WASHINGTON -- The scheduled 12-round match between heavyweight title contender Riddick Bowe and former sparring partner Elijah Tillery turned into a riot after the first round, with the fighters, handlers, promoter and public relations people joining in the brawl at the Convention Center before 7,050.
When order was restored, referee Karl Milligan disqualified Tillery for "twice flagrantly kicking" Bowe after the bell. Bowe, who had floored Tillery with an overhand right in the second minute of the brief fight, was awarded a first-round knockout.
Bowe (27-0) seemingly started the ruckus by hitting Tillery with a backhand swipe after the journeyman boxer from Albany, N.Y., taunted him by blowing a kiss his way. Tillery countered Bowe's slap with a kick to Bowe's rump. Bowe made a few punches before Tillery answered with a knee to the groin and another kick.
Bowe, enraged, pushed Tillery against the ropes, where Riddick's manager and promoter, Rock Newman, applied a headlock and tossed Tillery head over heels out of the ring.
Tillery landed on Washington boxing commissioner Jeffrey Gildenhorn, who later sported a melon-sized bruise on his head. For good measure, the fallen fighter then spat on Kelly Swanson, Bowe's publicist.
Tillery, who has fought his best fights in gyms with Mike Tyson and Bowe after jail terms and a drug habit had ended a once-promising ring career, tried to climb back in the ring and resume the battle. Milligan, who works mostly small club fights in the area, signaled that the match was over, precipitating another argument.
It brought to mind the legendary Jack Dempsey-Luis Firpo fight in New York in the 1920s when Dempsey was pushed out of the ring, but recovered to knock Firpo out.
Even promoter Don King, who has been called boxing's version of Barnum, seemed stunned by this comic ending. King was on hand to discuss a possible Bowe-Tyson match in the future.
Bowe, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native now living in Fort Washington, said, "I'll give him a rematch if he keeps his feet on the ground.
"I wish they would have let it continue. Tillery talked a lot of trash and I wanted to knock him out clean. I don't think he's a professional."
Newman said that Tillery (23-5, 15 knockouts) had vowed before the fight to sidetrack Bowe's title plans by any means possible. "If necessary, he even said he would kick him," Newman recalled.
Newman said he regretted his intervention in the post-bell brawl.
"I'm really sorry it ended the way it did," he said. "It just happened that my arm went around his neck and he did a back flip. I was just protecting my fighter."
Bowe called Newman "my tag-team partner."
Tillery was not apologetic.
"I'm a fighter, and I come to fight, not to kiss him," he said. "After he tries to hit me when I was half down, what am I supposed to say, 'Yes, boss'? You didn't see my guys jump in the ring. Why does Bowe need a protection agency?"
* Andrew Maynard set his sights on World Boxing Association light-heavyweight king Tommy Hearns after stopping former champion Saad Muhammad after 20 seconds of the third round of their scheduled 10-round bout.
Maynard, who has lost only to Bobby Czyz in his 19 professional bouts after winning the 1988 Olympic gold medal, pummeled Muhammad, 37, from the opening bell. After Muhammad was cornered at the start of round three and caught with at least 20 unanswered blows, referee Sylvester Stevens stopped the match.
Muhammad (39-15-3), who fought under the name of Matt Franklin when he dominated his class in the late 1970s, has won only one of his past seven fights.
Asked if he felt sympathy for the battered ex-champion, Maynard said: "This is a job. He was in front of me, so I had to stop him. He tried to intimidate me by not touching gloves at the opening bell, but I didn't take it personally."