Riddick Bowe: "What Could Have Been"

7.12.04 - By Stephen "Starsky" Mellor: The year was 1992, and Riddick Bowe had just dethroned Evander Holyfield as the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world in an epic battle. He had the world at his feet. At 6' 5, Bowe could fight just as effectively on the inside as he could from the outside. Possessing a lethal jab, and exceptional power in both hands, he had destroyed the dangerous Bert Cooper in two, and blew the highly touted Bruce Seldon out in one devastating round. At 32-0 and 25 years of age, he seemed destined for greatness. So what happened.....?

Let us go back to where it all started to go wrong. After winning the title in 1992, Bowe, or should I say, Rock Newman decided on Michael Dokes as the first defence of the title. Predictably, Dokes was disposed of inside one round. The 2nd defence was to be more of a challenge, with Bowe to take on the granite chinned gold medallist Ray Mercer, who Bowe believed, was avoiding him.

As it turned out, this was about the time, that bad luck and timing were to plague the rest of Bowe's career. Mercer was expected to deal with journeyman Jesse Ferguson, with the winner to fight Bowe. The rest of course is history. Ferguson upset Mercer, and Bowe demolished Ferguson inside two rounds after a long count from Larry Hazzard, saved him from also being a first round Bowe ko victim. The real loser of course was Bowe, accused of taking two easy title defences.

Yet, worse was to come. The rematch with Holyfield took place, and Holyfieldwas awarded a hotly disputed majority decision, which at the time staggered me, as i had Bowe winning, and of course he was the reigning champ. A controversial fight with Mathis followed, and then bad luck and timing set in again. Bowe was to fight Lennox Lewis in early 1995, the fight all boxing fans wanted to see. All Lewis had to do, was get past journeyman Oliver Mccall. As in the Mercer-Ferguson fight, an upset ensued with Mccall knocking out Lewis, and the fight never took place. This would go on and haunt Bowe, as many people believed that he avoided fighting Lewis.

Unfortunately the question of who would have won will never be answered, but i still believe that a prime Bowe had all the tools to defeat Lewis.After the Mathis fight, Bowe went on to defeat three previously undefeated fighters in Donald, Hide and Gonzales. During this period Bowe was starting to lose the plot, his training had dropped away, his eating habits were terrible, and his great trainer Eddie Futch had just about had enough of him.

By the third Holyfield fight, Bowe looked nothing like the fit, hungry fighter that won the title three years earlier. After controlling the fight for the first five rounds, he went down from a left hook early in the sixth round, a shot that would have barely moved him in their first fight. Again, looking vulnerable in the eighth, he landed a big right hand in a stunning exchange, which finished Holyfield. The signs were not good though. Bowe was getting hit more often, his body had lost all definition, was overweight, looked lethargic, and his work rate was down. He was ripe for the picking, and the two ensuing fights with Golota were to prove this theory correct. The only positive was to dispel any lingering questions about Bowe's heart. In the second fight with Golota, he just refused to be knocked out, and although shot, he still managed to inflict significant damage on the foul pole. To this day, I cannot believe Golota wasn't disqualified earlier in this fight, especially after previous indiscressions. It is not often you see combination punching to the groin area.

Fast forward to 2004, and Big Daddy has made a comeback. With claims of brain damage hanging over him, he dispensed with journeyman Marcus Rhode in two rounds. Bowe is saying he wants to fight regularly to stay in shape, and believes he can shock the world and regain the heavyweight crown. Can he produce a miracle? Will he get into shape and stay motivated? How far has his skill diminished, after eight years of inactivity? Is he still good enough to beat the modern crop of heavyweights? The odds are against it, but i wish him all the best, his prime was way too short!

Article posted on 07.12.2004

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