Although the record book will show that Riddick Bowe twice reigned as heavyweight champion, the boxer has said he would never be considered among the legendary heavyweights unless he fought and beat Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis.
Now, it is doubtful Bowe, 29, will ever have that opportunity.
Bowe announced his retirement from boxing yesterday at Home Box Office's headquarters in New York.
He will serve as a "goodwill ambassador" in HBO's "Reaching Beyond the Ring" community service program, touring the country and participating in charitable and community activities designed to motivate America's youth.
Said Bowe: "Although my time in the ring has come to an end, it's just the start of an exciting and important career for me."
In a professional career spanning eight years, Bowe won all but one of his 41 fights, 32 by knockouts. But he likely will be remembered more for the bizarre events surrounding his life in and out of the ring.
After becoming undisputed champion by out-pointing Evander Holyfield in 1992, he stuffed his World Boxing Council belt in a London trash can, rebelling against the WBC's orders to make Lewis -- the Englishman who defeated him in the 1988 Olympic final -- his next opponent.
After two title defenses, Bowe lost his remaining championship belts -- the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation -- in a rematch with Holyfield in 1994. The fight -- held outside Caesars Palace in Las Vegas -- was interrupted for 18 minutes when a para-glider landed at ringside.
In his next fight, Bowe landed a vicious right while Buster Mathis was on one knee taking the count. The fight was ruled no contest, saving Bowe from a disqualification.
Bowe won the lightly regarded World Boxing Organization crown in 1995 by knocking out Herbie Hide, but soon abandoned the title.
His last bit of ring glory came Nov. 4, 1995, when he got off the floor to stop a fatigued Holyfield in the eighth round of a nontitle bout.
Determined to win back a piece of the heavyweight title, Bowe was then matched against Andrew Golota, an obscure Pole, in July 1996 at Madison Square Garden.
Golota pummeled Bowe from the opening bell, but was ultimately disqualified in the seventh round for repeatedly fouling. A riot erupted in and out of the ring, and Golota was one of 22 who suffered injuries. Several members of Bowe's entourage were among the 16 arrested.
Five months later in Atlantic City, N.J., Bowe was again taking a thrashing from Golota, only to win again by disqualification, this time in the ninth round.
At this point, Bowe's ring career appeared in shambles. He seemed under-trained and under-motivated after earning millions from fighting, and was enjoying a life of luxury in suburban Fort Washington, Md., with his wife, Judy, and their five children.
He shocked the boxing world last January by enlisting in the Marine Corps reserves, saying he was fulfilling one of his life's dreams. But his military career lasted only 10 days. Bowe withdrew from his commitment after experiencing his first day in boot camp at Parris Island, N.C.
Bowe's manager and sometime promoter, Rock Newman, had been trying to resurrect his fighter's career, but Bowe apparently had lost his lust for fighting.
During his reign as heavyweight champion, Bowe and Newman flew to Somalia and donated $1 million in food and supplies to needy families. He was subsequently honored by South African President Nelson Mandela and received the blessing of Pope John Paul.
"HBO is extremely proud that Riddick Bowe has joined our 'Beyond The Ring' program," said Seth Abraham, president of Time Warner Sports, the parent company. "He is personable, involved and genuinely concerned for his fellow citizens. The man and the project have met."
But considering that George Foreman is still fighting at the age of 48, and Joe Louis, Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Larry Holmes all mounted comebacks, no one will be surprised if Bowe soon has a change of heart.
Pub Date: 5/01/97