WASHINGTON -- It was 42 years ago that an awkward 6-foot- heavyweight named Buddy Baer came close to scoring a stunning upset of then-world champion Joe Louis at Griffith Stadium.
A similar scenario will be presented at RFK Stadium on May 22, when undefeated heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe defends his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles against journeyman Jesse Ferguson of Philadelphia.
Ferguson, 36, who has a 19-9 record, upset Ray Mercer at Madison Square Garden, Feb. 6, the same night Bowe stopped Michael Dokes in one round.
Mercer had been waiting in the wings to fight Bowe for a $1.5 million payday when Ferguson intervened.
"Ferguson is the 'Rocky' of 1993," said Bowe's manager, Rock Newman.
"He dismantled Mercer and ruined our plans for a major HBO fight. And two days later he was back in the gym getting ready for Bowe."
Ferguson, a native of North Carolina who learned to fight while a Marine based in Hawaii, seemed embarrassed by the Rocky comparison. "I've already beaten the 1988 Olympic gold medalist [Mercer], so why shouldn't I also whip the silver medalist?" he said, referring to Bowe, who lost in the super-heavyweight final to Lennox Lewis.
"When I step into the ring at RFK, people will be whispering, 'Oh, Rocky?' No, it's Jesse, and it will be the biggest mistake of their lives, Ferguson said.
Ferguson will receive an estimated $500,000 compared with $6 million for Bowe, with the major portion of the champion's purse being guaranteed by HBO.
D.C. mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly says she anticipates the Bowe-Ferguson match will produce $20.3 million in revenue from local hotels and restaurants, plus an additional $4.1 million from generated ticket sales.
The stadium will be structured to hold 30,000 spectators, with tickets $25 to $400 for ringside.
Tickets will go on sale today, with Bowe selling the first few at the RFK box office.