Don King says he was misunderstood.
Jose Sulaiman, president of the World Boxing Council, says he was misinterpreted.
More likely, however, is the prospect that they understood and interpreted very clearly the message sent by an angry public that was not about to accept anything less than clear recognition of James (Buster) Douglas as heavyweight champion of the world.
Don King in Japan: “Buster Douglas was knocked out. He was down for 12 seconds. All we want is a fair result. . . . It’s a grave injustice here. It’s an injustice if it holds that Mike Tyson got knocked out. The fact is, Buster Douglas got knocked out first.”
Don King late Monday: “I never asked anybody to change the decision. We just want a first shot at a rematch. . . . If anyone tried to take Buster Douglas’ title, it would be unacceptable to Mike Tyson. Tyson doesn’t want the belt unless he wins it in the ring.”
Apparently, the many reporters in attendance took King too literally. Maybe that’s because so many of those same reporters--and other people in the boxing industry--suspect that King has an incestuous relationship with the WBC and the World Boxing Assn.
Do they misunderstand that relationship as well?
Possibly, but many find it interesting that King, Tyson and practically his entire entourage were at the news conference--sitting at the table with Sulaiman--when the protest was discussed with the news media.
Where was Buster Douglas?
Maybe his invitation was lost in the mail.
Commentators from around the country expressed displeasure with the developments in Japan.
Wrote Bill Brubaker of the Washington Post: " . . . King has considerable clout in the affairs of the Mexico City-based WBC and, to a lesser extent, the Venezuela-based WBA. . . . King and Sulaiman acknowledge they are good friends. They insist, however, that their friendship does not interfere with WBC business.”
Wallace Matthews, boxing writer for Newsday in New York, wrote that King “knows where to go now that he needs a favor--to his two puppets, Sulaiman and (WBA president Gilberto) Mendoza. The stench from this affair is so strong that even King’s rival, Bob Arum--known to many as ‘The Snake'--can come out smelling good from it.”
Which brings us to Sulaiman, in Japan: “As of today, no one is heavyweight champion until February 20 when I meet with the WBC executive committee.”
Time flies when you’re having backlash.
Sulaiman, late Monday: “The WBC never stated that we would not recognize Buster Douglas as champion of the world.”
The WBA was a bit more up-front about its turnaround. Mendoza said in Tokyo, “We are withholding recognition of the result.” He would not elaborate.
Tuesday morning, James Binns, legal counsel for the WBA called the Associated Press to say: “The WBA has declared Buster Douglas the champion. It’s just upon reflection that this is the right decision.”
And about the referee, Octavio Meyran, whose long count was at the center of the dispute. On Sunday, he admitted his error.
“I have been a referee for 22 years. I’m a man of honor and unfortunately this is a 100% human mistake,” he said. “I’d like to recognize my mistake, because the rules are rules in every part of the world.”
That prompted the press in Mexico to write that Meyran was forced to say he had erred for fear of being blacklisted by the WBC, more specifically Sulaiman and, yes, King, who is not a council member.
Meyran on Tuesday: "(Douglas) won the championship fair and square. The rules don’t say you have to look to the timekeeper. Of course, you can look for his help.”
Somewhere, the meeting where the rules changed was missed.
Certainly, it is possible that all three simply were misinterpreted in their intent.
Or, are Sulaiman’s words from late Monday more to the point.
He said then: “I contacted the members of the executive council of the WBC in the five continents and they demand our group officially announce Buster Douglas as champion of the world of the heavyweight division.”
Apparently Sulaiman bowed to five continents rather than one King.