There are certain heavyweights that come along that capture the imagination of the public, and when the 6 foot, 5 inch, New York heavyweight, Riddick Bowe, entered the scene in 1989, he was well on his way to doing just that.
As an amateur, he would win the Silver Medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, losing in the finals by TKO to future rival, Lennox Lewis. Despite the defeat, the future was bright for Bowe, although the Duvas didn’t maintain interest in him as they initially did going into the Olympics. The wrap on Bowe was that he had no discipline and didn’t have the ability to maintain focus. Rock Newman, a man that loves controversy, sunk his claws into Bowe and became his manager. Newman would bring in Eddie Futch to train his heavyweight and the professional career began.
In his very first fight, he would be matched with future contender turned junkie, Lionel Butler, leading to a second round knockout win. He would compile a record of 17-0, 15 KO’s, going into his biggest test, a televised showdown with fellow prospect, Art Tucker, and man that had won 17 of his 18 outings.
Bowe would win impressively, scoring a third round stoppage, courtesy of his big right hand. Without question, the level of competition was increased, matched against former Heavyweight Champion, Pinklon Thomas, who brought in a record of 30-4-1. Thomas made a bigger name for himself hanging tough with a prime Mike Tyson. At this point, he was well beyond his better years but still had the experience to give Bowe some troubles, lasting into the eighth round before calling it a day.
On October 25, 1990, the night of the “Moment of Truth” between then Undisputed Champion James “Buster” Douglas and challenger Evander Holyfield, Bowe had a tough challenge in front of him. Bert Cooper had just gone through a 12 round war with top contender Ray Mercer, leading him to this opportunity with Bowe. Bowe had a rough first round, but would land his right hand and drop Cooper in the second. A follow up barrage would send him down again and the fight would be waved off. Considering the placement of this fight on the undercard of the championship of the world, it was a great moment in the young career of the rising star. Holyfield went on to win that night and now Bowe was on the radar.
In early 1991, ABC took interest in Bowe, and showcased him in two fights. The first outing was against former top contender, Tyrell Biggs, in a ten round bout. Bowe was hurt for the first time in his career as he clowned by a left hook, stumbling backward into the ropes. Biggs, not known for his power, was not able to finish off the fight and was later stopped by the younger and stronger fighter, out of the fight in eight rounds.
Tony “TNT” Tubbs, another former champion, was up next on ABC for Bowe. This was a fight that went ten tough rounds and for the first time, Riddick seemed very confused by the wily veteran. Tubbs played defense, landed sneaky shots, and made the decision win for Bowe a matter of dispute to this day. A win is a win however, and Bowe moved on.
After two more wins against nondescript opposition, Bowe found a pay per view opportunity against fellow contender and future WBA Champion, Bruce Seldon. Seldon was coming off a loss against another future champion in Oliver McCall, but wanted desperately to return to his spot as a top contender. He charged Bowe and ran right into a right hand. A left hook sent him crashing again, and it was all over at 1 minute, 48 seconds, of the very first round. Bowe had made another statement.
The first really strange incident of Bowe’s career happened the night of October 29th, 1991, when he would have an encounter with Elijah Tillery on USA’s Tuesday Night Fights. At the end of the first round, Tillery looked at Bowe and taunted him, prompting Bowe to attack with fists. Tillery responded with kicks, and backed up against the ropes where Rock Newman grabbed him around the neck and pulled him backwards over the ropes and onto the floor. The result, believe it or not, was a win for Bowe, by DQ in the first round. A DQ win for Tillery or a No Contest would have been more appropriate.
They would rematch and Bowe would easily win by a stoppage in four rounds. Bowe’s continual exposure to the public, loving relationship with Eddie Futch, and controversial manager, Newman, put the demand on a title showdown with Evander Holyfield. Holyfield was getting negative press for taking on old men like George Foreman and Larry Holmes, and the public wanted him to defend against a young lion. Bowe was the choice.
On November 13th, 1992, the undefeated, undisputed, Heavyweight Champion Evander Holyfield would answer the call and face the also undefeated, Riddick Bowe. This fight was actually one half of a bigger fight. The sanctioning bodies got together for the good of the sport, believe it or not, and matched the four top contenders in a tournament to decide the true champion. Tough Tyson foe, Razor Ruddock faced the powerful Brit, Lennox Lewis, and Holyfield faced off against Bowe. The winners would face each other…at least that were supposed to have happened.
Bowe shined, using his reach at times and his inside fighting, remarkable for a big man, to beat up Holyfield. He battered him around the ring, clearly winning a decision and dropping the champion in the 11th round. Bowe was on top of the world, an American heavyweight with great skills, an inspirational story, and a charismatic personality…but unfortunately as it often is with celebrities, the personality was manufactured, and his true colors began to show. They were apparent after his title win.
Doing some guest commentary was Lennox Lewis, fresh off of his win over Razor Ruddock. After the bout, Bowe noticed Lewis at ringside and approached him, and a war of words ensued. Bowe was no longer the friendly fighter doing Bill Cosby impressions. He was a thug. Lewis was reserved and just kept reiterating that he wanted a title shot…one that wasn’t going to ever come…at least not from Bowe.
Instead of facing the mandatory challenger in Lewis, Bowe elected to take on the over the hill, totally shot, former champion Michael Dokes. Bowe came into the fight at 243, proving that he didn’t take his challenger seriously. After 2 minutes and 19 seconds, it was apparent that he didn’t have to. Dokes didn’t belong in the ring.
The next challenger was the journeyman, Jesse Ferguson, bringing in a record of 19-9. Bowe weighed in at 244. That didn’t matter here either as he put the challenger to sleep in two rounds. The public demanded Lewis and instead they got an Evander Holyfield rematch.
On November 6th, 1993, Bowe entered the ring at a pudgy 246 pounds, 11 pounds heavier then he was when he won the title just one year earlier. This fight would have drama and a touch of the strange when “fan man” a complete idiot parachuted into the arena and attempted to land inside the ring. He got caught up in the ropes and was knocked unconscious by Bowe’s entourage of thugs.
Bowe was rocked and outworked by Holyfield and ended up giving the title right back to him by majority decision. Determined to return to the top, Bowe took on Buster Mathis, JR., on HBO, a prospect without a punch. At 247 pounds, Bowe once again came in obese and looked sloppy, eventually dropping Mathis in round four. While on his knees, Bowe unleashed a vicious shot, knocking Mathis, JR., unconscious. Amazingly, again, Bowe was given the benefit of the doubt and the fight that should have been a DQ win for Mathis, JR., turned into a no contest.
Up next was Larry Donald, a stylish heavyweight with movement and a “Ali-ish” approach to the ring. He would have stood a good chance of beating Bowe that night had it not been for the pre-fight press conference. At the press conference, Bowe and Donald stood next to each other and Donald noted that he would not lose by stoppage. Bowe came face to face with him and sucker punched Donald with a two punch combination to prove him wrong, while Donald had his hands in his pockets. Bowe didn’t knock him out there and didn’t knock him out in the ring either, winning a unanimous decision. The true negative nature of Bowe was on full display though. He was far from a nice guy.
Bowe would get impressive stoppages over Herbie Hide and Jorge Luis Gonzalez, leading to a third encounter with Evander Holyfield. Bowe would climb off the floor to win the trilogy via 8th round stoppage. He was now the top contender in the minds of many, but that’s when the Andrew Golota fiasco occurred.
It was July 11th, 1996, and a 252 pound Riddick Bowe entered the ring to face the unknown and unheralded Polish heavyweight contender, Andrew Golota. Golota beat Bowe from pillar to post for seven rounds, but couldn’t keep his punches up and would end up getting disqualified for low blows in round seven. Bowe’s group of thugs jumped into the ring and started a brawl, hitting Golota with a CB radio and knocking Lou Duva unconscious in the process. Punches were flying everywhere and the Polish in the crowd were battling with the Bowe supporters. It was a big time mess.
Madison Square Garden was in the midst of an all out riot and the security on hand consisted of retirees, unable to combat the multitude of youth gone wild. The police finally arrived and cleaned up the mess, but there was a point to be made here beyond the fact that Bowe surrounded himself with idiots. The career of Bowe was over. He was shot.
In December of 1996, they would meet again, and a 235 pound Bowe entered the ring, and was once again beaten up the entire time, and once again, Golota was disqualified for low blows, landing a wicked three punch combination to the groin to end the fight. Although it was illegal, credit to Golota for putting those punches together so fluently. That’s talent.
Despite the victories, the word was out. Bowe was now slurring his speech and was getting beaten horribly in fights. Golota was vicious in his assaults and Bowe took many clean shots to the head. For the sake of his health, Bowe needed to get out and he arranged a press conference to announce what most thought to be his retirement…it wasn’t.
Bowe stated that he was going into the Marines, but would later quit after 11 days. The lack of discipline that forced the Duvas to pass on him as an amateur was in full view at this point of his career.
The true colors of “Big Daddy” Bowe came to light when he battered his sister, and then proceeded to kidnap his wife and children and actually stab her. Bowe served 17 months in prison, despite his angle where he claimed brain damage from boxing caused him to be violent outside of the ring. When he got out, he beat her again.
In 2004, Bowe wanted back in the ring. His fortune was gone and he needed money and wanted the fame back, and remarkably, the brain damage was gone! Equally amazing, he was allowed to fight. He came in at 263 and knocked out Marcus Rhode, returned at 280 and should have lost against Billy Zumbrun. Bowe picked up the split decision. In 2008, he made yet another return to the ring, getting the eight round nod over Gene Pukall, a fighter with a record of 14-12-2.
Bowe had announced a wanting to fight Lennox Lewis, enter mixed martial arts, and much more, but don’t count on any of it. MMA is always looking for a former boxing star to exploit to increase the reputation of the MMA as the home of the toughest fighters in the world and they would jump at the opportunity to get Bowe in there and probably literally kill him. If Bowe wants that bad enough, it will happen. Boxing will hopefully be stricter and keep him away.
Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe has a boxing record of 43-1, 33 KO’s, but in actuality, his record should probably be 38-6, 33 KO’s, losing twice to Golota, once to Tillery by DQ and once to Mathis, JR., by DQ, along with the loss to Zumbrun where he got the nod. Golota ruined it for himself by fouling but should have won those fights, if only he could have kept his head.
Bowe could have gone down in history as a great heavyweight. Had he taken on Lennox Lewis right after he won the title, instead of opting for Dokes and Ferguson, he would have possibly kept his focus and may have beaten Lennox. He took the easy way out and was exposed to the world as a criminal. Credit to Rock Newman for creating the likable persona, but it was a fraud. Bowe goes down in history as a cheap shot artist, a criminal, a wife beater, and a liar. A sad ending to a once promising career. An all time great reduced to a flash in the pan.
Nickname: “Big Daddy”
Professional Record: 431-1,1 NC, 33 KO’s
Date Opponent Location Result
1989-03-06 Lionel Butler Reno, US W TKO 2
1989-04-14 Tracy Thomas Atlantic City, US W TKO 3
1989-05-09 Garing Lane Atlantic City, US W UD 4
1989-07-02 Antonio Whiteside Fayetteville, US W TKO 1
1989-07-15 Lorenzo Canady Atlantic City, US W RTD 2
1989-09-03 Lee Moore Pensacola, US W KO 1
1989-09-15 Anthony Hayes Brooklyn, US W KO 1
1989-09-19 Earl Lewis Jacksonville, US W TKO 1
1989-10-19 Mike Acey Atlantic City, US W TKO 1
1989-11-04 Garing Lane Atlantic City, US W TKO 4
1989-11-18 Don Askew Washington, US W TKO 1
1989-11-28 Art Card Buffalo, US W RTD 3
1989-12-14 Charles Woolard Saint Joseph, US W TKO 2
1990-02-20 Mike Robinson Atlantic City, US W TKO 3
1990-04-01 Robert Colay Washington, US W TKO 2
1990-04-14 Eddie Gonzales Las Vegas, US W UD 8
1990-05-08 Jesus Contreras Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1990-07-08 Art Tucker Atlantic City, US W TKO 3
1990-09-07 Pinklon Thomas Washington, US W RTD 8
1990-10-25 Bert Cooper Las Vegas, US W KO 2
1990-12-14 Tony Morrison Kansas City, US W KO 1
1991-03-02 Tyrell Biggs Atlantic City, US W TKO 8
1991-04-20 Tony Tubbs Atlantic City, US W UD 10
1991-06-28 Rodolfo Marin Las Vegas, US W KO 2
1991-07-23 Philipp Brown Atlantic City, US W TKO 3
1991-08-09 Bruce Seldon Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1991-10-29 Elijah Tillery Washington, US W DQ 1
vacant WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Title
1991-12-13 Elijah Tillery Atlantic City, US W TKO 4
1992-04-07 Conroy Nelson Atlantic City, US W KO 1
1992-05-08 Everett Martin Las Vegas, US W TKO 5
1992-07-18 Pierre Coetzer Las Vegas, US W TKO 7
1992-11-13 Evander Holyfield Las Vegas, US W UD 12
WBC Heavyweight Title
WBA World Heavyweight Title
IBF Heavyweight Title
1993-02-06 Michael Dokes New York, US W TKO 1
WBA World Heavyweight Title
IBF Heavyweight Title
1993-05-22 Jesse Ferguson Washington, US W KO 2
WBA World Heavyweight Title
1993-11-06 Evander Holyfield Las Vegas, US L MD 12
WBA World Heavyweight Title
IBF Heavyweight Title
1994-08-13 Buster Mathis Jr. Atlantic City, US NC NC 4
1994-12-03 Larry Donald Las Vegas, US W UD 12
WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight Title
1995-03-11 Herbie Hide Las Vegas, US W KO 6
WBO Heavyweight Title
1995-06-17 Jorge Luis Gonzalez Las Vegas, US W KO 6
WBO Heavyweight Title
1995-11-04 Evander Holyfield Las Vegas, US W TKO 8
1996-07-11 Andrew Golota New York, US W DQ 7
1996-12-14 Andrew Golota Atlantic City, US W DQ 9
2004-09-25 Marcus Rhode Shawnee, US W TKO 2
2005-04-07 Billy Zumbrun Temecula, US W SD 10
2008-12-13 Gene Pukall Mannheim, DE W UD 8