After 11 days, Marine life too much for boxer Bowe Former champion quits boot camp

February 22, 1997|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

Riddick Bowe's lifelong dream of being a U.S. Marine lasted all of 11 days before he tossed in the towel.

The former heavyweight boxing champion was granted permission yesterday to be released from boot camp in Parris Island, S.C.

There was a time when Bowe, 29, was considered the world's toughest man. But he apparently found it too difficult to adjust to the rigors of military life after years of experiencing the adulation, luxuries and sweet life of a boxing multimillionaire.

"He has been released at his own request," said Master Sgt. Chuck Demar of the U.S. Marine Corps Recruit Depot. "It was just that he couldn't handle the regimented training lifestyle."

Bowe reported to Parris Island on Feb. 10, but the first few days of basic training involve mostly paperwork and orientation, Demar said. The heavy physical training and marching began three days ago, he said.

Bowe, who had enlisted to serve three years in the Marine Corps Reserves, lives in Fort Washington, Md. He was reportedly returning with a family friend from Savannah, Ga., and could not be reached to comment.

His manager, Rock Newman, was practicing damage control yesterday at a hastily called news conference in Washington. His biggest task was persuading the media that Bowe's fling with the military was not a publicity stunt.

"People have already said that," Newman said. "To me, that is rather absurd. For indeed, what is going to be a byproduct of Riddick leaving the Marines at this time is criticism. If you're going to do something as a publicity stunt, it is going to make you look better, to enhance your persona.

Bowe's reputation as a leading heavyweight had been damaged by two bizarre matches last year with Andrew Golota of Poland. Bowe was battered and knocked down by Golota but won both fights by disqualification. Bowe's career record is 39-1, including 32 knockouts.

Some boxing analysts said Bowe's sudden decision to join the hTC Marines was an attempt to rejuvenate his body and his mental approach to fighting. But less than a week of boot camp proved unbearably tough for a man used to having his way.

Said Newman: "I had circled May 9 on my calendar. That would have been the day Riddick graduated from boot camp. But I'm also not surprised he didn't finish.

"For eight years, I have spent an enormous amount of time with him. And the hardest part of boxing for him was not getting into the ring or making preparations for a fight. It was always the long separation from his wife, Judy, and his [five] children. That had caused him to consider quitting fighting earlier in his career."

Asked why he believed a champion in the most demanding of sports could not survive basic training, Newman said, "I believe it has to do with a man who is 29, has enjoyed all of life's luxuries, and now finds he has no control of his life.

"I'm submitting it was culture shock. Boxers are some of the most superbly conditioned athletes. But a fighter may get up early to do roadwork, then go back to his room and rest for a few hours and eat and rest again before training.

"It's not the same as a Marine recruit getting up at 4 a.m. and not going to bed until 11 at night, never stopping and not having the luxury of making an independent decision. I'm sure Riddick has gained more respect for the military."

Pub Date: 2/22/97

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