Former world heavyweight boxing champion James "Buster" Douglas, left, bumps fists with Bronco McKart, a super welterweight boxer from Monroe, Mich., during a news conference Tuesday at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Toledo.
When speaking at the Purgatory Fight Series press conference Tuesday in Toledo, James “Buster” Douglas had two final words for a roomful of media members.
“Go Bucks,” Douglas said.
No doubt Saturday’s annual Michigan-Ohio State tilt was on the Columbus native’s mind, even as Douglas, a former world heavyweight boxing champion, appeared at the Grand Plaza Hotel to help announce a pair of boxing and mixed martial arts events that are scheduled to be held next month in Toledo.
Announced during one of the more heralded weeks for sports in the area — as Douglas noted — the Huntington Center will host the Purgatory Fight Series 10 at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 7, while the Grand Plaza will host the Purgatory Fight Series All Pro Boxing event at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 21.
“In boxing, this is where it all starts,” Douglas said. “Before you get to the HBOs and the ESPNs, this is where you hone your skills and prepare you for the big show. We need shows like this, and I’m a big-time supporter of something like this.”
In 1990, Douglas became the first boxer to knock out previously undefeated champion Mike Tyson in Tokyo — a fight in which he was a 42-to-1 underdog.
After living through a three-day diabetic coma in 1994, Douglas overhauled his life and has become an anti-bullying advocate, as well as the author of “Buster's Backyard Bar-B-Q,” a cookbook geared toward diabetics.
And he’s gotten back involved in boxing, which, as of late, has taken a backseat to the growing popularity of mixed martial arts.
“You have to put in quality work,” Douglas said of boxing. “We have to bring in guys who have tremendous skills, and you see the art in it, as well.”
But, he said of MMA and boxing, “they both have a strong presence.”
Northwest Ohio has hosted pro-am MMA events since 2010, but the Dec. 7 mixed-martial arts event will be the first professional event hosted in Toledo.
Lukas Nieto, 4, and his brother Zeke Kniffen, 10, get autographs from mixed martial arts fighters including 2004 Olympian Devin Vargas, a Start High School graduate who is now a professional boxer.
The mixed-martial arts card will feature nine bouts that will include Hector “El Toro” Urbina and Andrew “The Absolute” Huffman, and the boxing card two weeks later will showcase Toledo native and 2004 Olympian Devin Vargas, a Start High School graduate who is now a professional boxer.
Vargas said he should know who his opponent is by the end of the week.
Vargas said he plans to intensify his training for the bout, starting Sunday.
“I’ve been keeping in and out of the gym and not getting lazy,” said Vargas, who captained the United States boxing team at the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Within minutes of posting the news on his Facebook account, Vargas said he received plenty of responses.
“It’s going to be a treat for all my local fans,” Vargas said. “They’ve been asking about when I’m going to fight here for the last five years.”
And while Douglas picked Ohio State, Vargas went in the opposite direction.
“Michigan,” Vargas said, without hesitation.
Contact Rachel Lenzi at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6510 or on Twitter @RLenziBlade.