Riddick Bowe, the registered heavyweight champion of the world, has formidable ambitions. He wants to 1. break Rocky Marciano's feat of being undefeated in 49 pro fights; 2. become "the greatest heavyweight champion of them all."
The first one is eminently reachable. Given the level of competition Riddick is facing these days, going undefeated is about as hard as winning a beauty contest in Bulgaria.
It's doubtful if any heavyweight fighter ever fought such a collection of stiffs since Young Stribling went on tour with his chauffeur. Marciano's 49 in a row should be a slam dunk when you put the title on the line against the likes of Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson.
As to getting to be "the greatest heavyweight champion in history," wait just a minute! What are we talking here? Greater than Dempsey? Tunney? Joe Louis? Jack Johnson? Muhammad Ali? Marciano?
Riddick either has a poor grasp of history--or an inflated grasp of himself.
Riddick has two things going for him. First, the real heavyweight champion of the world is in prison and, probably, losing interest in resuming his career when he gets out. And, second, the part of the division not in prison probably should be for impersonating a heavyweight contender.
You know, it used to be in this business, when you lost a fight, you lost your place in the title firmament. Not anymore. The same names keep popping up. You get so you can't tell them apart. Is it Tony Tubbs or Tony Tucker? Is it Pinklon Thomas or Tim Witherspoon? Is Greg Page still lurking around there some place? How many times do you have to knock out Bert Cooper before you get permanent possession of him? Is Larry Holmes going to fight forever?
But, Bowe is going to take care of all that. He's going to fight Evander Holyfield.
There will be a short pause while the world asks, "Why?"
You see, he fought Holyfield less than a year ago and, as heavyweight contests go, it wasn't one. Holyfield came into the fight as if he expected to climb Riddick Bowe, not fight him. It was a contest only in the sense that the bombing of Dresden was.
There was hardly any public clamor for this rematch. It isn't as if the first one put anybody in mind of Dempsey-Firpo or the long-count fight or any of the Ali-Frazier brawls. Riddick just gave Evander a polite thrashing.
There is sometimes a call for a sequel. "Godfather II" and "Rocky II" had their moments. Bowe-Holyfield II is not apt to put long lines at the box office or a strain on ticket scalping.
Evander's quest is understandable. He probably needs a new rumpus room on his house. He also has the sneaking hope that Riddick Bowe might, so to speak, eat the title.
That's how Evander got the title in the first place. He yielded his right to a title bout with Mike Tyson in Tokyo, agreeing to let Buster Douglas take his place.
Buster obligingly knocked out Tyson in 11 rounds in the most stupendous upset the heavyweight division has ever seen. Buster then celebrated his new-found eminence with all the things he couldn't afford--milk shakes, hamburgers, chicken legs, and ice cream, to say nothing of beer and wine. He couldn't afford them because they immediately made him look--and move--like a hot-air balloon. The night he fought Holyfield, he not only had to be lifted out of the ring, he had to be lifted into it. It was the biggest blimp disaster since the Hindenburg.
There's no question fried chicken and pork chops have ruined more fighters than left jabs. George Foreman was the only fighter who could train on ribs and gravy.
Will history repeat itself for a crafty Holyfield? Everyone who knows him knows he will climb in the ring, fit, flat-bellied, 210 pounds of muscle. Will Riddick come in 260 pounds of Cool Whip?
Bowe worked out in public at the ABC Center in Century City the other afternoon. He kept a black loose-fitting T-shirt wrapped around his upper torso the whole time. No one got a look at his waistline. If he has one. He appeared slow, lackadaisical, inclined to clown.
But, he 's not ready to be called "Buster" just yet. He has 35 days till the fight. And, appearances can be deceiving. There was the time, for instance, when a boxing commissioner in New York loudly declared Max Baer was not in shape for his title fight with Primo Carnera and demanded the bout be put off for 30 days till Maxie could trim down. Baer came in the ring at fighting weight and floored Carnera 11 times on his way to the title.
If Riddick Bowe wants to become the greatest heavyweight champion in history, the first thing he has to do is beat, not Evander Holyfield, but Lennox Lewis. Otherwise, he gets the same place in history as, say, Sonny Liston. Or Jess Willard.
Now, no one has ever mixed up Lennox Lewis with the Manassa Mauler. But he does have two impressive credentials: 1. he won the Olympic gold medal in Seoul, Korea, in 1988; and 2. knocked out a fighter by the name of Riddick Bowe in the process.
Riddick Bowe cries foul.