Bowe's plans for bout with Lewis appear intact

August 15, 1994|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,Sun Staff Writer

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe's fight with Buster Mathis at Convention Center on Saturday night will be listed in the record books as no contest, after Mathis was knocked out in the fourth round by what referee Arthur Mercante Sr. ruled an intentional foul.

But Bowe, who had the most to lose, emerged as the winner in professional boxing's latest misadventure.

By virtue of the no-contest ruling, it appears he can go through with his $20 million fight against World Boxing Council champion Lennox Lewis in December or March. Had Bowe lost, Lewis would have been free to seek another opponent.

The most likely scenario is that a Bowe-Mathis rematch will take place on the undercard of the Lewis-Oliver McCall championship bout in London on Sept. 24.

Bowe could have been disqualified by Mercante when he hit Mathis with a vicious right to the head after Mathis dropped to one knee to clear his head after catching a series of punishing blows.

The illegal punch left Mathis unconscious. Mercante did not bother to count, calling for medical assistance at 2:11 of the fourth round.

Despite repeated cries of "foul" from the crowd of 3,024, it took New Jersey boxing commissioner Larry Hazzard, aide Gary Shaw and Mercante nearly 10 minutes to rule the bout no contest.

Said Hazzard, a former referee: "We had several options to consider, and disqualification was one of them. But we felt the most fair decision was calling it no contest since Bowe had dominated the fight up to the point of the foul."

Mercante left the arena before talking to reporters, but recommended to Hazzard that Bowe be

fined for his foul blow.

Bowe, 27, fighting for the first time since losing his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles to Evander Holyfield last November, played the innocent.

"Mathis was bobbing and weaving out of a low crouch the whole fight," he said. "I really didn't see that he was on the floor when I hit him. I just kept firing shots. But I apologize for what happened."

With a chance to earn at least another $250,000 in a rematch with Bowe, Mathis' manager, Brian Lee, did not protest too loudly.

However, Lee said: "It was a deliberate foul, and it was not the first time this has happened in a Bowe fight. In any other state, I believe he would have been disqualified."

Bowe had been involved in two previous foul-marred bouts. The first was against journeyman Elijah Tillery in Washington on Oct. 29, 1991, when the fighters exchanged kicks and punches after the first round. Bowe's manager-promoter, Rock Newman, put a headlock on Tillery and tossed him out of the ring. Bowe was awarded that fight on a one-round disqualification.

In Las Vegas on July 18, 1992, Bowe was warned repeatedly for hitting low against South Africa's Pierre Coetzer. Coetzer was pleading for help from referee Mills Lane when Bowe delivered the knockout punch in the seventh round.

But Bowe remains on course to seek revenge against Lewis, the Briton who whipped him for the gold medal in the 1988 Olympic Games.

All the major players in the proposed Lewis-Bowe fight were at ringside Saturday night, including Lewis' manager, Frank Maloney, Newman and promoter Dan Duva, who holds options on Lewis.

After reaching a contract stalemate in dealing with Maloney, Newman went directly to Lewis' chief financial backer, Greek industrialist Panos Eliades, to work out the deal that will guarantee Lewis $12 million and Bowe at least $8 million.

"Bowe's people would like the fight to take place in December because they're worried about keeping him motivated and his weight down," said Maloney.

"But it's in our best interests to fight in March when pay-per-view television will be in place in England. Lennox is the champion. He should be able to dictate where and when the fight takes place."

Under terms of the tentative agreement, if the fight is held in the United States, Las Vegas will be the site. MGM Grand executive Dennis Finfrock and Caesars Palace sports director Rich Rose were seen huddling with Maloney and Duva.

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