30 years ago today, recently crowned heavyweight champ Riddick Bowe was seemingly set for greatness. Having beaten Evander Holyfield three months prior, this in one of the most action-packed and brutally entertaining heavyweight battles of recent memory, 25 year old Bowe, at his peak as it turned out, disappointed many fans by signing up to face a washed up Michael Dokes for his maiden title defence.
Bowe might have been set for greatness, but “Dynamite” Dokes, who had once briefly threatened to accomplish greats things himself, with his uncommonly fast hands serving him well, was a fallen champ if ever there was one. Having raged a battle with drink and drugs – the white stuff especially – Dokes had also been violently smashed by Razor Ruddock in his most recent, notable fight.
34 year old Dokes was slurring his words in the lead-up to his undeserved shot at WBA/IBF boss Bowe; even when speaking before the HBO microphones, in the studio, when attempting to add credibility to the upcoming fight he was just days away from engaging in. Bowe had been spotted eating heartily in restaurants (Dokes’s quote: “The past is history, the future isn’t here yet, and the present is linguine and clam sauce,” coming from his mouth as he chowed down on a meal that was unbefitting a prize fighter would soon be in the rigours of combat), and it was not clear how clean he was as far as other substances were concerned.
Dokes HAD pumped out a nine-fight win streak since the near-decapitation job at the hands of Ruddock, and to be fair, the former WBA champ had picked up a win over Jesse Ferguson, who would upset would-be Bowe challenger Ray Mercer on the February card at Madison Square Garden. Still, what chance had Dokes got against the in-his-prime Bowe?
Slim and none, one might have said in response to the question. Although the rotund Dokes was far from slim. Notoriously, Dokes had openly admitted to have trained on Coke (not the fizzy drink) and Jack Daniels ahead of his second and last title defence, this against Gerrie Coetzee, back in 1983. What had Dokes trained on for the Bowe shot?
By the looks of a number of things – his unsteady gait (this before a punch had been landed on him), his glazed eyes, and his slurred speech, Dokes had pushed himself through a similar routine for his latest fight. And it didn’t turn out to be much of a fight at all.
Bowe, so much sharper, bigger, faster, more power-packed than Dokes, took his man out in way less than an opening round. Dokes did manage to find the target a couple of times, his still-fast hands catching Bowe. But “Big Daddy” soon put Dokes in his place, showing everyone who was in charge. Dokes was saved from a knockdown by the ropes, and he was then blasted into helplessness by Bowe’s furious follow-up assault of around 20 unanswered blows.
The ref dived in as Dokes, looking for all the world like a tottering drunk arguing with a barman who was telling him the joint was closing for the night, put up a pitiful argument for being able to carry on.
It was a sad first defence for Bowe, and it was a less than glorious final big fight for Dokes.
Both men hit hard times during the course of time. Bowe suffered from brain damage and he lost his fortune. Dokes, back on the hard stuff when he could afford it, was jailed for having beaten and sexually assaulted his girlfriend so severely she was unrecognisable. Dokes died from liver cancer four years after being released from jail. He was just 54.
Pretty much a sordid tale from the heavyweight ranks.