Outside of boxing fans, the name James "Buster" Douglas may not be one that rings a bell. He's a former world champion but more than that, he's responsible for one of the most iconic moments in the history of sport when he knocked out Mike Tyson.

Tyson was on top of the world. The undisputed world champion had demolished everyone in his path on his way to world domination.

Tyson was 37-0 with 33 knockouts and had savaged boxers rated among the world's best, including a first round knockout of Michael Spinks in 1988 to unify the heavyweight titles.

It was a time when no one thought Tyson could be touched. Douglas, on the other hand, was a heavyweight many had thought missed his opportunity for true glory after losing a bid for the vacant IBF heavyweight title in 1987.

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No one expected Douglas to survive a round against Tyson when they squared off in 1990. But as the latest documentary in the ESPN 30 for 30 series, titled 42 to 1, reveals, Douglas did far more than just match it with the baddest man on the planet for a single round.

ALWAYS IN HIS FATHER'S SHADOW

Buster was the son of Bill "Dynamite" Douglas, a boxing contender in the 1970s who never made the jump to title-holder and retired with a record of 41-16-1. The lack of a title drove Douglas Sr to push Buster into boxing as a 10-year-old.

"He was always going in and fighting the top prospects, he was hardcore, he was my hero," Buster, now 58, recalled in the ESPN documentary. "My dad always wanted me to box because he saw a career in it for me."

Buster's brother Bill said his dad "was savage, he was not to be played with at all".

In his boxing career, Buster was always chasing the success his father was never able to achieve — but he had a temperament more like his mother Lula.

"My mother ran the household. In grade school, I came home crying one day. She said, 'What's wrong?' and I said, 'This kid said he was going to jump on me,'" Buster recalled.

"She grabbed me and slammed me on the floor. 'If you don't go out there and stand up for yourself, it's going to be me and you.' I didn't want that to happen.

"After that, I didn't have a problems defending myself. She was a chief. But when it got too out of control she would bring in my father and he would really lay the hammer down."

Bill's manager Bruce Trampler said Buster's lack of in-built aggression was an issue some feared would prevent him going to the next level with his boxing.

"Buster was very much like his mum, he favoured the mother and he didn't have his father's inner drive to be a fighter," Trampler said.

It was a criticism that followed Buster — he was often compared to his father but lacked the same intensity. He was even chased by talk of being overweight his entire career, right up to the Tyson fight.

TYSON RISES WHILE DOUGLAS HITS ROCK BOTTOM

Tyson was on an incredible roll through the late 1980s. He won his first title in 1986 and just kept winning, knocking out contender after contender.

Douglas took a shot at the vacant IBF World Title in May 1987 against Tony Tucker. Although well ahead on points, he was stopped in the 10th round and was accused of quitting.

A win would have set up a fight with Tyson in August. Instead, it was Tucker who booked a date with Tyson, only for Iron Mike to win the belt.

Douglas had some hard decisions to make after the Tucker loss with his career in tatters. He decided to cut his dad as one of his trainers.

"I called my mum and told her I was coming over to talk to dad," Buster said. "I knew she needed to be there to help me present my case to my dad."

Buster Douglas. Photo / Getty
Buster Douglas. Photo / Getty

Buster's brother Bill added: "We sat down at the dinner table. I remember just how angry my father was, looking at my brother and telling him, 'You know you'll be alone.'

"The family was divided. My mother being who she was just wasn't going to allow it. She put her foot forward and made sure we were going to continue to be a family."

Buster said his dad's reaction helped him get to the next level.

"He was reluctant but he agreed. He allowed me to do me and always love him for that," he said.

The move paid dividends. After dumping his dad Douglas racked up six wins to set up a fight with Tyson.

'THE BIGGEST UPSET IN SPORTS — PERIOD'

When Douglas' mother heard of the fight with Tyson, she was concerned.

"My mother got wind and my dad was at the kitchen table and my mum said, 'Billy, is this man an animal like they say?'" Bill Douglas said.

"My dad looked at her and said, 'Yeah, yeah he is.'

"And I'll never forget what my mum asked my dad next. She said, 'Well is he like you?'

"And my dad said, 'Yeah, he's like me honey. He's a killer.'

"She said, 'Well I don't want him to fight, my baby is in trouble.'"

That night, Lula went over to Buster's house and he tried to convince her he'd be fine and that it was Tyson who should be worried.

"For the first time, my mother saw her husband in her son," Bill said.

Calling Douglas an outsider would have been kind — Las Vegas odds makers had him at 42 to 1 odds to beat Tyson. Sadly, Douglas got his motivation from the death of his mother at 46 — just 23 days before the biggest fight of his life.

"She passed, she never let on to it but her health was failing pretty bad," Douglas said.

"I still never expected that though. She was just tired, her body was tired. The next time I saw her was at the funeral home."

He had three days to mourn his mother's passing. His team thought he should throw in the towel and pull out of the fight. Douglas turned his pain into motivation and pushed on towards the fight. "My mum wants me to fight, my mum wants me to win," he said.

The fight stunned pundits who had expected Tyson to win in seconds. But Douglas came out firing, not giving Tyson a sniff.

Douglas was knocked down in the eighth round by a massive Tyson uppercut and only just survived the count. It was the expectation fans and pundits had all come in with. But for someone who had a reputation for quitting, Douglas dug deep. He slugged it out with Tyson in the ninth before history was made in the 10th.

Tyson went for the finish but Douglas landed an incredible flurry of punches to do what no one had ever done — knock Tyson onto the canvas.

Buster Douglas poses with his belt. Photo / Getty
Buster Douglas poses with his belt. Photo / Getty

At the end of the fight the commentator raved: "This has got to be the biggest upset in the history of boxing." Another added: "This could be the biggest upset in sports — period."

Tyson couldn't believe he had been knocked out. Almost 30 years later, Douglas may find it hard to believe it's not just a wonderful dream.

He still gets emotional talking about it.

"I knew she was looking down, happy, saying, 'I told you, my baby did it,'" Douglas told ESPN.

In his post-fight interview, he was asked how he won the fight when he was completely written off and said: "Because of my mother … God bless her heart."

Mike Tyson is followed by promoter Don King after his shock defeat to Buster Douglas. Photo / Getty
Mike Tyson is followed by promoter Don King after his shock defeat to Buster Douglas. Photo / Getty

Eight months later, the dream was over as Douglas lost his world title to Evander Holyfield, knocked out in the third round. But before that loss, starting right from the moment he knocked Tyson out, Douglas was the undisputed champion of the world, fulfilling his father's dream and honouring his mother's memory.