LAS VEGAS — It was Dick Gregory's "maggot juice," Riddick Bowe said Saturday morning, that carried him to boxing's world heavyweight championship Friday night.
Maggot juice, the name Bowe gave a vegetable-diuretic concoction Gregory fed him daily, is an awful-tasting--even Gregory agrees with that description--brew that "cleaned out and overhauled" the new champion's digestive system.
Never, perhaps, in boxing has nutrition been credited with carrying the day for a fighter in such an important fight.
How else to explain how Bowe could fight at a furious pace and finish 12 rounds in far stronger condition than Evander Holyfield, himself famed for his conditioning?
At a Saturday morning news conference, it was difficult to tell who was the biggest winner--Bowe or Gregory. Maggot juice six-packs might not be far off.
Gregory, 60, a 1960s comic and civil rights activist, was hired by Bowe eight weeks ago to be his nutrition adviser and to supervise his meal preparation in training camp. When Gregory came on board, Bowe weighed 280 pounds. Previously, the Bowe camp had acknowledged that he weighed 270.
But on Friday night, before 17,500 at the Thomas & Mack Center, Bowe was a trim 235 pounds. Even those who predicted he would win were startled at Bowe's finishing power, which contrasted sharply to the exhausted, wobbling Holyfield.
Bowe won a unanimous decision, ending the 205-pound Holyfield's 25-month reign as the undisputed heavyweight champion.
Bowe said he ate everything Gregory put in front of him over the past two months, but didn't like much of it. In fact, he indicated Saturday morning that he feared Gregory more than his next opponent, whoever that may be.
When Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, said he wanted Bowe to fight in March, Bowe said: "Whoa--I don't know if I want to see Gregory that soon."
Gregory said Bowe ate fresh-cut fruit for his training camp breakfasts and lunches, and skinless chicken and fish for dinner.
Daily, Bowe ingested huge doses of vitamins, herbs, minerals and amino acids, Gregory said.
And the maggot juice: beets, asparagus, garlic, onion, green and red cabbage, kelp, chlorophyll and a banana, all blended with olive oil. "The . . . do taste bad," Gregory acknowledged. "Every time Riddick saw me coming, he frowned."
"But it's like I told him eight weeks ago--I don't know anything about boxing, but I can overhaul and clean out his motor. I told him if he got into a long fight with Holyfield, the full benefits of his diet would kick in and make him stronger at the finish, and that's exactly what happened.
"When Americans learn about proper nutrition, they'll learn how to raise their energy level and stamina."
When someone asked Bowe what it felt like to be the champion, he said: "It means I don't have to drink any more maggot juice."
At that, Gregory said from the audience: "I'm going to mix some for you right now."
Retorted Bowe: "Someone get me a gun."
When Bowe was asked if it was true he had hired Gregory, he acknowledged that he had.
"But I didn't know anything about the maggot juice," he said. "The stuff tastes like slop."
Bowe, holding an ice pack to a swollen right eye throughout the news conference, saluted Holyfield's courage.
"I hit him with everything I had, I tried to knock him out, but he wanted to keep his title. He wouldn't fall. He hurt me a couple of times, but I don't think he knew it. When he hurt me, it just made me angry.
"My condition was great. At the end of the fight, I felt like we'd gone seven or eight rounds."
In his only previous difficult distance fight, Bowe barely won a 10-round decision over Tony Tubbs 18 months ago.
"I was 10 times stronger Friday night than I was for Tubbs," he said.
Holyfield didn't attend the news conference. His promoter, Dan Duva, said the former champion was "still sleeping."
Holyfield, after his first loss as a pro, said Friday night that he would retire, but later seemed to hedge.
"If he asks me for my advice, I'd advise him not to fight again," Duva said. "He achieved everything he set out to achieve. He has his place in history, and a lot of money."
After receiving between $14 million and $18 million for Friday's bout, Holyfield will approach $45 million in earnings this year, Duva said.
Bowe earned $7.5 million, but Newman said the Nevada Athletic Commission wouldn't release a $3-million check to him Friday night. The other $4.5 million of Bowe's purse is to come from pay-per-view returns.
"They wouldn't give us the check because they said we hadn't paid our sanction fees to the governing bodies," Newman said. "I explained to them that we hadn't done that because we hadn't been paid yet."
Newman indicated he wouldn't pay Bowe's $90,000 sanction fee to the World Boxing Council because the organization had threatened to strip Bowe of title recognition if he didn't sign to fight England's Lennox Lewis within 30 days.
Bowe said that he planned to go home to his suburban Washington, D.C., home and "play with my kids for about a month."
He also said he planned to visit his old Brooklyn neighborhood of Brownsville, which has produced two of the last four heavyweight champions--Mike Tyson being the other.
"It's a pretty rough neighborhood, but there are some very nice people there," he said. "It was an honor to represent them Friday night."