Now that “ducking” is being popularized in boxing this year by Floyd Mayweather and David Haye, let’s take a look back at one of the biggest ducks in boxing history – when Riddick Bowe and Rock Newman engineered the dodge of Lennox Lewis in the 90’s…
Back in ’92, Holyfield, Bowe, Lewis and Ruddock signed to take part in a mini-tournament to settle the heavyweight succession. It was not a binding contract but a letter of intent for the winners of Bowe-Holyfield and Lewis-Ruddock to meet in a final showdown in 1993.
Before Bowe even won the titles from Holyfield on November 13, 1992 (Lewis had KO’ed Ruddock two weeks earlier on October 31), Bowe’s manager Rock Newman dropped clear hints their first title defense might not involve Lewis, but a date with George Foreman in China.
Bowe infamously tossed the WBC belt (a replica belt recently bought from Holyfield) into a trash bin at a press event in London in December before the WBC could strip him for refusing to box Lewis. (Team Bowe actually retreived that toy belt out of the bin and saved it after the cameras were turned off.)
Bowe wound up making his first defense in February against the badly faded Michael Dokes and then his second in May against another set up – Jesse Ferguson.
HBO wanted to make Bowe vs. Lewis and reportedly offered $32 million to the two sides. Newman initially offered Lewis’s manager $3 million of the total, which equated to an absurd 90-10% split. The next suggestion from the Bowe camp was $2 million to Lewis to fight on the undercard of Bowe’s first WBA/IBF defense (with promise to Lewis to be Bowe’s second defense.) Maloney did not accept, citing distrust that Bowe’s camp had already broken their word once after the Ruddock fight.
Another plan was both Lewis and Bowe would get $5 million each, with the winner to get an additional fortune from the $32 million pot – and the loser gets training expenses.
Eventually, Newman evolved the plan to winner take all of the $32 million purse. Maloney told Newman he would first have to discuss this risky option with Lennox. Lennox eagerly agreed, according to Maloney. The next day Maloney faxed an acceptance of the winner take all option back to Newman. “I never had a word back from him,” Maloney stated in the book “Lennox Lewis Champion” by Ken Gorman.
Two years later in June of ’94, Lewis and Bowe would actually sign a deal for Lewis to defend against Bowe in Las Vegas in March of 1995, after Lewis made his mandatory defense against #1 contender Oliver McCall in September ’94.
Of course, those plans – and the last chance to make a Lewis-Bowe professional world title fight – went up in smoke when McCall’s right hand knocked out Lewis for the WBC title in London.
Bowe and Lewis would never meet as professionals for a rematch of their 1988 Olympic gold medal final in Seoul, Korea which was won on a second-round stoppage by Lewis.