30 Years Ago Today: When Riddick Bowe Trashed The WBC Heavyweight Title

By James Slater - 12/14/2022 - Comments

30 years ago today, recently crowned world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe was in London to hold a news conference. But Bowe – who had dethroned unified heavyweight champ Evander Holyfield in November of the previous year in what was a truly great fight – was not about to announce a big fight. Instead, in the home town of Lennox Lewis, Lewis the man everyone expected “Big Daddy” to fight next, Bowe quite sensationally dumped the WBC belt into the garbage can. Into the dustbin.

Riddick Bowe, who had, according to the WBC, reneged on a written agreement to make his first world title defence against Lewis, was now telling everyone how he “will not be intimidated” by the governing body. “The WBC is wrong,” Bowe said at the news conference. “I am the heavyweight champion of the world and today I withdraw my recognition of the WBC. I am stripping them……If Lewis wants the belt, he has got to get it out of the garbage. Then we will call him ‘garbage picker.’”

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And, just like that, Bowe also withdrew any inclination he might have had of fighting Lewis; the man who had beaten him by stoppage at the 1988 Olympics. To this day, we fans think about who would have won had Bowe and Lewis fought, we argue over it. And we forever lament the fact that Bowe deprived us of a genuine heavyweight Super Fight. Lewis did pick up the WBC belt, yet the nickname of ‘garbage picker’ didn’t serve to haunt him. Instead, it was Bowe who had to get used to a derogatory nickname following him around – that of ‘Chicken Bowe.’

Bowe, with Rock Newman, went on to fight the hapless duo that was a shot Michael Dokes and an outgunned Jesse Ferguson, before he lost his two remaining belts to Holyfield in their 1993 rematch. Lewis, who had beaten the dangerous Donovan “Razor” Ruddock in a WBC final eliminator to establish his worth as the new WBC champ, went on to fight Tony Tucker.

And what a shame it all was. Lennox Lewis, 22-0 and approaching his prime. Bowe, 32-0 and, as now know, at his absolute peak as a fighter at the time. And they never fought one another. Not in 1993, not in 1994. Not ever.

Instead, the two sworn enemies (to this day), with their respective teams often speaking on their behalf (Bowe had Rock, Lewis had Frank Maloney), engaged in squabbles, they teased the public, with new negotiations getting nowhere, and they accused the other of being afraid. It was as frustrating as it was unedifying. To this day, Bowe is looked at as the bad guy as far as the unification showdown not taking place, and rightly so. But Maloney did turn down an offer from Newman, stating how the cash on offer was not enough.

Lewis Vs. Bowe was forever lost to history.

Who knows who might have won had these two fought in 1993? Lewis went on to become the greater overall fighter, by some margin; with Bowe never again fighting as great as he did in the first Holyfield war, and with Lewis improving as a fighter over the years, eventually to the point where he cleaned up the division before retiring. But in 1993, Lewis had not yet hooked up with the great Emanuel Steward and he was far from a complete fighter – as Oliver McCall, trained by Steward, showed in September of 1994.

Might Bowe, a superb infighter for a big man, one who had not yet let his appetite for food consume him and his formidable skills, have had too much for Lewis in the summer of 1993? Might Lewis and Bowe have given us, and the sport, an all-time great trilogy? Again, we will never know.

The fight was consigned to the garbage bin on this day three decades ago.

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