Among the folks who attended Saturday’s Brooklyn homecoming at the Aviator Complex for Zab Judah, in which he pounded out a TKO9 win over Vernon Paris, was a man with a most familiar face, and a sportswriter's build. Riddick Bowe, two-time heavyweight champion who showed the fight game he had Hall of Fame talent in his wars with Evander Holyfield and Andrew Golota -- and some would say, sub-Hall of Fame diligence and judgment subsequently -- set up a table and sold signed photos of himself for $30 a pop while the action went on in the ring.
Bowe did quite well for himself in the early '90s, as he beat Holyfield, then seen as THE heavyweight champ, in Nov. 1992. But the decision-making of the Brownsville, Brooklyn, boxer, who was advised by manager Rock Newman, looked iffy when he made outsized demands in negotiations with Lennox Lewis. A 90-10 split in favor of Bowe was beyond insulting to Lewis, and fight fans to this day lament that that match never got made. In fact, I heard one fan buying a pic from big Bowe, looking husky but cheery, tell the fighter he wished the two titans had squared off, and Bowe admitted that he did, as well. Sounds like he wishes he never dumped his WBC belt in a garbage can, a symbolic exclamation point in rebuffing a mandatory defense against the WBC’s top-rated challenger, circa 1992, Lewis. I would have asked him about it, but he indicated to his handler that he didn’t want to do any media at the Aviator …
His guy Darren Antola apologized for the media diss, but did fill me in on what Bowe has planned next. Pro wrestling, it turns out. Against old foe Andrew Golota, who did so much to try and pulverize Bowe’s testicles in their two memorable bouts in 1996, both DQ wins for Bowe.
Antola said soon Bowe, age 43, will be going to a training camp to learn pro-style wrestling and that he and the 44-year-old Golota will “fight” in Poland. The spectacle will be available on pay-per-view, he said.
I told him, and I do mean this, that I, unlike many, won’t belittle Bowe behind his back, not for selling autographs, nor for taking part in what some would say is a demeaning exercise in self humiliation for rent money. Bowe (43-1), who last fought in December 2008, beating Gene Pukall in Germany, and who periodically makes noise about putting on the gloves one more time to test the shark-free heavyweight waters, could be any of us. Who among us hasn’t spent when they should have saved, assumed that a bounty would be longer-lasting than it was? Like the folks who sauntered over to the table, and bought a signed photo, and snapped a picture with the former champ, I prefer to remember the sleeker version who beat Holyfield twice, the guy who made it out of Brownsville and made his mama, and his 12 brothers and sisters, oh-so-proud.