By Scoop Malinowski
Lennox Lewis was the B side to Riddick Bowe back in 1993 when their superfight unification showdown was prime time however Bowe simply refused to take the risk.
“Bowe did everything he could to avoid fighting me but I forced the situation. I did so by ordering my manager Frank Maloney to go out and do whatever it took to make the fight. Yes or yes. No arguments. Then Riddick had to meet me or vacate. It comes to the point where the boxer has to take over from the manager or promoter as The Boss. Oscar De La Hoya and me were the first to take charge of our business. I took control of my destiny and opened up my chance for greatness.”
Let’s go back in time. 1992. Mike Tyson was in jail in Ohio. Lewis, Razor Ruddock, Bowe and Evander Holyfield had all agreed and signed to be a part of the HBO mini tournament to settle the heavyweight succession. Lewis defeated Ruddock in a WBC Eliminator by spectacular second round knockout and then two weeks later Bowe decisioned Holyfield to win all the belts, IBF, WBA, WBC. Holyfield had won the titles from Buster Douglas who beat Tyson.
The HBO mini tournament idea was not a binding contract but a letter of intent that the Bowe-Holyfield winner would meet the Lewis-Ruddock victor. After Bowe won the Heavyweight title he went into duck mode to avoid Lewis. His manager Rock Newman hinted about a defense in China against George Foreman, then a title defense during halftime of the Super Bowl. Bowe later handpicked a well-faded former champion and drug addict Michael Dokes. The underdog lasted only 2:19 with Bowe in February 1993. Then in May Bowe easily halted another faded former contender Jesse Ferguson. Ferguson was a 40-1 underdog.
Lewis and his promoter Frank Maloney and the WBC were unable to force Bowe to keep his promise to fight Lewis.
Not long after the Ferguson win, Bowe was in London and called a press conference to forfeit the WBC title. Bowe must have known he was about to be stripped of the title by the WBC because of his reluctance to fight Lennox. So at the press conference, Bowe dumped the WBC belt, which Deontay Wilder now holds, into a trash bin, declaring, “As long as I remain champion, I will not be involved with any part of the WBC, and today I am withdrawing my recognition of them. If Lennox wants that (belt), we can call Lennox the garbage picker.”
The WBC issued a strong rebuke of a statement about the disrespect shown by Bowe of their title: “The belt thrown into the trash bin has been worn with dignity and pride by Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Mike Tyson. We expected that Bowe would try to duck the winner of Lewis and Ruddock. Bowe has reneged on his agreement to face Lewis. He is running scared.”
Lewis became WBC Heavyweight champion of the world while on vacation in Jamaica.
All the while, Lewis and Maloney continued to try to force a fight with Bowe. The HBO TV network wanted the fight and offered a pot of a reported $32 million to be split by each. Newman’s first offer to Maloney was a laughable $3m for Lennox to fight Bowe which equated to an approximate 90-10 split for Bowe.
Newman’s next offer was $2m to Lennox to fight on Bowe’s first defense of the WBA and IBF titles.
Another idea was $5m to each fighter and the winner to get the remainder of the $32m total, $22m. Then Newman suggested a winner take all fight, the winner getting $32m. Maloney consulted with Lennox who agreed to the winner take all scenario. The next day Maloney faxed that Lennox accepted the winner take all offer. But Maloney said he never heard a word back from Newman, according to the book ‘Lennox Lewis Champion’ by Ken Gorman.
So it’s clear to most that Lennox Lewis was the B side vs Bowe and he was willing to take risks and the short end of the purse but Bowe was never going to agree to the fight no matter what. Bowe of course never did fight Lewis as a pro.
Having gone through this experience, Lennox Lewis would be the most perfect figure to act as the mediator to broker a Joshua vs Wilder superfight, wouldn’t you say? Let’s hope Lennox takes a more active role, gets involved in the negotiations and can find a way to hammer out a deal to produce Joshua vs Wilder, if by some chance, Tyson Fury gets injured and can’t fight Wilder later this year.
At the very least, Lewis could figure out which side is Riddick Bowing his way out of the biggest superfight in the heavyweight division and reveal that information to the world.