Can Bowe keep his manager's big promises?


NEW YORK -- Rock Newman said that Riddick Bowe is obsessed with surpassing Rocky Marciano's unblemished 49-0 record, and Eddie Futch's Adam's apple quivered, the almost imperceptible involuntary response of a man who has drawn the deuce of diamonds to a 10-jack-queen-king of hearts.

"There are a couple of things Riddick wants in life," Newman prattled, 30 minutes after Bowe had shattered a shell of a fighter named Michael Dokes in 2:19 of the first round Saturday.

"When we started out he wanted a Jeep Cherokee. Get him a Jeep Cherokee and he'd be the happiest man in the world.

"A small apartment and a Jeep Cherokee. He gets an obsession with certain things.

"The obsession he now has is breaking Rocky Marciano's record. To do that he has to stay active. You're gonna see this young man in the ring a lot."

Newman manages Bowe, who is 33-0, and owns two-thirds of the heavyweight championship. Futch, 81, trains Bowe.

The last guy to brag about eclipsing Marciano was Larry Holmes. When Michael Spinks decisioned Holmes to snuff that dream, Holmes responded with a scatological tantrum that haunted him for years.

In the incestuous world of boxing, maybe Bowe will defend his heavyweight title against Holmes, because Newman is scouring boxing's graveyards for opponents.

"We spent $10,000 on [publicity] pictures," Newman grumbled, "and put a deposit down at the Waldorf for a Monday press conference to announce a fight with Ray Mercer."

Mercer, however, auditioned for this week's Westminster Kennel Club dog show, losing, with a whimper, to Philadelphia journeyman Jesse Ferguson.

Later, Bowe shrugged off the vulgar chant that followed his brief charade and defended defending against the likes of Dokes.

"Boxing is a business," he lectured. "And we're all in it to make money, so if I can make a payday, what's wrong with that?"

The fans had jeered the quick ending to Bowe-Dokes, the media had scoffed, and Newman was going overboard with his spin control. He was a car salesman and a disc jockey in another life, some habits die hard.

"If I may interject something," Newman said, "Michael Dokes is complaining that the fight should not have been stopped.

"Evander Holyfield looks at the tapes of his fight with Riddick and thinks he won. What this proves is that Riddick really puts a serious hurt on guys.

"What you're looking at is a guy 6-5 and 240 who can take out everybody who's out there."

It may take a while to disinter Bowe's next opponent because Newman has Bowe booked on "a good will" tour that includes Somalia and Rome.

What in the cockeyed world is going on here? Newman wants Bowe to get to 50-0, Newman wants Bowe to surpass Muhammad Ali as a charismatic dancer on the world's stage.

How soon before Bowe tells Newman, as Ali once said, "I don't have to be what you want me to be."

Meanwhile, Seth Abraham, the guy who signs the fights for HBO, has a simpler, sweeter strategy for boosting Bowe's popularity.

He stresses the wink and the smile of Bowe, as a dramatic contrast to the scowl and the sneer of Mike Tyson.

Sure, there were other champions between Tyson and Bowe, but Abraham says that Bowe beat the man (dull and introverted Evander Holyfield) who beat the man (fat and foolish Buster Douglas) who beat the man (snarling Tyson).

Abraham showed up at Madison Square Garden in a green corduroy suit with a white rosebud pinned to his lapel. He blends nicely in the World Wrestling Federation scenario that has Newman and Bowe saying they will never, ever fight Lennox Lewis as long as the bloody Englishman wears that painted, tainted World Boxing Council belt.

Futch, looking weary from his recent heart woes, lets the noise clatter around him, wishing that Newman would allow Bowe to be Bowe, knowing his young fighter lacks the wit and sparkle to be Ali, lacks the cruel streak to be Tyson, lacks the hard-scrabble determination to be Joe Frazier.

Which is why Futch flinched when Newman spoke of Bowe's obsession with Marciano's 49-0.

"I don't think Bowe thinks of it in those terms," Futch said. "That's the first time I've ever heard him mention that.

"Riddick is the kind of kid who takes things as they come along. If they'd run it by me, I'd have discouraged that kind of talk."

And if they'd run past Futch a noble visit to Somalia to hand over some endorsement money to relief efforts?

"I stay out of those things," he said softly. "Rock means well. He's trying to do things in a different way.

So, will Futch be working the corner when Bowe gets to 50-0?

"I'll be there," Futch promised. Now, that's one promise I'd like them all to keep.

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