "remembering" that he was aboard one of the targeted helicopters.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking. After all, if you as an NBC correspondent, can say you were almost killed covering war, in the sometimes flaky and dodgy world of television journalism that goes a long way toward increasing your on-air persona--not to mention an increase in salary.

Now it appears Williams fabricated another story while covering Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans back in 2005. Williams claims to have seen a dead body float past the window of the five-star hotel where he was staying in the French Quarter.

"When you look out of your hotel room window in the French Quarter and watch a man float by face-down, when you see bodies that you last saw in Banda Aceh, Indonesia, and swore to yourself that you would never see in your country," he said in a 2006 interview. "I beat that storm. I was there before it arrived. I rode it out with people who later died in the Superdome."

The fact is there were no corpses floating through the French Quarter because it is on higher ground and was, therefore, spared the rising floodwaters that devastated other neighborhoods when the levees broke.

 An unlike the evacuees in the Superdome in the days following the storm, Williams was ensconced in an NBC News RV compound on Canal Street with food and drinks along with a bevy of producers and military-trained security. He did not endure the mayhem that evacuees went through overnight and days afterward.

The sad truth is that television news is seen today more as entertainment and less as journalism--and its stars not only must be protected, but relentlessly well-groomed.

Television journalists are often viewed the same way Hollywood actors are viewed--superstars who earn substantial salaries. And regrettably, like their Hollywood brethren, they sometimes have difficulty discerning fact from fiction. As such, they sometimes write or present the news to fit their perception of reality, rather than cover it impartially.

Like Williams they often have an inflated view of their own importance.

I am reminded of what English playwright Tom Stoppard had to say about journalists like Williams:

"He's someone who flies around from hotel to hotel and thinks that the most interesting thing about any story is the fact that he has arrived to cover it."