By: Ronald Cameron
The International Boxing Hall of Fame (IBHOF) ceremony went down this weekend and it was headlined by former 2- time Heavyweight Champion of the world, Mike Tyson. This is the time where boxing fans sit back and debate whether certain fighters should be elected into the Hall of Fame.
I’m going to do the same and compare two fighters’ careers. I will show you their professional records, touch on their opponent but they will remain anonymous for now and then I want you to guess which one is in the Hall of Fame.
This fighter won a Silver Medal in the Olympics and has a professional record of 26-2 with 17 knockouts. This fighter beat an undefeated top contender on his way to earning a title shot. He won the Heavyweight title in his first title opportunity, lost it in his first defense and came up short in his last shot at the title.
This man also won a Silver Medal in the Olympics and his professional record was 43-1 with 33 knockouts. He also won the Heavyweight title in his first attempt, he successfully defended the title twice and then lost it to the man he won it from. He won a version of the title a couple years later and then avenged his only loss by knocking his opponent out. He fought 5 more times after that, winning two controversial fights by disqualification but he could not recapture the greatness that he displayed when he was a champion.
Based on the two fighters I mentioned, which fighter is in the Hall of Fame: Fighter A or Fighter B? If you guessed fighter A, you would be correct. Fighter A is former Heavyweight Champion and Hall of Famer, Ingemar Johannson and fighter B is the main subject of this article, former Heavyweight Champion Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe.
Now, I’m not writing this to knock what Johannson did when he was champion. What I am doing is arguing a point based on his record and what he accomplished, that it was enough to get him elected into the Hall of Fame, yet I’m also comparing what these two fighters did in their careers. After doing so, I have to ask this question: Is Riddick Bowe Hall of Fame-bound?
Now it would be easy to dismiss Bowe as a Hall of Famer if you judge him by what happened to him towards the end of his career when he was fighting those foul-filled wars with Andrew Golota. I want to focus on what he accomplished as a fighter when he was in his prime.
Under the guidance of legendary trainer Eddie Futch, Bowe developed into a complete fighter who could fight inside as well as outside.
Bowe’s prime was short, but when he was on his game, he was one of most skilled big men to ever lace them up. Guided by the legendary Hall of Fame trainer Eddie Futch, Bowe was a skilled super-heavyweight at 6’5, 240 pounds, an excellent jab, tremendous power in both hands, a good body puncher, threw uppercuts and hooks with bad intentions. But what separated him from most big men is that Bowe could fight inside very effectively. And as well as the Brooklyn bully could dish it out, he proved many times that he could take it too. Defense was never one of his strong suits, but he made up for it with an enormous heart, will and determination.
Did Bowe live up to his full potential? His critics will say that he didn’t always come into his fights in top condition, as was the case in Bowe’s second fight against Holyfield. With that being said, if not for the “Fan Man” who interrupted the fight in the 7th round, a round in which Bowe was winning before the incident, if he had won that round Bowe would have retained his world title.
Looking at some of his opponents early in his career, as is the case with most young fighters, Bowe was brought along slowly. Bowe did fight some well known fighters along the way, beating the likes of Pinklon Thomas, Tony Tubbs, Tyrell Biggs and Bruce Seldon on his way to earning his title shot. I bring up these opponents because these are all guys who his friend and fellow Brooklyn native, Mike Tyson destroyed when he was champion.
Bowe dominated an undefeated, in his prime Evander Holyfield, the same guy who used to dominate him in sparring sessions.
After compiling a 31-0 record, Bowe finally got his title shot against the Undisputed World Heavyweight Champion, Evander Holyfield on November 13th 1992. Bowe and Holyfield are no strangers to each other, they used to spar together early in Bowe’s career. Holyfield figured that Bowe would tire late as he did when they sparred together, and he would then take him out. But Holyfield was in for a huge surprise as Bowe entered that fight in the best condition of his career, weighing a slim 235 pounds.
Bowe dominated the fight with his stiff left jab, hard right hands and uppercuts, and he out-worked the champion when they fought inside. After an epic 10th round in which both fighters were severely hurt, Bowe responded in the 11th round and knocked the champion down.
Holyfield survived that round and finished the fight on his feet, but when the bell sounded ending the fight, there was no doubt who won this battle. Bowe won a comfortable decision over Holyfield, winning the Undisputed Heavyweight Championship of the world.
Bowe vs. Lewis could never agree to terms, but was it all Bowe’s fault?
Immediately after winning the title, Bowe made his way out of the ring and he was met by top contender Lennox Lewis. Bowe and Lewis met in the amateurs and Lewis stopped Bowe, winning the gold medal. The two got into a heated argument which almost resulted into a fight but Bowe’s promoter Rock Newman and others separated the two before things could get ugly. It was agreed upon beforehand that the winner of Holyfield vs. Bowe would fight Lewis, but the two fighters could not agree to terms.
Instead of fighting Lewis, Bowe made the mistake of holding an infamous press conference where he proceeded to take the WBC title and toss it into a garbage can. Bowe told Lewis that if he wanted that title, he can go in the garbage and get it. Many boxing experts thought that Bowe didn’t want to fight Lewis because of what happened at the press conference, but I disagree. Just go back and watch that confrontation between the two giants after Bowe won the title. Did it look like Bowe was afraid of Lewis? Want to see it? Here it is:
If you’re still not convinced, listen to this interview with Bowe where he explains his side of the story of why the fight did not take place:
So instead of pitting these two young super-heavyweights against each other, Rock Newman had other plans and decided that Bowe should fight two guys were clearly past their primes.
Bowe did not have a long title reign, but he was one of the best heavyweights in the world, with or without a title.
After destroying Michael Dokes and Jessie Ferguson in two title defenses earlier in the year, Bowe returned the favor and granted Holyfield a shot at the world title on November 6th, 1993.
As I mentioned earlier, Bowe was not in tip-top shape going into this fight, he weighed 11 pound more than he did when they first fought. The champion tried his best to try and stop Holyfield early and he won the first 3 rounds, but in the process he exerted a lot of energy. The fight was close going into the last round, but the cagy warrior out-worked the champion and he won his title back, winning a razor-thin majority decision over Bowe and regained his World Heavyweight title.
Bowe went right back to work and instead of fighting guys who were past their primes, he fought several undefeated fighters. After fighting Buster Mathis Jr. to a no contest, Bowe took on undefeated Larry Donald. At a press conference before their fight, the two got into an argument that ended with Bowe giving Donald a “two piece” left-right combination.
Considering those punches were with a closed fist, Donald was lucky he did not sustain serious damage and Bowe is lucky Donald didn’t press charges against him. As for their fight, the press conference was more exciting than the actual fight. Bowe won a one-sided decision over Donald and while he was impressive, Bowe still had bigger mountains to climb.
In his next fight, he was matched against the undefeated WBO Heavyweight champion Herbie Hide. At this time, world titles were a dime a dozen, it came down to who was the best fighter in the division and Bowe was still among the best, regardless of who held a title. In this fight, Herbie Hide was no match for Bowe and he was stopped in the 6th round.
Next up for Bowe was undefeated Jorge Luis Gonzalez. Jorge had a win over Bowe in the Olympics and reminded Bowe of that win. Bowe wanted to avenge that loss against the mammoth challenger and he did just that. Bowe annihilated Gonzalez, knocking him out cold in the 6th round. At this point it was clear that Bowe was the best heavyweight in the world but he still had unfinished business against an old friend.
Bowe vs. Holyfield 3 settled their trilogy but unfortunately for Bowe, it was the beginning of the end for him.
This set up a third fight between Bowe and Holyfield on November 4th, 1995. Holyfield had lost the world title to Michael Moorer a year earlier, but both Bowe and Holyfield wanted to prove once and for all who was better. Bowe was slightly ahead going into the 5th round and he had Holyfield in major trouble and not able to defend himself. George Foreman was at ringside calling the fight and he begged the referee to stop the fight.
But Holyfield recovered and shocked everyone in the next round by knocking Bowe down with an enormous left hook. Bowe struggled to get up, yet he once again displayed the heart of a champion and he mustered up the energy to finish the round. In the 8th round after a heated exchange, Bowe caught Holyfield with a devastating, straight right hand which dropped Holyfield flat on his face. Holyfield made it to his feet, but he had nothing left. Bowe finished him with two more right hands, forcing the referee to stop the fight. This ended their trilogy and unfortunately for Bowe, this was the beginning of the end for him.
His next two fights against Andrew Golota both ended in controversy and there was no doubt that Bowe took a vicious beating in both battles, especially in the last one. We all know what happened… Golota was winning both fights hands down, but he could not stop throwing low blows and he was disqualified both times. In the second fight, Golota dropped Bowe in the 2nd and 5th rounds and dominated most of the fight, and while Bowe had his moments, knocking Golota down in the 4th round, he looked like a shell of his former self. All he had left was his tremendous heart and will to win.
IBHOF voters and fans: Please go back and watch Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe when he was in his prime (1991-1995).
In essence, the Golota fight proved to be the end of Riddick Bowe in terms of being a main-event fighter. We all know about some of the things Bowe went through in his personal life and there is no reason to get into that. But looking back at his boxing career, did Bowe do enough to warrant a Hall of Fame bust? Based on some other fighters who are in the Hall of Fame who have accomplished just as much as Bowe, (Johansson and Ken Norton) Big Daddy does have a strong case.
As I mentioned, Bowe’s prime was short but from 1991-1995, Big Daddy was one of the best heavyweights of his era. I also believe that if Bowe would have fought Lewis in 1993 as planned, he would have knocked Lewis out within 8 rounds. Lewis was not quite a finished product at that point and Bowe was more skilled, and he proved that he can take it as well as dish it out.
All I ask of fans and voters is to do one thing: Go back and watch some of Bowe’s fights when he was in his prime. Watch how he dominated a prime-Evander Holyfield, how he recovered from a knockdown in his third fight with Holyfield and came back to knock him out. And even though he took a beating from Golota, watch how Bowe recovered and refused to quit. To me, based on watching boxing for 33 years, there is no doubt in my mind that Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe should be in the Hall of Fame.
**What do you think? Tell me what you think by leaving a comment at the end of this article. Whether you agree with me or not, I want to hear from you.**