21 Years Ago Today - Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe Turns Pro!

riddick boweby James Slater - Exactly twenty-one years ago this very day, the career of one of the most naturally gifted, yet at times controversial heavyweights of the 1990s made his pro debut in Reno, Nevada; as a 21-year-old Riddick Bowe stopped the dangerous Lionel Butler in the 2nd-round. Amazingly, considering the man mountain the fighter who would go on to be known by the moniker of "Big Daddy" became in his prime years, the young Bowe tipped in at just 226-pounds.

Staying busy and being trained by the legendary Eddie Futch - who, at one time, was sufficiently impressed with his newest charge to be able to say Bowe had the most natural talent of all the big men he'd worked with - Bowe fought practically every month for the remainder of 1989; even having three fights that November. Moving up in class in 1990, and then having reached the mark of 18-0, Bowe was put in with former heavyweight titlist Pinklon Thomas. Eight rounds later in September of '90 Bowe was 19-0..

Now being looked at as a future heavyweight champion, Bowe made even more experts believers with stoppage wins over Bert Cooper and Tyrell Biggs. However, Bowe's much tougher than expected points win over another former champ in Tony Tubbs in April of 1991, forced these same experts to have a change of heart! The way "TNT" gave the 23-year-old a veritable boxing lesson shocked a good many people; who felt Tubbs had done enough to have been awarded the points win that went Bowe's way.

This performance was soon forgotten, however, when he scored eight consecutive inside schedule wins in the remainder of '91 and well into '92. Including his bizarre DQ win over Elijah Tillery, who took it upon himself to kick Bowe in mid-ring, Riddick racked up a further five wins inside three rounds or less. A final eliminator win over South African tough guy Pierre Coetzer in July of '92 (TKO 7) earned Bowe, now very muck known by his Big Daddy nickname, a shot at undisputed heavyweight king Evander Holyfield that November.

The first fight in an epic three-bout series began in late 1992, and Bowe fought what was and still is the greatest fight of his entire career. Managing to floor "The Real Deal" late in the all-action battle, Bowe, showing those critics who said he lacked heart to be wrong, captured the belts with a unanimous decision victory. At his very peak at age 25, Bowe, from Brooklyn like former king Mike Tyson, was now "the man who beat the man!"

Two easy retentions followed, against Mike Dokes and Jesse Ferguson, before Bowe, who's waistline was ever increasing, took on Holyfield for a second time. In a shocker that was made all the more surreal by the infamous "Fan Man" episode, Holyfield upset the odds and took back the two belts Bowe still had in his possession (Riddick had, as fans will recall, dumped the WBC crown in the garbage rather than face the man who had stopped him in the 1988 Olympics, Lennox Lewis).

Now an ex-champ, Bowe, as we never knew at the time, had seen his best days come and go. Sure, he fought on at the top level and won some big fights - including the rubber-match with Holyfield in late 1995, when he became the first man to stop Evander - but his discipline was forever lacking, to the point that Futch left him. Then, in as alarming a visible deterioration of a fine fighter's skills to have ever been witnessed under the bright lights, Bowe had those two awful fights with Poland's Andrew Golota.

Hit low in both fights by "The Foul Pole," who just could not get it through his head to keep his hands up, Bowe actually won both 1996 meetings, yet he took hellacious punishment both times. The first fight sparked a riot inside Madison Square Garden, the rematch looked like it had ended Bowe's career.

It did, but only for eights years!

Shockingly coming back at the age of 37 in 2004, to face journeyman Marcus Rhode, Bowe his speech and overall condition poor, won inside 2-rounds. Bowe has fought sporadically since - with unimpressive wins in 2005 and in 2008 - and threatens to do so again.

So, though we may see Bowe in a ring again, it's clear to all the "real" Riddick Bowe fought his last good fight way back in 2005 (the third fight with Holyfield).

How we could do with the peak Bowe today, though! How would "Big Daddy" have done against the Klitschko brothers and David Haye? Now there's a most interesting thought. Though he never became the true great many felt he would become, Bowe's place in history is secure. If only he'd fought Lennox Lewis for a second time!

Article posted on 07.03.2010

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