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October 1998

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The moment of madness that could see the former heavyweight champ put behind bars.

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It was the day that signified the completion of former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe's meteoric fall from grace; one of the fastest, most dramatic journeys from hero to zero in the history of a sport littered with fallen idols. And as a consequence of his shocking actions on 25 February 1998, the 30-year-old New York giant is expected to become a federal jail inmate within the shelf-life of this issue of Boxing Monthly.

On 4 June a Washington DC court heard Bowe admit to abducting his estranged wife and former childhood sweetheart, Judy, and the couple's five children at knifepoint - "an act of misguided love", according to his defence attorney. And maybe so; Bowe's mother-in-law and next door neighbour had apparently commented that if Bowe really wanted his family back, he should go and get them. Unfortunately, he did.

Bowe drove to his wife's home in Cornelius, South Carolina armed with a knife, pepper gas spray, handcuffs and masking tape. He forced his family into the car, then drove 200 miles to a McDonald's in South Hill, Virginia, where Judy was able to get word to the authorities. Bowe was duly arrested.

Although Judy was unhurt, refused medical attention and declined to press charges, Bowe was found guilty under the federal Violence Against Women Act. The maximum sentence for such a crime is 10 years imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, but plea-bargaining has reduced Bowe's likely sentence to around two years. The court ordered that he should be placed under house arrest, his movements --------------------------------------------

It is a stunning development that has shocked even those who have followed the disturbing events in Bowe's life since his retirement from boxing in early in 1997, a direct result of his second brutal encounter with Andrzej Golota in December 1996.

Prior to the first Golota fight, Bowe was widely regarded as the best heavyweight in the world. The previous November he had become the only man to knock out Evander Holyfield, with whom Bowe had a memorable three-fight series; Bowe won the undisputed heavyweight championship from Holyfield in November 1992 and lost it to him one year later, in the infamous "Fan Man" fight in Las Vegas.

But by Christmas 1996 Bowe was a shot fighter on the verge of a surprisingly early retirement in an era when heavyweights like George Foreman and Larry Holmes, who are scheduled to meet next January, are fighting into their 50s.

The second Golota fight had taken a heavy toll. Bowe slurred badly in the post-fight interview; his mumbled speech was almost impenetrable. It would have been unrealistic to have expected Bowe still to be the young prospect who, so full of hope after winning the silver medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, would entertain the media with impersonations of his idol, Muhammad Ali. But the extremity of Bowe's deterioration was alarming. He was persuaded to retire or risk a fate similar to Ali's.

Life after boxing is never easy for a fighter to face. But the sheer, unprecedented velocity of Bowe's decline sent him off the rails and headed for jail.

His first move in retirement was a disastrous foray into the US Marine Corps; it was as if Bowe realised that, with boxing training camps a thing of the past, he still needed some form of regimented environment in order to hold his life together. But Bowe had never been a major fan of discipline and quit within a week.

His former manager, Rock Newman - now a spin-doctor for the controversial Washington politician, Marion Barry - attempted to keep Bowe occupied with community-orientated projects. But the frustration of an athlete cut-off in his prime soon told on Bowe and his personal life began to disintegrate in 1997.

Police were called after a physical altercation between Bowe and his sister, Thelma, although no charges resulted from the fracas 18 months ago. However, Bowe awaits trial on charges of assaulting Judy, last August, and also an adult nephew, Joey Bowe, three months later. And in March of this year Judy and the children moved out of the $1.5 million family home.

Bowe was a popular figure, regarded as one of boxing's nice guys, as illustrated by corporate sponsorships - rare for boxing - from blue-chip companies such as Fila and Sergio Tacchini. He is estimated to have amassed a fortune of over $50 million from boxing.

Known as "Big Daddy", Bowe has the images of his children - now aged between two and 11 years old - tattooed on his chest. He had been with Judy since both were 13-year-olds in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and the couple married at 21.

The second youngest of 13 children - in 1988 a sister, Brenda, was shot dead in the street and a brother, Henry, died of AIDS - Bowe's family meant everything to him, but a tragic series of events has robbed him of the things that mattered most in his life. And the losses have been too much for him to bear.

He checked himself into a hospital for psychiatric evaluation later on the day of the abduction. He was released with the advice to undergo anger-management therapy - too little, too late, it seems.

Bowe may originally have come from Brownsville, Brooklyn, but, unlike Tyson, he is not a man one would have earmarked for a jail cell. Bowe's mother, Dorothy, was determined to keep him away from the streetlife that leads to the road down and she seemed to have succeeded.

But now a distorted reading of the family values she instilled in him has led to her son's downfall. And the superficial view one can expect to be taken from all this is that there is great truth in the saying "You can take the man out of the ghetto but you can't take the ghetto out of the man". If only life were that simple.

Also available to read from issue:

Magazine Contents:
Full details of the October 1998 issue - the complete contents listing.

World Rankings:
See where the top fighters were rated when October 1998 went to press...

Can David Reid, the USA's only gold medal winner at Atlanta, deliver as a pro?

Meet Larry Hazzard, the New Jersey boxing boss Tyson originally wanted to apply to. Why?

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