Slimmer Bowe has eyes on title

August 13, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- It had to be sorely tempting for Riddick Bowe.

Two huge cakes with generous icing -- one with 83 candles for his beloved trainer, Eddie Futch, and the other holding 27 candles in celebration of Bowe's birthday, were wheeled to the dais where the former heavyweight champ had been talking to Buster Mathis Jr., his opponent at the Convention Center tomorrow night.

The Bowe who ballooned to as much as 285 pounds before losing his title in a rematch with Evander Holyfield last November might not have even waited for a fork while enjoying his piece of cake.

But this is the new Bowe, determined not only to recapture his waistline, but also his once-undisputed heavyweight crown, owned in part by Michael Moorer and Lennox Lewis.

His weight is still somewhat of a secret, with most guesses between 240 and 245 pounds. But when reporters pressed the '' matter, Bowe smiled good-naturedly, stripped his T-shirt and flexed his muscles.

He looked surprisingly trim, considering he had been sidelined for eight months by eye and back injuries that forced him to postpone an earlier date with Mathis and cancel a proposed match with Larry Donald.

Credit for his streamlined shape goes mostly to New Orleans physical therapist Mackie Shilstone, who gained a reputation for bulking up 7-foot-6 Manute Bol and former heavyweight champion Michael Spinks. Shilstone also prepared Bowe for his first encounter with Holyfield.

Shilstone was again summoned after Bowe suffered repeated back spasms in June while training in Bear Lake, Calif.

"I remember throwing a jab, followed by a right cross against my sparring partner, Tyrone Booze, then feeling this awful pain," said Bowe. "At first, I thought it was something I could just work off. But after the workout, I could hardly walk."

Futch and manager Rock Newman were concerned that the back ailment could become a permanent disability. The pain was finally traced to a dislocated vertebra.

"We knew that Mackie had worked miracles before," said Futch. "With the proper therapy -- running in a water tank, working on a treadmill and a new diet -- Riddick has fully recovered. His body is in great shape. There's no tummy and no love handles."

But that only took care of the physical problem. Futch also had to rekindle Bowe's fighting spirit and recapture his mind.

"It took us awhile to get his focus back," Futch said. "Fighters have to fight or they forget what they've learned. We'd always kept Riddick busy, no more than two months between fights before he won the title. This is the longest he's been out of the ring."

Bowe says he went through "a wide range of emotions" after losing his title to Holyfield by majority vote, in a bizarre fight best remembered for being interrupted by a sky diver.

"I was mostly angry at myself," he said. "I still believe Holyfield didn't beat me. Riddick Bowe beat Riddick Bowe. I didn't prepare properly for our second fight. I believed because I was the bigger man with the bigger punch, I could just overpower him.

"But I learned a valuable lesson from that fight. My mother might BTC have made me a little slow, but it didn't make me a dummy."

Still, it took the Brooklyn native considerable time to set his mind to fighting again.

First, he was disturbed that he fell out of the World Boxing Council ratings, dropped to sixth by the World Boxing Association and to No. 4 by the International Boxing Federation after his only loss.

"It wasn't like I was knocked out by Holyfield or lost a lopsided decision," Bowe said. "When Holyfield lost to me, he only dropped to No. 2."

Bowe was also preoccupied last spring with the completion of his $6 million home in Fort Washington, Md., and the April birth of his fourth child, Julius.

Bowe (34-1, 29 KOs) is a prohibitive favorite over the unbeaten, but lightly tested Mathis (14-0, 3 KOs). He insists he is not taking Mathis lightly. But the promise of fighting Lewis in December or early next spring is probably on Bowe's mind.

Bowe opened the door for Lewis to the WBC crown after he trashed his WBC belt in defiance of a threat by WBC president Jose Sulaiman to strip him of his title.

FIGHT FACTS

Who: Riddick Bowe (34-1, 29 KOs), Fort Washington, vs. Buster Mathis Jr. (14-0, 3 KOs), Grand Rapids, Mich.

What: 10-round heavyweight bout

Where: Atlantic City (N.J.) Convention Center

When: Tonight

TV: HBO, 10 p.m.

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