James "Buster" Douglas, who scored perhaps the greatest upset in sports history when he knocked out Mike Tyson to win the heavyweight boxing championship, and then ate himself out of the game, was battling back from a diabetic coma yesterday at a hospital in Columbus, Ohio.
Douglas, 34, who retired as soon as he lost the title to Evander Holyfield eight months after winning it in February 1990, was reported "doing fine" by his father.
"His sugar count was way up," Billy Douglas said after returning to his Columbus home. "It's something he didn't know he had, diabetes. This caught him by a big surprise. I think it also had something to do with a reaction from some medicine he was taking for a sinus infection. But they got the sugar count down again and he's conscious. He's going to be all right."
Buster Douglas had been reported in "poor condition" by television station WBNS in Columbus, "slipping in and out of a coma," according to an unnamed relative.
"He's sitting up now, talking and recognizing people," his father said last night.
The Grant Medical Center, where the former champion was taken in a coma Monday, said family instructions were not to give out any information.
John Johnson, Douglas' estranged former manager, said: "It's really sad. It's very difficult for me to sit in my office and look at pictures of what he used to look like."
Douglas weighed 231 1/2 pounds when, as a 42-1 underdog, he knocked out Tyson in Tokyo. He was at 246 pounds, however, when he lost the title in three rounds to Holyfield.
Ron Katz, a Top Rank matchmaker, said Douglas weighed close to 400 pounds a little more than a year ago when he showed up in Atlantic City as manager of a Columbus junior lightweight, Andre Cray.
"I did a triple-take when I saw him," Katz said. "He was tremendous; nobody knew him. His head was immense.
"I remember saying to him, 'Out of respect, you were heavyweight champion of the world, and for your own health, you've got to get in shape.' He had to be 400 pounds."
A little over a year ago, in an interview with the Daily News, Douglas said he was "at peace" and had "no regrets" about his career, which ended with a 30-5-1 record.