After his manager, Rock Newman, held talks last week about a possible title match against heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield and a multimillion-dollar bout against Mike Tyson, why is unbeaten contender Riddick Bowe fighting former sparring partner Elijah Tillery in the main event (USA Cable, 8 o'clock) at the Washington Convention Center tonight?
"A young heavyweight like Riddick has to stay busy if he is going to continue to progress as a fighter," said his trainer, Eddie Futch, who helped guide Ken Norton, Joe Frazier and Michael Spinks to world titles. "You can't sit around and wait for big fights to happen.
"Before Tyson won his title, he was fighting almost every month against all different styles, learning all the time. When he became champion, then he took more time between matches. That's the same blueprint I'd like Riddick to follow."
But Futch still says Bowe (26-0, 23 KOs) is ready to fight either Holyfield or Tyson.
"Riddick is simply bigger and stronger than Evander," Futch said. "With Tyson, he has always had his hardest fights against tall heavyweights like Tony Tucker and Buster Douglas, who knocked him out. Riddick punches harder than Buster and has the mobility to give Tyson problems. I'd let him fight either of them now."
Although it might be a safer decision for Bowe to wait his turn against Holyfield, who bypassed the injured Tyson for a Nov. 23 match against Italy's Francesco Damiani, Futch would take the risk of fighting Tyson by January.
"In a sense, Bowe vs. Tyson would be like a title fight, with the winner meeting Holyfield," Futch said. "The WBC [which is not sanctioning Holyfield-Damiani] might even recognize the winner as its champion."
As Newman said: "If you're a fight fan, which would you rather watch, Holyfield-Damiani or Bowe-Tyson? But I'm not holding Riddick back. We want the best guy available. We'd love to fight [WBO champion] Ray Mercer. We're not looking for the easy route to the title."
But Tillery (23-4, 25 KOs) hardly poses a threat to Bowe's unblemished record. Once a promising heavyweight, the Albany, native, 34, was beset by problems with the law and a cocaine habit.
The under card features a light-heavyweight match pitting 1988 Olympic gold medalist Andrew Maynard (17-1) against former 175-pound champion Matthew Saad Muhammad, and Sharmba Mitchell (24-0) against Keeley Thompson (17-7-2 ), for Thompson's International Boxing Council lightweight title.
Facts and figures
Who: Riddick Bowe (26-0, 23 KOs), Fort Washington, vs. Elijah Tillery (23-4, 15 KOs), Albany, N.Y., heavyweights, 12 rounds for vacant WBC Continental Americas title; Sharmba Mitchell (24-0,
13 KOs), Takoma Park, vs. Keeley Thompson ( 17-7-2, 12 KOs), Washington, lightweights, 12 rounds, for Thompson's IBC lightweight title; Andrew Maynard (17-1, 14 KOs), Laurel, vs. Saad Muhammad (39-14-3, 29 KOs), Philadelphia, light-heavyweights, 10 rounds.
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: Tonight, first preliminary bout 7.30 p.m.
TV: USA cable, 8 p.m.