WASHINGTON -- Jesse Ferguson, a 36-year-old journeyman from Philadelphia, who had been labeled a true-to-life "Rocky" for gaining a championship bout, was jolted back to reality by undefeated heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe at RFK Stadium last night.
Bowe, 25, floored the perennial sparring partner in the closing seconds of the first round with a left hook and finished the 20-1 underdog with a left-right combination 17 seconds into the second round.
This was Bowe's second impressive defense of the title he won from Evander Holyfield by decision last November, just slightly longer than his first-round knockout of Michael Dokes at Madison Square Garden in February.
"This is what it's like to be a champion," said Bowe, raising his professional record to 34-0, with 29 knockouts. "I was focused and determined."
Bowe, a Brooklyn, N.Y., native making his home in Fort Washington, Md., said he has no preference for his next title challenger. "I don't care," he said. "Let all of them come to Big Daddy."
Manager Rock Newman said he had offered Lennox Lewis, who holds Bowe's discarded World Boxing Council title, a $12 million purse. "But it looks like he's afraid to fight my man," Newman said.
Lewis injured his right hand in beating Tony Tucker, May 8, and underwent surgery that will keep him out of the gym at least eight weeks.
Although Bowe, who reportedly hurt his wrist in training camp, looked less than trim at 244 -- 20 pounds more than Ferguson -- it hardly slowed him. He hurt his smaller rival with almost every punch he landed, making Ferguson resemble little more than a punching bag.
"Every fight Riddick learns something," said Eddie Futch, a veteran trainer who has molded the raw Bowe into a menacing fighting machine. "Tonight, he used his upper cut to set up his hook."
It was a booming hook that decked Ferguson in the first round. He rolled over on the canvas, barely beating the count of referee Larry Hazzard and staggered back to his corner.
Bowe jumped on his shaken rival in the opening seconds of round two and finished the job in championship style, with a left-right combination. This time, Ferguson barely stirred as Hazzard waved an end to the fight.
The champion was guaranteed $7.1 million for his brief %o encounter. Ferguson (19-10, 13 KOs) took home $500,000, easily the biggest purse of his mediocre career.
Ferguson had earned the championship match by upsetting Ray Mercer on the undercard of the Bowe-Dokes card.
Bowe made his supporters happy, but Newman's attempt to make Washington a boxing capital by staging an outdoor event was met with great indifference. The stadium crowd appeared to be less than 10,000.
This marked Washington's first stadium fight since Joe Louis flattened Buddy Baer in six rounds at Griffith Stadium in 1941, one of the Brown Bomber's "Bum of the Month" triumphs.
Bowe, if anything, was more devastating in his treatment of Ferguson, whose dreams of glory were quickly shattered.
As soon as it ended, Bowe's promoter-manager, Rock Newman, shouted to ringside reporters, "Bring in Mike Tyson!,' alluding to the former heavyweight champion who is serving a six-year sentence for a rape conviction in Indiana.
More likely is a fall match in Las Vegas with the winner of the George Foreman-Tommy Morrison fight, June 7, or a rematch with Evander Holyfield, from whom Bowe won the title last November with a 12-round decision.
As the unvanquished champion had vowed, it was not necessary to call on the three female judges -- Jean Williams, Shiela Harmon-Martin and Patricia Jarmon -- who made ring history by officiating last night.
Earlier in the fight card, undefeated Roy Jones, 159 1/2 , of Pensacola, Fla., a 6-to-1 favorite, won the vacant International Boxing Federation middleweight crown by a unanimous decision, but found a stubborn rival in Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, 159, of Philadelphia.
All three judges -- Al Devito, Lynne Carter and Eugene Grant, turned in 116-112 scorecards in favor of Jones, the 1988 Olympic silver medalist who raised his pro record to 22-0.
It was only the second time the middleweight had been forced to go the distance. Jorge Castro lasted 10 rounds a year ago.
Jones, 24, piled up a sizable lead in the first eight rounds with his superior hand speed, thumping combinations and elusive defense.
But Hopkins (22-2, 17 KOs) maintained constant pressure and more than held his own in the last four rounds, landing hard
looping rights and jarring body shots. Most fans expected a quick knockout. Instead, they watched a scientific fight with few electrifying moments.
"I got a couple of good shots off, but couldn't put anything together," the new champion said. "I knew I had to stay inside to avoid his power. I was tight going into the fight because of all the pressure put upon me."
Earlier, Andrew Maynard's once-promising professional career suffered another serious setback when the Laurel light-heavyweight was stopped in eight rounds by North
American champion Egerton Marcus, of Toronto.
Under the advice of the ring physician, referee Sylvester Stevens stopped the title fight after the eighth round had ended.
Maynard, a 1988 Olympic gold medalist who won his first 12 pro bouts before being knocked out by former light-heavyweight king Bobby Czyz in 1990, was rocked repeatedly by the unbeaten Marcus, who has flattened 9 of his 11 rivals.
Marcus dropped Maynard in the fourth round. The Marylander beat the count, but was obviously experiencing trouble with his left eye, which continued to swell as the fight progressed.
Maynard (21-5, 18 KOs) has now lost four of his last seven fights.
Unbeaten Maryland lightweight Sharmba Mitchell, one of the more exciting young boxing prospects, needed only one minute and 44 seconds to dispose of Washington rival Kenny Baysmore in a scheduled 10-rounder.
Mitchell (30-0, 18 KOs) landed jabs and a counter left and Baysmore went crashing to the canvas. He hardly stirred while the referee counted him out.
Ranked among the top five by the IBF, WBA and WBC, Mitchell, managed by Newman, is expected to fight for a title by this fall.
"I just want to keep winning and moving up," said Mitchell, who broke his managerial ties with longtime trainer Adrian Davis. "My real goal is to get a fight with [WBC welterweight champion] Pernell Whitaker."
Heavyweight prospect Shannon Briggs (12-0, 11 KOs), from the same Brooklyn neighborhood as Mike Tyson and Bowe, disposed of journeyman Bruce Johnson (10-22), of Youngstown, Ohio, Briggs (12-0, 11 KOs) sporting his usual dreadlocks, floored Johnson twice with a barrage of punches before the referee mercifully stopped it at 1.36 of the first round.