Dokes is perfect as bum of month

KEN ROSENTHAL D: NEW YORK

February 07, 1993|By KEN ROSENTHAL

NEW YORK -- It ended with Michael Dokes mumbling, "What? What?" and his adviser, Sterling McPherson, jumping into the ring to confront referee Joe Santarpia.

The 16,332 fans at Madison Square Garden chanted an expletive in unison, but that's because they wasted as much as $400 on a title bout that lasted two minutes, 19 seconds.

Surprise, surprise, Riddick Bowe is still the heavyweight champion of the world. Dokes never actually hit the canvas last night, but that's only because the ropes saved him.

"I looked in his eyes, and he was gone," Santarpia said. "His eyes were glassy. He started wobbling across the ring. He must have got hit with 20 punches before I jumped in."

Afterward, Dokes still wasn't with the program. "You can't look me in the eye and honestly tell me I was incapable and incompetent," he screamed at HBO's Larry Merchant. "Look me in the eye!"

It was pathetic, but seriously, what did anyone expect? In government, elected officials make political appointments. In boxing, heavyweight champions start bum-of-the-month clubs.

To the victor belongs the spoils.

Anyone who doesn't like it can employ the same mechanism to reach the top, then apply his own principles, which is to say, act however he wants.

That's all Bowe did in selecting Dokes -- an aging, overweight, recovering cocaine addict -- for his first title defense.

Never mind that the former champion was ranked no higher than eighth by the sport's laugh-riot governing bodies -- the IBF, WBA and WBC.

Never mind that the original plan was for the Bowe-Evander Holyfield winner to fight the Lennox Lewis-Razor Ruddock winner in a boxing version of the Final Four.

Everyone knows the NCAA plays its championship game promptly, while the boxers go back to the first round, beat up on a few Murray States, then announce, "Let's rumble!"

The only thing more amusing than the actual process is the outrage expressed by those who don't understand why fighters from impoverished backgrounds might want to earn a million or 10.

Like it or not, that was the unspoken rationale for last night. The question now is when Bowe will get around to Lewis, the WBC champion.

The answer: In due time.

Bowe planned to meet Ray Mercer in Atlantic City on May 21, but Mercer (20-2) blew a $1 million payday on last night's undercard by losing a unanimous decision to Jesse Ferguson (19-9).

"That was a dumb move by Mercer," Bowe said.

Here's all you need to know about the 35-year-old Ferguson: In his previous two fights, he had dropped 10-round decisions to Tony Tubbs and Dokes.

So, who's next for Bowe?

Would you believe Evander Holyfield?

Holyfield retired after losing to Bowe, but that's ancient history now. His new manager, rap star Hammer, contacted Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, moments after Mercer blew his shot.

Newman was quick to mention Tommy Morrison and George Foreman as other possibilities, but Bowe said, "I think Holyfield is a great guy. I would welcome that fight."

And Lewis?

Uh, better change the subject.

The Bowe-Lewis rivalry dates to the 1988 Olympic final. Bowe was inexplicably listless, Lewis won the gold medal for Canada, and five years later, the bad blood is starting to boil.

It's a slow boil, mind you.

Some would call it hype.

Bowe taunted Lewis at ringside moments after defeating Holyfield. A month later, with the WBC planning to strip him of his title for ducking Lewis, Bowe dumped its belt in a trash can.

Now, Newman is so angry at the WBC for naming Lewis its champion, he claims a unification bout won't take place unless Lewis renounces the title.

And if Lewis doesn't renounce?

"He'll never fight Riddick Bowe."

Bowe, too, mocked Lewis for his association with the WBC, a poorly disguised Don King production.

"If you hit Lennox Lewis on the chin, they might call it a low blow," Bowe said.

Newman and Bowe, of course, are staking their independence, but frankly, they're not acting much different than King or any other promoter in search of the almighty dollar.

Then again, even the notoriously patient boxing public can stand only so much. It was a sad, strange, sickening sight, seeing Michael Dokes mumble into the night.

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