The title reflects the odds against Buster Douglas who defeated Mike Tyson.
James “Buster” Douglas was the underdog boxer on February 11, 1990, in the Tokyo Dome. His opponent, Mike Tyson had been the victor beyond the fifth round for every one of his fights since 1987. In the ninth round of their fight, Douglas knocked Tyson to the ground for the first time in his entire career. Shocking the entire boxing world, Douglas, and not Tyson, was crowned the new world heavyweight champion.
“This is a story I wanted to tell for a long time. It’s a story I felt had not really been explored to the degree that it deserved,” said Emmy-award winning director Jeremy Schaap, who co-directed the film “42 to 1” about the life and victory of Buster Douglas, “This film dives deep into the story of the man who pulled out the greatest upset ever in sports.”
The film premiered on ESPN on December 11 as part of the “30 for 30” weekly documentary series celebrating the channel’s thirtieth anniversary. The series highlights significant events in sports history that took place between 1979 and 2009.
“This film gives me a chance to tell my story and to share the behind-the-scenes interactions leading up to the fight,” said Buster Douglas, whose mother died three weeks before his victory. “It was not just about me fighting in the ring, but the support I received from my mother, my father, and my family.”
A preview event for the film was held at Jack Dempsey’s in Manhattan’s Garment District on December 7. Buster Douglas and “42 to 1” directors Jeremy Schaap and Ben Houser were in attendance. Clips of the iconic fight, interviews with Douglas, and scenes depicting his return to Tokyo were displayed on a screen in the sports bar.
“People know the famous 1990 headline but they don’t know the next sentences of the story. They don’t know anything about Buster or the challenges he overcame to achieve this and everything he faced in his career after that point,” said Schaap, who was inspired to make the film along with Houser.
“When this started, Jeremy and I both talked about what we thought was the greatest upset in sports history and we always came to this story,” said co-director and Emmy-award winner Ben Houser. Together the directors traveled with Douglas to learn more about the boxing champion as they brought his story to life.
“Buster went with us to Tokyo. He went back for the first time in almost three decades. He opened up his life. He went to the cemetery where his mother is buried. As a director it’s hard to find someone who trusts you in telling their whole life story, and it made me so happy when he told me he liked it. It’s gratifying to me that Buster was happy with it,” said Houser.
After being doubted, mocked, and predicted to lose, Douglas remained undeterred as he entered the ring. He credits his mother as his inspiration for persevering. It was Douglas’s determination that co-director Houser said is the essence of the film.
“I was fourteen when the fight took place. I was shocked like anyone who heard it. I just couldn’t believe that someone who was somewhat of a journeyman fighter from Columbus, Ohio beat the self-proclaimed baddest man on the planet,” said Houser, “It’s an amazing story. It feels like a Rocky movie but it really happened. Buster got knocked down by a punch that knocked out every other boxer before him, but then he got up and beat Mike Tyson.”