Bowe acquires extended family worlds beyond boxing sphere

February 03, 1993|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Staff Writer

SCOTRUN, Pa. -- A few years ago, Stephen Bowe was always quick to brag to his friends at Bushwick High in Brooklyn, N.Y., whenever Riddick Bowe's name made the papers.

"Hey, that's my uncle," he would say.

"But I was only joking," Stephen Bowe said recently. "I didn't know Riddick Bowe from the man in the moon."

Riddick Bowe did grow up nearby, in the crime- and drug-ridden section of Brownsville. He was the youngest of 13 children raised by Dorothy Bowe, a single parent who worked as a shop machinist. In 1988, one of Dorothy's children, Brenda, was killed by a neighborhood crack addict.

Stephen Bowe is Brenda's son. But, at an early age, his parents separated, and he went to live with an aunt, Peggy Sharp. He never knew that Riddick Bowe was, in fact, his uncle.

"I wasn't even aware that I had this other family until last Christmas," Stephen Bowe said. "That's when my sister, Kisha, told me that it was Riddick's mom, my other grandmother, who was inviting all of us to dinner."

Stephen quickly became part of the heavyweight champion's extended family. Along with his younger brothers, Joey and J. R., and his sister, Henryetta, Stephen now is living in the impressive house Bowe had built for his mother in Fort Washington, Md.

"I still love my aunt dearly," said Stephen, 20, who plans to enroll at Howard University. "But this is a wonderful opportunity for my brothers and sisters to grow up in a safer neighborhood. Before, we were all afraid to walk the streets at night."

Stephen traveled with Bowe to the Poconos last month to work at the fighter's training camp in advance of his first heavyweight title defense, against Michael Dokes in Madison Square Garden Saturday night.

"At first, I thought he'd be too busy and too much of a celebrity to give us any attention," Stephen said. "But he makes time for all of us, and keeps us laughing."

Riddick's manager, Rock Newman, said that distant relatives, friends and sycophants are trying to jump on the bandwagon since Bowe wrested the crown from Evander Holyfield Nov. 13.

"Riddick has a very soft heart, but he's no sucker," said Newman. "He is really trying to give Stephen and his brothers and sisters a chance for a good life by providing them with a healthy environment. But he is also trying to make them responsible people who will be able to take care of themselves."

Riddick was very close to Stephen's mother. "Brenda and I were like two halves of the same person," said Riddick Bowe. "She'd watch tapes of my Golden Gloves fights and cheer like the fight was still going on. I still wake up nights thinking about her."

But he also wants to think beyond his extended family.

"I feel I've been truly blessed, and I realize there's more to my life than fighting," he said. "I have a calling now to help people. I want to establish drug awareness programs, and I'd like to help end world hunger, especially in Somalia. Not just to send money, but to go there myself and make sure the people get what they need."

Bowe came out of the same dead-end neighborhood as former champion Mike Tyson, now serving a six-year sentence for rape in an Indiana prison. Few survive growing up in such a place without physical and emotional scars.

"Riddick is one of the exceptions," Newman said. "For him to come out of that with his gentleness and kindness is a bigger miracle than becoming heavyweight champion."

But Bowe, who recently signed a six-fight deal with HBO/TVKO worth a reported $100 million, remembers the kindness he received from strangers when he was young.

When he was 8, he was invited to spend a weekend with Bob and Hillary Goldstein, who lived in the upper-middle-class section of Scarsdale, N.Y. It was part of the "Fresh Air Fund" charity.

It was Bowe's first chance to taste a better life, and the Goldsteins' kindness left a lasting impression.

A month ago, Bowe received a surprising call at his Maryland home. It was Bob Goldstein, now a successful attorney, calling to say he just realized the young boy who had visited his home 17 years ago had blossomed into heavyweight champion of the world.

"He told me he had bought 10 tickets for the Dokes fight and would be cheering for me," Bowe said.

Fight facts

Who: Riddick Bowe (32-0, 27 KOs) vs. Michael Dokes (50-3-2, 32 KOS).

What: For Bowe's IBF and WBA heavyweight titles.

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

When: Saturday, 9:30 p.m.

TV: HBO

Promoters: Rock Newman, Madison Square Garden, Caesars World, and Main Events Inc.

Tickets: 14,500 sold. Approximately 4,000 remain, priced at $400, $200, $100, $50 and $25.

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