God knows Riddick "Big Daddy" Bowe has had his problems outside of the ring, but this is not about that; this is about whether he eventually should be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame when he becomes eligible in 2013.
A product of the tough Brownsville section of Brooklyn, Bowe had a successful amateur career, which included winning the prestigious New York Golden Gloves championship. He also won the silver medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, losing to Lennox Lewis by stoppage in the Final.
After turning pro and fighting 13 times in 1989, he went 34-0 before losing to Evander Holyfield in the second fight of their great trilogy in 1993. With a high KO percentage, Bowe swept through his opponents impressively though he participated in two bizarre fights. One was a DQ win against Elijah Tillery in which "Big Daddy" was kicked. Rock Newman, Bowe’s manager, then grabbed Tillery around the neck from the ring apron while Big Daddy proceeded to pummel him out of the ring. It was a new wrinkle to holding. The other strange one involved what many called a gift NC when he coldcocked Buster Mathis Jr. while Mathis was on the canvas.
Arguably, Bowe’s first top level opponent was Pinklon Thomas who he beat by ninth round TKO. He followed this by dispatching Bert Cooper in two and then Tyrell Biggs and Tony Tubbs (though this involved a controversial decision). After icing a prime Bruce Seldon in one, he won five against fair to middling opposition until 1992 when he beat Holyfield by UD in 1992. He followed this up with two quick knockouts of Michael Dokes, 50-3-2, and Jesse Ferguson.
In 1993, he would lose his first fight, a close one to Holyfield, but would make up for it with great ebb and flow TKO victory over "The Real Deal" in 1995. In between, he destroyed undefeated Herbie Hide and slaughtered highly touted trash-talking Jorge Luis Gonzalez. He did this like a butcher works on fresh meat. He also took the measure of terribly intimidated Larry Donald by 12th round UD. The combined won-loss record of these three victims coming in was 65-0.
This set up his two infamous DQ wins against a prime Andrew Golota in which Bowe absorbed tremendous punishment while showing great heart. In my view, Bowe was damaged goods going into these two fights. He was a shell of his former self (in fact, he looked like Roy Jones after coming down in weight after the Ruiz fight) as his brutal trilogy with Evander Holyfield combined with poor training habits and overeating seemed to have had caught up with him.
In the first duke, though well ahead on points, Golota suffered his first loss when Bowe went to the floor in round seven after being hit with the last of several low blows throughout the fight. Golota was disqualified and was well on his way to a new nickname. The riot that ensued was far more chilling than the mini -riot that followed the Tillery debacle or the beat down of the Fan Man in 1993. A rematch was held five months later at the Convention Center in Atlantic City, and Golota once again dominated. Incredibly, however, he was again disqualified due to a brutal low blow combination in the ninth stanza. The two Bowe fights earned Golota the nickname "The Foul Pole," though there had been many earlier warnings of his proclivity towards havoc and mayhem.
As for Bowe, though he won, he came out of those fights terribly damaged—perhaps as a result of going in damaged. After three more wins against inferior opposition, it now appears he will retire with a 43-1 (33 KOs) record.
And this brings us back to the question posed by this piece. As I personally evaluate his chances, I cannot but help acknowledge that Ingemar Johansson was inducted in 2002 with a record of 26-2 and with his trilogy against Floyd Patterson being the trigger for his induction. Yet the "Hammer of Thor," as Ingo was known, lost two of the three against Patterson.
Of course, working against Bowe is the fact that he never squared off with Lennox Lewis. Still, the question remains, should Bowe be included with the likes of Ken Norton, Larry Holmes, Sonny Liston, Joe Frazier, George Foreman, etc.?
What do you think?