Former world heavyweight champion Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe, 43-1 (33), with one NC never seems to be considered one of the best in that division. He defeated six future or former champions in Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs, Evander Holyfield (twice), Michael Dokes, Bruce Seldon and Herbie Hide.
Bowe was 104-18 as an amateur and trained by George Washington in Bed-Stuy Boxing Association Gym in New York. He was working as a sparring partner for Tyrell Biggs and Evander Holyfield. In 1983 at the age of 15 he lost as a middleweight in the US Junior championships. He moved up to light heavyweight in 1985 and won the NY GG novice title. Later that year he went to Bucharest, Romania and won the Junior World Championship with three first round stoppages over a Russian, Romanian and a Hungarian. In 1986 he won the NY GG Open division as a light heavyweight. In 1987 he won the NY GG super heavyweight division.
Later in 1987 he was a Bronze Medalist in the 1987 Pan Am Games in Indiana losing to Jorge Luis Gonzalez of Cuba 3-2, whom he would much later defeat in the professional ranks. In the 1988 he won the NY GG title. He went to the Olympics in Seoul, Korea defeating an Austrian, a Czech and a Soviet fighter advancing to the championship round and losing to Lennox Lewis then representing Canada.
Bowe was signed by Rock Newman as his manager. This brought Bowe from New York to Ft. Washington, MD. His first professional trainer was Hall of Famer Eddie Futch. This man had trained former heavyweight champions “Smokin” Joe Frazier and Larry “The Easton Assassin” Holmes. Newman and Futch would be with Bowe from 1989 until the end of 1995.
Bowe won his first 34 fights. In September of 1990 in his nineteenth fight he met Pinklon Thomas, 30-4-1, the former WBC champion stopping him in eight. In March of 1991 in his twenty-second fight he stopped former 1984 Olympic Gold Medalists Tyrell Biggs, 19-3, in eight. In April of 1991 in his next fight he won a decision over former WBA champion Tony “TNT” Tubbs, 29-2. In August of 1991 in his twenty-sixth fight he knocked out future WBA champion Bruce “The Atlantic City Express” Seldon, 18-1, in one.
In July of 1992 Bowe stopped South African champion Pierre Coetzer, 39-2, in 7, in a WBA eliminator bout. This earned him a title fight with Evander Holyfield, 28-0, for his WBC, WBA and IBF titles in November of 1992, winning a decision and all the titles in his thirty-second fight making it the Ring’s “Fight of the Year.” He was voted the Ring and Boxing Writers Association “Fighter of the Year.” He would never defend his WBC title due to refusing to fight Lennox Lewis who won an elimination bout over Razor Ruddock the month before.
Bowe’s manager Rock Newman offered two deals with Frank Maloney who managed Lewis turning down both offers. When he came back to accept the first offer Newman told him it was too late they had lined up another opponent. In December at a press conference Bowe dumped his WBC belt into a garbage can and said “if Lewis wants the belt he will have to get it out of the garbage can.” Lewis was named WBC champion. In Bowe’s WBA and IBF first defense in February of 1993 he stopped former WBA champion Michael “Dynamite” Dokes, 50-3-2, in one.
Bowe’s manager took him on a unwise tour of Africa and when they came back in May of 1993 he defended the WBA title in D.C. against Jesse “Thunder” Ferguson, 19-9, who had lost four out of five in 1991 and 1992, to Oliver McCall, Seldon, Dokes and Tubbs. Then he defeated Ray Mercer to “earn” a title fight with Bowe who knocked him out in two. This is when you had to wonder what his manager Newman was doing?
In November of 1993 a year after defeating Holyfield for the titles Bowe lost for the first and only time in his career to Holyfield, 29-1, by majority decision in defense of his WBA and IBF titles in Las Vegas. During the seventh round a man flying a powered hand glider flew over Bowe’s “entourage” including Rev. Al Sharpton, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Islam leader Louis Farrakhan and DC Mayor Marion Barry hitting the ring apron and bounced several feet away. The bout was held up for twenty minutes. “If that man had made it over the ropes I would have jumped out of the ring,” said Holyfield. The scoring ended up 114-114 and 115-114 and 115-113 in favor of Holyfield. What effect the delay had on either boxer wasn’t known.
Instead of a third fight with Holyfield the new champion chose to fight Michael Moorer. He would lose the title and next defeated Ray Mercer then had the rubber match with Bowe neither having a title. Moorer lost in his first defense to former champ George Foreman. After winning the title Foreman defended against the German Axel Schulz winning a disputed decision in defending the IBF title. He gave up the WBA title prior to the fight and the IBF title after the fight.
It would be two years before Bowe had the third bout with Holyfield. After losing to Holyfield in their second fight Bowe was in a no contest with Buster Mathis, 14-0, in the fourth round. Then he would defeat three straight unbeaten boxers. First was Larry Donald, 16-0. Next he knocked out WBO champion Herbie Hide, 26-0, in 6, in March of 1995. Three months later he defended the title knocking out Cuban Jorge Luis Gonzalez, 23-0, in six rounds. This was sweet revenge having lost to Gonzalez in the 1987 Pan Am Games.
Bowe gave up the WBO title in order to meet Holyfield for the third time stopping him in 7. Newman prior to the fight asked the WBO to consider the Holyfield fight a non-title fight because Holyfield would not fight Bowe if the WBO title was at stake. He felt if he won it he wouldn’t get a chance to fight for the other three titles. Bowe was re-instated by the WBO. Two fights later after losing to Bowe Holyfield won back to back fights and the WBA title from unbeaten Mike Tyson.
In July of 1996 Bowe would be stripped of the WBO title for refusing to fight the No. 1 contender Alexander Zolkin in order to meet Poland’s Andrew Golota, 28-0. While Bowe was behind on all three score cards Golota started landing low punches which looked like on purpose causing Bowe to win by DQ in 7. Bowe’s trainer Eddie Futch told this writer he told Bowe “if you fight a rematch with Golota I won’t be your trainer. This man is going to hurt you again.”
That is when both Bowe and Newman were out of the picture with Bowe fighting a rematch with Golota. Futch assistant Thell Torrence took over as Bowe’s trainer. Bowe was behind on all three score cards when suddenly in the ninth round Golota started up with low blows causing his DQ in 9. After this fight Bowe went into retirement joining the Marine Corp. After three days of basic training he told his drill instructor and base commander he wasn’t cut out to be a Marine.
In February of 1998 Bowe kidnapped his estranged wife and five children with a knife saying he was going to take them home and live as a happy family. From a restaurant bathroom his wife called her cousin who called the police. Bowe was sent to a psychiatric ward and later arrested. A Federal grand jury indicted Bowe for interstate domestic violence in which he pleaded guilty. His defense argued he had brain damage from years of fighting and was given a thirty day sentence that was later overturned to an eighteen month prison sentence. In June of 1998 Bowe would later sue his manager Rock Newman for $55 million claiming he stole this from him. He would later apologize and withdraw the accusation.
It would be almost eight years before Bowe would return to the ring at age 36 with new manager Jimmy Adams and new trainer Jakes Morton in September of 2004 weighing his career heaviest at 263 He would fight in Shawnee, OK, against club fighter Marcus Rhode, 29-25-1, stopping him in round 2. It was obvious Bowe was just a shell of his former self.
In April of 2005 with new trainer Joe Goossen coming in at 280 Bowe was fortunate to get the split decision over Billy Zumbrun, 18-5-1, in Temecula, CA. Zumbrun had won six straight fights prior to this. Bowe would retire once again until coming back in December of 2008 at the age of 40 in of all places Mannheim, Germany. He had a trainer named Siggi Weickenmeir. Coming in at 271 Bowe would win an eight round decision over club fighter the former German and IBU world champion Gene Pukall, 14-12-2 who was stopped in his previous fight in one. It would finally be the last time Bowe fought.
In June of 2013 Bowe at 45 years of age made his Muay Thai debut weighing 300 pounds. He was stopped in two rounds by Levgen Golovin who dropped him multiple times with kicks to the shins. In August of 2013 he then announced he wanted to become a professional wrestler. In January of 2014 he was going to return to boxing and once again regain the heavyweight championship.
This writer would meet Bowe in the Philly Rumblers Gym in North Philadelphia and later at a boxing event at Harrah’s in Chester, PA, where he was signing his pictures. His speech was slurred and hard to understand.
It wouldn’t be until 2015 when Bowe would be inducted into the IBHOF. That was almost seven years after retiring. That is what you call little respect for Bowe’s accomplishments but which may have been due to his past behavior. It was a sad ending to a once great career of winning forty three out of forty four fights.