Bowe, Tillery kick into gear Foreman cables in laugher

Phil Jackman

December 09, 1991|By Phil Jackman

While just about every sport goes out of its way to propagate an antiseptic image, especially those practicing on the so-called amateur level, boxing seems to pride itself in remaining septic.

Two things happening over the weekend further solidify this premise, which really had no need of added fortification.

First, it was announced that an opponent had been exhumed to fight Riddick Bowe, completing a pay-per-view show in Atlantic City Friday night. His name is Elijah Tillery. Sound familiar?

The men fought before, in a manner of speaking. It was just six weeks ago in Washington, and perhaps you remember the particulars of the event that ended up giving new meaning to the word fiasco.

Just as the first round ended, Tillery said something derogatory to Bowe (imagine), which prompted a glove being thrown in his direction, which prompted Elijah to commence acting like the lead in one of those Kung-Fu movies.

Even by standards accepted in wrassling, which we all know isn't a sport, according to the all-powerful World Wrestling Federation, the display and all that it led to was beneath contempt. There was the usual posturing by the fight crowd at the epicenter, but, worse, gunplay, civic disorder and destruction of public property raged on the perimeter.

The original matchup was arranged simply to give Bowe something to do, Tillery being a career sparring partner with an impressive vocabulary. Absolutely no one, save for Riddick Bowe's strategist Rock Newman, entertained thoughts of a rematch -- rematch of what, mayhem?

"We're out to set things right," said Newman, who has a habit of fielding all inquiries whether directed his way or not. "None of us are proud of what happened last time and we've all apologized."

That being said, now back to the business of trying to turn a few bucks.

It's late, but rest assured the TVKO commercials have been recut to feature scenes of Tillery kicking away, Newman placing him in a headlock from outside the ring and a whole gang of people tumbling out of the ring into the lap of D.C. Boxing Commission members.

"Hey, what happened before is a part of this story," Newman said. "Why wouldn't someone allude to it in commenting on news of the rematch?" Newman wanted to know. Make way for the deluge.

Tillery swears, "I didn't set this up or anything like that. It was strictly spontaneous combustion last time. I'd rather go out of the ring knocked out than go out kicking."

He was fined $2,000 for his indiscretions, but not only does Tillery state his pay was not garnished by the commission, he says, "I've never heard a word from those people. I think it's quite clear they don't know a left hook from a fish hook."

Newman, of course, had the last word: "We all know they [Bowe and Tillery] have to settle this thing." Who's we?

And then there's the latest from the land of George Foreman. Once again, television is involved.

Fact is, Big George could probably arrange to show up in the ring alone, dance and prance a bit, smile, wink and still there would be heavy bidding for his services. Bad enough Home Box Office, Foreman's latest partner, is a party to going out and selecting obscure opponents subject to George's approval. These days the cable outfit is acting as if it's a noble thing they are doing.

It wasn't the Jimmy Ellis Foreman fought on HBO Saturday night; we can only wish it had been the 51-year-old ex-champion. This Jimmy Ellis showed no discernible ring talent and, worse, he didn't even appear to try hard. George wanted it stopped after just a couple of punches for fear he'd be facing a manslaughter rap.

It isn't the degree of mismatch in events like this that grates, it's HBO's condescending attitude. Of course it would never be a party to a "gimmick" fight, insists executive producer Ross Greenburg, perhaps failing to recognize that handing Foreman $5 million to kick aside some tomato can is probably worse.

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