WASHINGTON -- Even by boxing's sub-amoebic standards, this fight just might have established a benchmark low. But it was fun, something to relate to the grandchildren someday.
On the one side, there was Riddick Bowe, the man who had put 7,000 people in the seats at the Convention Center. The man on his way to fame and fortune in the heavyweight division. He was wearing white and a wide smile, "Big Daddy" was.
Over yonder sat Elijah Tillery in black, naturally. Getting into the ring, he appeared enraged. During the pre-fight instructions, he seethed. Tillery's been around boxing long enough to know there's only one rule in the game/business; namely, there are no rules.
The men fought one round. It was action-packed, Bowe scoring a knockdown. Tillery wasn't a big loser, though, stunning his man with a big right. The bell rung, signaling all hell to break loose.
"He was taunting me, and I mooshed him away with a [light left]," explained Riddick. "He called me a [man of deviant behavior]."
Elijah countered, "Hey, I'm a fighter, I can do anything I want just so long as I don't touch him. It's all part of the fight game, the edge you try to get for yourself in this dirty, dirty business."
Tillery emphasized how dirty by scoring a right foot to Bowe's left knee. Bowe launched a combination with his fists and Tillery answered with another right, also a foot, which landed about belt high.
By now, a goodly percentage of the audience was in the ring, just like in the heyday of Muhammad Ali. Elijah's back was to the ropes and Bowe's manager Rock Newman had him by the throat and flipped him out of the ring over the top strand. Tillery landed on the back of his head on the concrete floor. (A mental note was made to allow Newman a wide berth during future dealings.)
Tillery made it sound as if it was all in the night's work when, after being disqualified by referee Cal Milligan "for a flagrant kicking foul," he said, "sure, I wanted to go on. I got no
complaints about what happened in there. I won't blame it on the referee, but I will say both fighters should have been disqualified because we were both doing flagrant things. It started when he tried to hit me when I was down."
Actually, good or even passable sportsmanship took it on the chin all night. In the co-featured 12-rounder for the D.C. lightweight title, classy Sharmba Mitchell emerged as the most ungracious of winners when he admitted he wanted to "punish, humiliate and destroy" Keeley Thompson, which he did before the fight was stopped in the 10th round.
"He talked trash before the fight, so I had to show him," continued Mitchell. The thing that seemed to bother the victor most is Thompson had the temerity to challenge him. "He has to fight guys like Chuckie Sturm. He doesn't belong in the ring with someone of my talent. During the fight I was telling him what I was going to do, then I'd do it. He had to feel so stupid not being able to get out of the way," revealed Sharmba.
Mitchell showed admirable imagination, appearing at the ring behind a band comprised of two tubas, four drums, two French horns, four saxophones and two trumpets playing something out of the movie "Quo Vadis."
Way back at the beginning of the evening, former light-heavyweight champ Mathew Saad Muhammad had failed to even recognize opponent Andrew Maynard during pre-fight ministrations and Maynard made him pay for the snub, scoring a TKO victory just seconds into the third round.
Maynard, whose nickname should be "Gatling Gun," landed about a thousand punches, a shade more than 50 percent of those thrown, but Muhammad was upset the fight was halted. "Sure, he might have staggered me," said the not-so-young Philadelphian, "but I'm an old veteran  and I can take those shots. I was never at the point where it should have been stopped; I guess they think they're protecting me."
Finally, Muhammad gave Maynard his due with a qualification: "He can punch a little bit, but he can be hit. If he fights the guys of the caliber I have, he's going to get knocked out."
Back with the feature, it was Newman who revealed that in conversation with Tillery last week, Elijah reportedly said "I will do anything I have to do to beat Bowe, including kicking him in the [unmentionables]."
Asked about this, Tillery replied, "I might have said that. It's combat in there. After the round, if I hadn't had my mouthpiece in I would have bitten him. I don't feel bad about anything I did tonight. Like I said, it's combat. I am disappointed I had this big opportunity and blew it."
He added, "Boxing isn't everything in my life. I got a lot of ways I can go. For one, I could go to college and probably end up carrying a 3.5 grade-point average."
After watching and listening to Elijah, it's hard to imagine any college professor even considering giving the guy anything but an A.