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U.S. Amateur Boxing Tournament : Riddick Bowe Is Back, and He's a Heavy Favorite

March 30, 1988|EARL GUSTKEY | Times Staff Writer

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Fisticuffs were out of the question, since it was a major mismatch. One combatant would have been a 47-year-old bantamweight, the other a 19-year-old super-heavyweight.

Instead, it ended with heated words and the prompt issuance of a plane ticket home. That's how the bantamweight, U.S. Olympic boxing Coach Ken Adams, showed everyone who's in charge here.

The incident occurred last December, at a USA Amateur Boxing Federation workout at the U.S. Olympic Committee Training Center here. About two dozen boxers were on hand, hoping to be selected for a team about to leave for competition in Cuba.

One of the United States' best amateur boxers is super-heavyweight Riddick Bowe of Brooklyn. Adams didn't like Bowe's lackadaisical performance during a sparring session with Louisiana super-heavy Tevin George of Louisiana.

Adams barked. Bowe barked back. The exchange grew in volume and richness of adjectives.

Then, the Olympic team coach took command.

"You're outta here, Riddick," Adams said. "Go to the dorm and pack."

Recalled Bowe the other day: "The next thing I knew, someone was handing me a plane ticket, and I was on a plane back to New York."

Bowe is back in Colorado Springs for the national amateur boxing tournament.

His dismissal from an Olympic-year training camp sent shock waves up and down the USA/ABF. Shortly after, the organization's president, Col. Don Hull, was on the phone, wanting to know what had happened.

What had happened was that Adams' patience with Bowe had snapped. So had Pat Nappi's. Nappi, a U.S. national coach and former Olympic coach, was also in on the beef, as Adams' ally.

The rap on Bowe is that a coach almost needs a cattle prod to get an honest workout out of him. On the plus side, he's one of the country's most exciting amateur boxing prospects, a medal contender for the Seoul Olympics.

But one more blowup like the last one and the 6-foot 5-inch, 220-pound Bowe may be a professional boxer long before anyone had expected. Some pro trainers see in Bowe a prospect who may one day be a challenger for Mike Tyson's heavyweight title.

And why not? They're from the same Brooklyn neighborhood, Brownsville.

"We both went to P.S. 396," Bowe said the other day. "He's a couple years older than me, so I wasn't a friend of his or anything. He was a loner. Actually, all I remember about him is that he was big for his age and that he always had a bag of cookies with him."

Bowe is a well-coordinated athlete, with surprisingly quick feet for a big boxer. In the ring, he sets up in a style similar to that of Tyrell Biggs, the U.S. super-heavy gold medalist in 1984. There is one major difference: Bowe can hit.

Bowe established himself as a world-class amateur last August, at the Pan American Games in Indianapolis. In the most exciting bout of the tournament, he lost the gold medal super-heavyweight bout to a much more experienced Cuban, Jorge Gonzales. But Bowe sent everyone home cheering.

In a wild bout, Bowe was down twice in the first round but rallied from both knockdowns. In fact, he twice had the Cuban out on his feet before losing the decision.

Bowe is a heavy favorite here this week to win the U.S. super-heavyweight championship, and qualify for a berth in the Olympic Trials at Concord, Calif., July 5-10.

Bowe started fast in the tournament Monday night. Near the end of a 50-bout, 3-ring card, Bowe knocked out an Atlantic City, N.J., lifeguard, James Ernst, in the first round.

Bowe, after drawing a caution from the referee to stop talking to his opponent--"I was tellin' him to quit running from me."--stalked Ernst into a neutral corner and knocked him out with a left hook to the head, with 23 seconds left in the round.

On Tuesday night, in the second round, Bowe drove a 6-7 opponent, Tevin George of New Orleans, into the ropes with a combination. Dazed, George settled into a sitting position on the bottom rope and took the full count from referee Marco Sarfaraz.

Bowe faces Kevin Ford of Houston tonight in the quarterfinals.

Bowe's toughest opponent here, and everywhere else, he says, will be Riddick Bowe.

"My toughest opponent is me ," Bowe said. "My mind has a tendency to wander during bouts. I tend to focus on things other than the bout. I have to work at staying motivated, getting my head right."

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