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Newman proves a master of the feint, ducking Bowe-Lewis title unification


WASHINGTON -- Rock Newman leaned over the ropes at RFK Stadium and shouted into the night.

"Bring on the world!" he cried. "Bring on everyone! Bring on Mike Tyson! Bring 'em on!"

Newman, the manager of Riddick Bowe, is turning into a real beauty.

Bring on Tyson?

That would be a difficult match, considering Iron Mike is in jail.

Bring on everyone?

"Rock Newman never wants to fight Lennox Lewis," hissed Frank Maloney, Lewis' diminutive manager. "I really believe that."

Newman, of course, claims otherwise, pointing to a $12 million offer he made Lewis to fight Bowe Nov. 5. Apparently, he forgot Bowe had a commitment to an Evander Holyfield rematch Nov. " 12.

Ah, what's a broken promise in boxing?

"If the money's right," Bowe said, "you and me can throw down."

True enough, but Newman had better watch it. Bowe's second title defense Saturday night was every bit as ridiculous as his first. Our congratulations to Jesse Ferguson for lasting nearly a minute longer than Michael Dokes.

Ferguson said he went into "shock," said he "choked," said he "froze." Seriously, what did anyone expect? Ferguson, 36, had lost eight of his 12 previous fights. He was best known as a professional sparring partner. So, upon climbing into the ring, he asked himself the logical question:

What am I doing here?

The result -- a Bowe knockout 17 seconds into the second round -- was utterly predictable. The good news is, Bowe probably won't go any further with his bum-of-the-month club. The bad news is, a Lewis fight is nowhere in sight.

It isn't all Newman's fault --Lewis underwent hand surgery after his 12-round decision over Tony Tucker, and will be sidelined two months. But Newman admitted Saturday night that he lied about the rib-cage injury Bowe suffered in training camp. Maloney claims he's deceitful, a charge that now seems reasonable.

The problem here is that Bowe has both the ability and personality to become an immensely popular champion, but already he's off-course. Boxing fans can forgive a champion for pursuing easy paydays. But eventually, credibility becomes an issue.

Many of Tyson's defenses also ended quickly, but that's because he was so good, not because his opponents were on the verge of retirement. Newman is taking a risk by playing his little mating dance with Maloney. He's alienating the public.

"HBO is not going to let him do another one of these," said Holyfield's estranged manager, Shelley Finkel, referring to Bowe's six-fight, $100 million contract with the cable network. "It's embarrassing."

Seth Abraham, the head of HBO Sports, expressed concern earlier in the week that a Bowe-Lewis fight was growing smaller in magnitude, not bigger. Rather than dispute that notion, Newman reinforces it, claiming Bowe-Lewis might not be as attractive as Bowe-Tommy Morrison.

Morrison faces George Foreman June 5, and a victory would make him the latest "Great White Hope," with an October fight against Lewis likely. Bowe's probable course is Holyfield in November, then Michael Moorer, then Lewis.

What if Foreman knocks out Morrison and retires? What if Bowe again struggles to beat Holyfield? And what if Lewis isn't the fighter everyone thinks, a question raised by his unimpressive victory over Tucker?

Then, you're talking about a mess.

That's why Abraham looked so distressed after Saturday night's debacle. Listing the other top 10 contenders, he couldn't name a worthy opponent for Bowe. Asked about Bowe-Lewis, he said, "It's not going to happen any time soon, I'm afraid."

Ferguson, for one, believes Lewis would beat Bowe -- "I think he's a stronger puncher" -- but Newman keeps taking shots at the WBC champion, ignoring the public's hunger for a title unification bout.

"We have made several attempts to fight the guy you all think would be the toughest opponent," Newman told reporters. "We don't think he would be the toughest. But we've made several attempts to make a match with Lennox Lewis. He and his people have turned it down.

"Jesse Ferguson was a live body. Riddick Bowe took the life out of him. You have to realize what is in front of you. He's a big, massive, talented heavyweight champion, head and shoulders above the rest."

Fine, Rock.

Prove it.

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