Bunce Diary: “Big Daddy” Bowe deserved so much more

By Steve Bunce

IT IS a pity that Riddick Bowe was not active and just coming to the end of his career now. I’m not kidding.

If Bowe was, say, 40 now, he could get in on several carnivals and make the money he spent, lost or was ordered to pay out for his foolish acts. His troubled days would have a happy ending on some ridiculous circuit. Mike Tyson, Roy Jones and Evander Holyfield have all been in terrible ‘fights’ in the last three or four years. Bowe would have fit right in; old, slow, but with the occasional little step and feint.

A few weeks ago, I was in Toronto with Lennox Lewis and Bowe’s name came up. He’s not a fan and never has been. Bowe, in all fairness, did give Lewis a lot of stick. He was merciless after he had stopped Evander Holyfield in their third fight. Lewis was in the front row at the press conference and Bowe never stopped abusing him. Bowe still wants Lewis; in the 1988 Olympic final, Lewis beat Bowe. Their failure to meet as professionals will only be equalled if Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua never meet. Bowe and Lewis were at their peak at the same time; Bowe just faded quicker and earlier, and the window was small.

Today, Bowe could put himself at the front of the queue for the veteran’s tour. He could handle Big Joe Egan, who once fought Lewis, and Gypsy John Fury, who once fought Henry Akinwande. I would rather great fighters, who are down on their luck, made a few quid in one of boxing’s distasteful freakshows. Egan and Fury won a combined 11 times in 17 fights as professional boxers and are celebrities now.

In 2013, Bowe limped onto the BoxNation set for an appearance on the Boxing Hour. Barry Jones and I could not take our eyes off him. He was huge, close to about 24 stone and he was limping because he had just come from a muay Thai world super-heavyweight title fight on a beach in Thailand. He was 45 that day and he looked a lot older. I have no idea how we got him, but it would not have been for more than 300 quid. We only gave Roy Jones 200 quid and the day before he had been in the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin getting his Russian passport.

In Pattaya, Bowe had been barefoot and exposed in the ring. A crowd of 20,000 was anticipated, but about 1,000 came. His opponent was a Ukrainian called Levgen Golovin. It was like a circus event without a clown in make-up.

A world title of some description was one of the prizes in the three round muay Thai fight. It finished in the second round and Bowe never connected with a single kick or punch. Golovin used his sense and moved and only kicked Bowe in the shins. I say only, he was a lump of about 16 stone. Bowe crumpled a total of five times to the canvas from the kicks. The final time was just too much, and he sat out the count, rubbing his shins and making faces of pain. That is a memory I’m glad I missed: Bowe barefoot, fat, nearly in tears, rubbing his shins and shaking his head.

“That pain is terrible,” Bowe told us. “I’ve been hurt in the boxing ring, but that was far worse. It’s much harder than boxing. I know that now.”

He was in Thailand for that fight because the Thai authorities wanted to raise the profile of their national sport. He was promised 150,000 dollars and I hope he got every single cent. He certainly earned every single cent. The man on my sofa next to Barry Jones was finished. It was not our proudest moment asking him about being kicked in the shins.

There was a move to wrestling planned for Big Daddy Bowe in 2014. It was the oddest of announcements. He was going to join Preston City Wrestling. Yep, that Preston. Anyway, that fantasy, fell out of bed. The next PCW show, by the way, is next month at the Evoque Nightclub in the city centre and features Toni Storm and Lionheart. Tickets from £16.50 are available. I wonder if they have room for Egan and Gypsy John in a special smackdown?

During the last few years, a couple of celebrities or old basketball players have talked about fighting Bowe. He is better than that and deserves to be a statesman like Lewis or Holyfield or even Tyson. At the first Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder fight in 2018, there was a gathering of heavyweights at the open-air weigh-in. It was a good gang, a lot of giants. Instead of sitting back and taking the applause, Bowe was up issuing challenges. “What’s wrong with him,” Lewis asked.

I obviously never want to see Bowe anywhere near a boxing ring ever again. The man is 56 and I have seen him over the years when he has been asked to attend a fight or a function. It’s not great. The others, let ‘em fight, why not? They never made the sacrifices of men like Bowe.

I was going to write about a woman called The Female Ali in this column, and how she knocked out a man called Larry Rodania one night in 1975 at Madison Square Garden. Rodania was topless and a big geezer and The Female Ali, whose real name was Jackie Tonawanda, had on a white t-shirt. It was a close call between Bowe’s battered shins and Larry going down and out from a phantom punch, but in the end, I ditched it – I don’t want anybody to get any crazy ideas.

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