It’s often been stated that Riddick Bowe, who today celebrates his 54th birthday, should have achieved far more than he did, and Bowe achieved a good deal.
Just lately, it’s been said plenty how Bowe should not in any way, shape, or form be still fighting here in 2021. Yet crazily, Bowe is set to face Lamar Odom in what is being promoted as a “celebrity boxing exhibition,” the freakshow headed to a town near you in October.
It sure was a long, long time ago when the Brooklyn giant was winning a silver medal at the Olympic Games in Seoul, when he was beating Evander Holyfield in a truly great fight to become champion of the world when he could afford to dump the WBC version of the championship in the garbage bin – when he was absolutely the best big man on the planet.
For a short time (too short), Bowe was the best. Tall, athletic, possessing a fine jab, a good chin, punishing punching power, and, perhaps most surprisingly, real heart (the knock on the young Bowe was that he had no heart; this claim being shown up as unfair), Bowe was the complete package. Almost.
Bowe, who could fight on the inside if he had to, was lacking one thing: discipline. At the height of his powers, Bowe could be relied upon to gorge himself on food when he wasn’t training.
Bowe’s prime lasted around two, maybe three years; his 1992 win over Holyfield never be topped in terms of greatest ring performance. IF Bowe had had the right type of hunger, if he had not allowed himself to balloon in weight between fights; if, in short, if he had lived the life, who knows how far he may have gone? But Bowe enjoyed himself, he ate when he wanted to, and he lost the return with Holyfield. Bowe then regrouped some, reigning as WBO champ, and he turned in some decent performances.
Then, after KO’ing “The Real Deal” in their 1995 rubber match, Bowe had those two simply horrific fights with Andrew Golota. Bowe won both fights via DQ, but how he shipped brutal punishment in both battles. Bowe’s speech immediately after the second war with “The Foul Pole” was noticeably slurred.
Bowe’s behavior soon became strange – joining the Marine Corps (and being hopelessly unable to stick out the tough regime), kidnapping his wife, later using the defense of being brain-damaged, this to shorten his jail sentence.
It was as rapid and as shocking a fall from grace as the heavyweight division has ever seen. Bowe had it all, he lost it all, and now he’s still trying to earn a buck from the rigors of the ring. We can only wish Bowe, a genuinely likable person, the best of luck.
Back in his short-lived prime, Bowe was not only a fantastic fighter, but he was also exciting. Would Bowe have beaten Lennox Lewis in their on/off/on/off, ultimately never-to happen fight (this a rematch of their 1988 Olympics clash)? We will never know.
Would Bowe have had the trouble he had with Golota if he had kept himself in shape and not neglected his skills? Again, we will never know.
I don’t know about you, but I wish to remember the 1990s Riddick Bowe – the 1990 to 1995 version. Not today’s version, who is still trying to fight.