This time, the skies look clear to Bowe Forgets 'Fan Man,' focuses on Holyfield

November 03, 1995|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- In the summer of 1952 at Yankee Stadium, legendary middleweight champion Sugar Ray Robinson sought to add a third world title to his collection by challenging Joey Maxim for his light-heavyweight crown.

Boxing superbly, Robinson dominated the fight for the first 10 rounds, but finally succumbed to the extreme heat and Maxim's extra bulk at the end of the 13th round.

When reporters tried to induce a touch of sympathy from the winner, Maxim cracked: "Do you guys think I had an icebox in my corner?"

Maxim's rejoinder came to mind when Riddick Bowe blamed his only professional loss in his second heavyweight title match with Evander Holyfield at Caesars Palace two years ago on the sudden and bizarre entrance of the "Fan Man" in his paraglider during the seventh round.

"Before that nut showed up, I had Holyfield just where I wanted him," recalled Bowe (37-1, 31 KOs), who meets Holyfield for a third time in the same ring tomorrow night. "He was getting cramps in his back, his legs were rubbery and he was about ready to quit."

But then confusion reigned. The "Fan Man" almost landed in the lap of Bowe's pregnant wife, Judy, seated at ringside. She fainted and had to be rushed to the hospital for observation.

"I was really concerned about my wife and thought about climbing out of the ring," said Bowe. "But if I did that, people would have accused me of quitting."

The delay lasted nearly 22 minutes, but, of course, the conditions during the hiatus were the same for Holyfield, with both fighters trying to keep warm in the desert night air. But it was the dogged Georgian who took charge of the fight when it resumed, and he won a close decision.

"If it was as close as everyone claimed, it should have been a draw and I would have kept my title," said Bowe, who entered the rematch in less than perfect fighting shape.

"But I really had myself to blame," he conceded. "After dominating him in our first fight [in November 1992], I tried to just walk through him. I was loading up, trying to finish him with a single punch."

Now, oddly, neither of these proud heavyweights owns a major title, although Bowe, a New York City native who now makes his home in Fort Washington, Md., claims the World Boxing Organization crown.

It is such a dubious title that Holyfield requested that it not be at stake tomorrow night. This frees him from sanctioning fees, but more importantly allows him to remain a leading contender for the more prestigious IBF, WBA and WBC titles.

Regardless of the politics, most ringside experts consider Bowe the premier heavyweight in the world while Mike Tyson, imprisoned for three years, tries to regain his lost magic against lesser competition.

Bowe looked devastating in destroying loud-mouthed Jorge Gonzalez in six rounds last June. "Big Daddy," as his manager Rock Newman calls him, was trim, sharp and focused.

But it has not always been that way for the playful heavyweight who has had a tendency to add 30 to 40 pounds to his 6-foot-5 frame between fights and to lose his competitive edge.

And no one knows this better than Eddie Futch, Bowe's revered 84-year-old trainer and father-confessor.

"After he won the title from Holyfield in 1992, he needed only a round to stop both Michael Dokes and Jesse Ferguson," noted Futch.

"He showed all his skills in taking out Ferguson, who had just gone 10 hard rounds with Ray Mercer. But then Riddick lost his toughness. A cut eye and then a back injury kept him out of action for six months before the Holyfield rematch. It was like starting the teaching process all over again.

"In his first fight with Holyfield, he followed my instructions, hanging on every word. But once they get more experience, they start thinking of things they can do on their own.

"Riddick thought he could blow Evander away the second time around. He needs to jab and box like he did in their first fight. If he does, good things will happen."

Despite being a 3-to-1 favorite over Holyfield, Bowe realizes it will no walk in the park.

"Evander has a tremendous heart and can take a great punch. He keeps coming and coming like the Energizer rabbit."

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