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BOXING : Tucker Says He Earned Douglas Victory

Tony Tucker, the last man to beat Buster Douglas, says he wasn’t surprised that Douglas beat Mike Tyson in Tokyo last month.

Tucker, who stopped Douglas in the 10th round of a 1987 International Boxing Federation championship fight in Las Vegas, also said he is irritated by media descriptions of that fight in the aftermath of Douglas-Tyson.

“The media has been writing that Buster ‘just ran out of gas suddenly’ against me and blew it,” Tucker said.

“That’s not how it happened. I hurt Buster early in the ninth round with a long right hand, and after that he started backing up. I caught him on the ropes with four good shots in the 10th and finished him. He was in great shape that night, I just wore him down and beat him.”

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After Tucker beat Douglas, he lost his title to Tyson on a 12-round decision, his only defeat in 37 fights. Tucker, still the last man to go the distance against Tyson, dropped out of sight after that bout. He battled substance abuse and other personal problems for more than two years and is 2-0 since a comeback.

He will fight Mike Evans at the Forum Thursday night.

Tyson remains the hardest hitter Tucker has faced.

“Tyson hit me harder than anyone, certainly harder than Buster,” Tucker said. “But Eddie Lopez hit me harder than Buster, too. Tyson was ready for a fall. Buster was the right guy at the right time. All it took was a guy who could stand up to him and fight him. I’m the one who showed he wasn’t invincible, not Buster.”

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Tucker, who stunned Tyson with a left uppercut in the first minute of their fight, was never in serious difficulty but still lost a clear decision. Later, he said he had fought Tyson with a broken bone in his right hand.

If Steve Wynn’s proposed deal to match Douglas and Evander Holyfield in September survives the courts, Tucker won’t pick a winner. Not yet, anyway.

“That’s a tough one to pick, because it won’t be for seven months,” he said. “It depends a lot on whether or not Buster stays in shape--you know Holyfield will show up in shape.

“Remember, Buster was fighting every other month going into the Tyson fight. Now he’s going to have a long layoff. And Holyfield took a lot of shots in his last two, against (Michael) Dokes and (Alex) Stewart. Holyfield takes a great shot, but Buster hits pretty good. If Buster can hit Holyfield as steadily as those two guys did, he’ll knock Holyfield out.”

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And what of Tyson?

“He’s young, it’s hard to say. Maybe he can pick himself up after that loss, I don’t know. You don’t know what his mind is like. Psychologically, the loss by itself has to change him, knowing he’s not invincible like he thought he was.

“I knew Mike would take Buster lightly, so I wasn’t surprised at what happened. Buster did it perfectly, kept that big jab on him, put pressure on him and didn’t let Mike back him up. Buster’s got a really good jab, but it can be countered. Buster’s at his best when he’s got both feet planted, throwing shots.”

But please, Tucker said, no more “Buster-ran-out-of-gas-against-Tucker” stories.

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“I hurt Buster and then finished him, he didn’t run out of gas,” he reiterated.

J.D. McCauley, Buster Douglas’ uncle/trainer, says he is convinced his man beat Tyson at his best.

“I’ve watched it a half-dozen times and I’ve watched Mike carefully,” he said. “I don’t see Mike breathing hard at any time up to the later rounds. To me, he looks like he was in great shape.”

McCauley, who has insisted that he never doubted Douglas would defeat Tyson, said his confidence reached a peak after a morning run that Douglas took five days before the fight.

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“Buster ran five miles that morning in 37 minutes and felt so good when it was over, he ran another 2 1/2 miles,” McCauley said. “We knew then Buster was in the best shape of his life, that if he lost, it wouldn’t be because he wasn’t in shape.

“After the run that morning, he said to us: ‘I got it, I’m gonna kill him.’

“So he had it from both directions, heart and conditioning. Heart is directly related to conditioning. If you’re not in shape, it won’t matter if you have the heart.”

Douglas hasn’t been near a gym since the fight, but not to worry, his trainer said.

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“As long as Buster doesn’t go over 240-242, I’m not worried. He can take that off easily. But he knows if he goes up to 250-255, that’s trouble.”

You wonder what kind of calls the trainer of a 42-1 shot gets after his guy wins the world heavyweight championship.

“I haven’t heard from any name fighters, but I heard from four amateur kids,” he said. “They wanted to go into training right away, but none of them had any idea how hard it is to box. So I sent them to an amateur coach.”

The name jumps out from the long roster of entrants in Sunday’s Los Angeles Marathon: Palomino, Carlos.

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“It’s my seventh marathon and my third L.A. Marathon,” the former welterweight champion said. Palomino, 40 but still at his fighting weight of 147 pounds, said running a marathon is a lot more painful than going the distance with Roberto Duran or Armando Muniz.

“The first time I ran a marathon, I thought the first 15 miles were a breeze,” he said. “But after 18 miles, every step felt like a body shot from George Foreman. After my fights with Duran and Muniz, I hurt from the waist up for several days. After a marathon, I hurt from the waist down for two weeks. And I can’t walk without making faces.”

Boxing Notes

Former heavyweight champion Floyd Patterson visited the scene of one of his early victories this week, the old brick arena in Helsinki, Finland, where he won the Olympic middleweight gold medal in 1952. Patterson and his pro rival, Ingemar Johansson, were guests at the recent Finnish amateur boxing championships. . . . One of the best of a good current crop of light-heavyweights, Australian Jeff Harding (15-0) will defend his WBC championship against Nestor Giovanni (28-4-2) of Argentina March 18 on ESPN.

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According to an Amateur Athletic Foundation study, Sugar Ray Leonard was easily the best-paid athlete in 1989, at $29.5 million. Mike Tyson was a distant second with $14 million, followed by Thomas Hearns with $11 million and Roberto Duran with $8.165 million. The first non-boxer on the list: Auto race driver Ayrton Senna with $8 million. . . . The Dunes in Las Vegas will stage its first boxing show since 1983 on March 12, featuring a lightweight bout between Greg Haugen (23-2-1) and Memo Cruz (17-3).

NBC boxing coordinator Kevin Monaghan said the network will no longer recognize the World Boxing Assn., after the WBA’s featherweight champion, Antonio Esparragoza, pulled out of an April 1 bout against Steve Cruz, which was to have been televised by NBC. Monaghan, angry because he lost the date to a figure skating show, claimed that the pullout was payback for a long-running NBC-WBA beef. . . . Mike Evans, who will be Tony Tucker’s Forum opponent Thursday night, is a part-time actor and former amateur wrestler who lost to Olympic champion Tyrell Biggs in Biggs’ first pro bout in 1984.


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