HOLLYWOOD — His day had begun with a private jet flying him in from training at Lake Tahoe. Now, Riddick Bowe was watching the palm trees and urban sprawl of Southern California go by as he rode in a limousine down Hollywood Boulevard.
The holder of two-thirds of the heavyweight title searched the back of the limo for a bottle of orange juice to help his nagging cold as he embarked on a grueling day-long tour of Los Angeles recently to promote his Nov. 6 rematch with Evander Holyfield.
"If I wasn't champion, these people wouldn't be doing this for me," Bowe said of the perks that go with the title. "This only lasts for a certain amount of time so you've got to take advantage of it."
Before the day was over, Bowe would give dozens of interviews, spar in sweltering heat before curious noontime office workers, and banter with Jay Leno on "The Tonight Show."
In marked contrast to some of his predecessors, he remained cheerful and polite through it all, trading quips with writers and fans.
"I'm capitalizing on a lot of mistakes that champions made before me," Bowe said. "I hear a lot of guys say if they were champion again they would do things differently and respect people more. I plan to do that while I'm still champion."
It's a lesson learned from none other than Mike Tyson, whom Bowe visited a few weeks earlier in prison.
"Tyson told me he got to the point he thought he was so important that if he was on a street corner and a rat came out of the sewer he would think that rat came out because of him and who he was," Bowe said. "I'll never get like that. I'll always just be Riddick Bowe."
Unlike baseball or football players, fighters take one thing for granted: They have to promote.
So there was Bowe, patiently doing interview after interview from a crowd of Los Angeles media surrounding him at the ABC Entertainment complex in Century City.
"It's just something that goes with the territory," Bowe said. "Not only with the press, but with the fans."
Bowe likes to be playful at times.
Asked what Holyfield should do in their upcoming fight that he didn't do while losing the title, Bowe grinned and said: "Raise his insurance."
Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, also got into the act when ESPN's "Up Close" guest host Jim Hill asked him about a possible fight next year with WBC heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis.
"Lennox Lewis is hiding somewhere under the queen's skirt," Newman deadpanned. "And we dare not look there."
The Caesars Palace jet ferrying Bowe and his small entourage was safely in the air heading out of Lake Tahoe, and Bowe's brother, Daryl, was feeling confident enough to loosen his death grip on the armrests of his seat.
Bowe looked over, amused at the sight of his older brother, who survived growing up in a Brooklyn, N.Y., crack house only to be terrified of the plane trip to Los Angeles.
"Daryl's never been in a private jet before," Bowe said, laughing. "In the ghetto we didn't even know there was such a thing as a private jet."
It was in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn where Newman found out what he needed to know about the future heavyweight champion, whose loss to Lennox Lewis in the finals of the 1988 Olympics scared off other potential managers.
"I walked up to where his house was and saw a line outside of it," Newman recalled. "I thought it was a soup kitchen. But when I got closer I saw guys with guns outside doors. It was a crack house."
At that moment, Newman said, Bowe came bouncing down the stairs with a big grin on his face.
"I knew if he survived those temptations and that scene he could do anything," he said. "I decided right then and there that we'd give it a shot."
If Bowe is anything, he is a hungry fighter. Literally.
The 6-foot-5 Bowe weighed 271 pounds when he began training in early September for his rematch against Holyfield and still carried quite a bit of it during his recent swing through Los Angeles.
"I don't know what it is about this place, whenever I'm in here I'm hungry," Bowe said after arriving at the Hollywood studio where he was to tape the "Up Close" program.
Bowe quickly solved his hunger pangs after learning there was a McDonald's next door. A few minutes later, the heavyweight champion was downing three Sausage McMuffins, despite a mild protest from his camp coordinator that the food would sit on his stomach when he had a sparring session only two hours away.
Later that afternoon, Bowe and his brother and camp coordinator ordered six pastrami sandwiches on white bread in the dressing room while waiting for his appearance on "The Tonight Show."
"He's just a growing kid," veteran trainer Eddie Futch said. "Everybody seems to be concerned with his weight, but it's no problem. He'll be 240 for the fight, but you've never seen such a big heavyweight who could move like he does."
Jay Leno's shiny black Viper sports car drew Bowe for a closer look in the parking lot outside the Burbank studios where he was to tape "The Tonight Show."