Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe (43-1, 33 KOs) still has some fight left in him and is preparing to launch a comeback to the sport that made him famous.
“Well, you know, I’ve been training, and I decided to make a comeback. So, I’m in the process of gettin’ myself on weight,” said Bowe this past December, adding that he hoped to have his first return bout in early February. “I’m feeling good, and I’m looking forward to this.”
It’s no surprise that George Foreman (76-5, 68 KOs) is one of Bowe’s inspirations. “George Foreman came back at 45, and he surprised everybody, so I definitely can do it,” said Bowe. The 43-year-old Brooklyn native had a virtually flawless professional career resulting in multiple world championships (WBA, IBF, WBC, WBO). He last fought in December of 2008, winning an 8-round unanimous decision over Gene Pukall in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.
Bowe’s lone loss is thanks in part to what’s now known as “The Fan Man Incident” in boxing history. During his November, 1993 fight with Evander Holyfield, a man parachuted into the Caesar’s Palace arena and nearly made it all the way into the ring with the aid of an air fan apparatus on his back. The skydiver couldn’t quite hit the gap between the ring canopy and the top rope. He ultimately bounced off the ropes and landed in the crowd where he was nearly ripped to shreds by an angry mob. It took nearly a half hour to restore order and reconvene the bout.
Bowe points to the long break in the action because of Fan Man’s ridiculous stunt gone wrong and calls it the real turning point in the fight. “Actually, I think it was a conspiracy,” he said. “That cost me the fight. I had to wait twenty minutes and warm up again.”
Bowe would beat Holyfield in two other epic fights, and he is enthusiastic about a potential 4th bout since Holyfield is still engaged in his own comeback. “I would love to fight him again,“ Bowe explains. “Absolutely.” When asked who was the toughest man he ever fought, he responds, “Unequivocally, Evander Holyfield. It was hard to break his will. Other guys, you could hit ‘em with four or five shots, they’d give up, but Evander, he just kept coming.”
Looking back on how he first picked up the sport, he recalls it was around the time he was in junior high school. “I was about 12 years old, and a teacher brought in a tape. There was a young man who was so high on Joe Frazier, and Ali was talkin’ a whole lotta stuff. And the young man told me Ali was a faggot. I said, ‘Man, stop playin’.’ And he said, ‘Well, if you like Ali, you’re a faggot, too.’ And then it was time to rumble, and I’ve been fightin’ ever since.”
The fight they were arguing about was Muhammad Ali vs. Joe Frazier Number 4. Ali won by knockout. The teacher saw Riddick Bowe fight in her class and later told him he was pretty good with his hands. She asked if he wanted her to call a gym for him. He agreed, went to the gym, and the rest is boxing history.
Despite his love for Ali, Bowe still has great respect for the late Joe Frazier. “I met Smokin’ Joe Frazier several times, and God bless him and his family,” he said. “I’m sorry that he left us, you know.”
Frazier’s Trainer Eddie Futch also worked with Riddick Bowe in his prime. “I called him Papa Smurf,” said Bowe, “But, he was like a rattlesnake. He was the type of guy who didn’t play wit’ you. And he was very soft-spoken, but make him angry and he’ll lash out at you.”
Bowe provided an example, recalling a time when he was down to one sparring partner prior to one of his bouts with Holyfield. Futch hit him with a left hook between rounds when Bowe came back to the corner after repeatedly not following instructions to stop playing with his opponent.
“I miss Papa Smurf,” said Bowe. “He was very wise.”
Bowe enjoys the fans who follow boxing, the camaraderie of the sport, and “going head to head” with opponents in the ring. Beating Holyfield for the world championship in their first bout back on November 13, 1992 is what Bowe considers his best moment in the sport. Holyfield was 28-0 at the time, and Bowe beat him by 17 points in a lop-sided unanimous decision. “Evander put up a great fight, and it made me fight harder,” said Bowe.
He said he’s always been friends and cordial with Holyfield, but he hasn’t reached out to him in years. “Bowe, Holyfield four would be great,” he said. “He could even it up, or I could go up three to one.”
John Greenburg wrote a book about Bowe and is negotiating a movie deal for the story. “This is a story that’s much bigger than boxing,” said Greenburg. “Nobody really got into the way he grew up and also his personal life.” Greenburg also authored: Captain Courageous: My True Story; The Grand Old Man: Amos Alonzo Stagg; andStop Hurting Me, I Don’t Buy It: The Secret to True Happiness.
Greenburg goes on to explain he can’t reveal much about the intimate details in his book, but he does offer a glimpse into the true story behind Bowe’s tumultuous life. “The things that you saw like the domestic violence charges and the fact that he went to prison for 18 months, the real background about all of those occurrences is part of this story.” Greenburg worked on the biography for more than two years.
The author explains that Bowe was always protective of and close to his mother. “He would walk her to work. She worked the midnight shift at a plastics factory,” said Greenburg. “He has always been devoted to his mother because he never knew who his father was. That’s an enormous issue right there.”
Greenburg explains that Bowe grew up in a section of Brownsville called “East New York” that was referred to as “Little Vietnam” when Bowe was a kid. “We’re talking about the early and mid 80s when the crack cocaine had become an epidemic in that area,” he adds.
Greenburg goes on to break down the writing process, reporting that he spent hours with Bowe working on the manuscript. Greenburg agrees with Bowe on one point and admits, “The lack of an American heavyweight champion is really hurting boxing.”
As for Bowe himself, he is serious about this return to boxing and said his goal is “to bring the heavyweight championship back to America.” He’s not afraid to face off with either one of the Klitschkos and says, “I know I can beat both of ‘em.”
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