The story begins with Buster Mathis Sr. who had a successful amateur and professional boxing career, during which he qualified for the 1964 Olympics and fought Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Mathis Sr. retired from boxing in 1972 and settled-down in East Grand Rapids, MI.
The Mathis Family boxing legacy was evident throughout Buster Mathis Jr.’s childhood. Mathis Jr. grew up with boxing greats such as Muhammad Ali visiting his family home. Buster Mathis Jr. wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. However, Mathis Jr. didn’t have the physique of your typical boxer. Mathis was overweight as a child and was bullied throughout his school years. Despite his perceived shortcomings, his father agreed to begin training him starting at the age of 14. He had a successful amateur career during which he won two State Championships.
Mathis Jr. turned pro in 1991 and quickly built a streak of 12 wins. He beat respected fighters such as Levi Billups, Justin Fortune, and Mike Dixon early in his career.
In 1994, Mathis Jr. successfully contested the USBA heavyweight belt, winning an impressive 12 round decision over Olympic Gold Medalist Tyrell Biggs. In August of that year, Mathis Jr. was brought in as the comeback opponent for former undisputed champion Riddick Bowe. However, the contest was voided due to a technicality.
In 1995 Mathis Jr. successfully defended his USBA belt with a one point decision over Alex Garcia setting-up a showdown with Mike Tyson. Sadly, Buster Mathis Sr. did not get to see his son fight Tyson. Mathis Sr. passed away a few weeks before the Tyson fight after a long battle with diabetes and kidney issues. Tyson won the fight in the third round. Buster retired from boxing at the age of 26 with a 21-2 (7 KO’s) record.