Bowe Establishes the Pattern
“He didn’t realize that he shook the water to awake the gator.”—Riddick Bowe explaining why he inexplicably punched Larry Donald during a press conference
The 1990s were great for boxing; Lennox Lewis, Hector Camacho, Pernell Whitaker, De La Hoya, Tyson, Foreman, Morrison, Chavez, Chris Eubank, Holyfield, Riddick Bowe, etc., etc.
In particular, Bowe was an interesting study. After winning an Olympic Silver medal in 1988, he soon became incident-prone—a pattern that would continue right up to the present. From dumping his WBC belt in a trash can to Fan Man; from former two-time world heavyweight champion to humiliated Muay Thai loser; from the Golota riot to the Marines; from comical impersonations to slurring; from the Holyfield Trilogy to numerous domestic issues, kidnapping, assault, and imprisonment, Riddick Bowe always seemed to be in the middle of a controversy.
In an extremely active pro beginning, Bowe moved his record to 26-0 between March 1989 and October 1991! In his 27th bout and after beating solid opposition, Bowe faced fellow-New Yorker Elijah “Phoenix Steel” Tillery (23-4) at the Convention Center in Washington, DC. Tillery’s career was marked by no meaningful wins but he had a granite chin and decent skills. However, this televised bout was not about Tillery; it was designed to showcase Riddick’s superb talents and move him closer to a world title, not to mention acquisition of the vacant WBC Continental Americas Heavyweight title which for some reason was at stake. Instead, the fight turned out to be the first of many bizarre incidents that would mark the subsequent ring career and personal life of Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe.
After landing some decent early blows including a heavy body shot that stunned Bowe momentarily, “Big Daddy” quickly gathered himself and shook up Tillery with a big right and then, after the two exchanged elbows, went on a sustained attack. Towards the end of a round that probably was much longer than three minutes, Bowe floored Tillery with a volley of malicious stuff punctuated by a left hook. After “Phoenix Steel” got up, Bowe landed a few more shots before the bell finally rang.
At this point, Tillery taunted Bowe and Bowe responded by flicking out a cheap shot jab which in turn was answered by Elijah who let go with at least two kicks to Bowe’s groin and shin area (one of which may had landed). An unscheduled brawl was in full swing and ended when Bowe’s diminutive manager Rock Newman appeared out of nowhere and put a stranglehold on Tillery from behind while Bowe pummeled Elijah as he disappeared from sight over the sagging ropes. The well-coordinated tag-team effort gave new meaning to “a manager having his fighter’s back.” Meanwhile, referee Karl Milligan appeared helpless and even hapless as the strange and hilarious events unfolded.
Tillery was disqualified for the kicking, much to the loud chagrin of the crowd and the surprise of the television announcers. The two men fought again a few months later with Bowe scoring a dominant four-round TKO victory in Atlantic City.
But the pattern was established.