The song that helped Buster Douglas defeat Mike Tyson
As we ramp up to our next big exhibit, Ohio–Champion of Sports, we’re sharing stories of Ohio athletes that may surprise you.
On February 11, 1990, James “Buster” Douglas of Columbus shocked the world when he knocked out seemingly unbeatable heavyweight Mike Tyson. The fight, held in Tokyo, is considered the biggest upset in boxing history.
Virtually no one expected Douglas to win—one newspaper preview was headlined “Douglas next Tyson victim.” The longshot odds inspired the title of “42 to 1,” a new ESPN documentary about the fight that stunned the world and made Douglas a household name. Part of the network’s acclaimed “30 for 30” documentary series, “42 to 1” premieres at 9 p.m. Dec. 11 on ESPN.
Buster Douglas takes down Mike Tyson during their world heavyweight title fight in Tokyo on Feb. 11, 1990. Douglas won by a knockout in the 10th round in a stunning result.
If you listen carefully to the documentary, you may hear a song that plays an interesting part of the Buster Douglas story. “Win It All” was written by Garth Nutter, a part-time musician in Columbus who grew up with Douglas’ manager, John Johnson. “I was hanging out with John a few months before the fight, and he said, ‘You should write a song to motivate Buster while he trains.’” Nutter said yes right away, and in just a few days penned the music. Johnson suggested the title and his daughter contributed the lyrics and vocals.
Nutter rallied local talent to record it at the Musicol studio on Oakland Park Ave. “Those were some great musicians,” says Nutter, who played guitar on the track. “It all came together quickly.” Douglas was there for the recording session.
Buster Douglas trains at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Douglas loved the funky song and listened to it often as he prepared for the fight. It was such a hit with his team that Johnson had it played in the arena as Douglas walked to the ring to face Tyson. For two weeks after Douglas’ triumphant return to Columbus, Nutter says, it was most requested song on local pop radio station WNCI. “It was fun to be a part of it all.”
Nutter, Douglas, Johnson and others are gathering in Columbus to watch “42 to 1” when it premiers on ESPN.
You can learn more about Douglas’ historic fight at our next major exhibit, Ohio–Champion of Sports, opening March 16, 2019. Until then, listen to Garth Nutter’s “Win It All.”