Bowe Establishes the Pattern

By Ted Sares on October 4, 2013
Bowe Establishes the Pattern
It always seemed as if Riddick Bowe was in the middle of one controversy or another.

“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.

The Fight

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.

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Riddick Bowe Vs Elijah Tillery I (Crazy Fight)

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  1. Darrell 01:47pm, 10/09/2013

    Possibly Jethro possibly.

    I’d still put my money on Lennox….Bowe always seemed to be in a state of “flux”.

  2. Jethro's Flute 10:51am, 10/09/2013

    Darrell - Lewis retrogressed badly after beating Ruddock, contracting what I call puncher’s disease.

    Eddie Futch, in Bowe’s corner, would have spotted the gaps that Manny Steward did and Lewis would have been in trouble.

    Lewis would have beaten Bowe with Manny in his corner though.

  3. Darrell 12:56am, 10/09/2013

    What’s with the love for Riddick?  I quite liked his fights & he had an excellent jab as well as being a brilliant inside fighter….well schooled for sure.

    But he doesn’t beat Lennox.  Couldn’t hit as hard, though a hard puncher no doubts, & even though his mid & long range game was decent it wasn’t as good as Lewis’.  Lewis always fought the big fights well & cagily…and it would’ve been a big fight at the time.  He wouldn’t give Bowe many opportunities.

    I only see one winner though it’s heavyweight boxing & anything can happen, Bowe was good enough, when he was good enough.

    P.S.  Tex, get some new glasses.  Holyfield (somewhat past his prime) did not fight Lewis to a standstill in either fight.  Holy got beat something fierce in that first fight & the 2nd was more of a chess match with Lewis controlling & cutting Holy out of any chance of taking a decision.

  4. Leigh 12:36pm, 10/07/2013

    What struck me was his size I know he wouldn’t of been in any kind of shape but he is a big true heavyweight that’s for sure a huge frame .although I would say I rated him a much better boxer than Douglas .

  5. Jethro's Flute 07:58am, 10/07/2013

    Bowe beat Lewis and the Klitschkos?

    He had the equipment to do so but he’d be virtually guaranteed to lose the rematch as his dedication was awful, having won the championship.

    Lewis himself wasn’t always as dedicated as he could have been, especially when he was a big favourite to win and both brothers are always in shape.

    As it is, Bowe is yet another ‘might-have-been’ in heavyweight history. Basically, he’s Buster Douglas with a harder chin. Douglas, like Bowe, is remembered for one great night but both men underachieved by constantly coming in overweight.

  6. leigh 02:25am, 10/07/2013

    Agree with you jethro about bowe beating Lewis I think he would have given both vitali and wlad a close fight if not beat them .I met bowe at a signing in august it was his birthday and his wedding anniversary. Animated and larger than life he was crazy but a gentleman.Had some fantastic stories and had time for the kids as well, can’t speak highly enough of Riddick ,a great guy.

  7. Jethro's Flute 01:53am, 10/06/2013

    Bowe’s problems were not caused by Holyfield but by the fact that he fought and trained dehydrated.

    He did not have a particularly punishing career but the dehydration made him sound and fight like he had had 300 fights and that’s why he was washed up so quickly.

    I think that Bowe would have beaten Lewis, before Manny Steward took over Lewis’ training as Lewis contracted puncher’s disease after beating Razor Ruddock.

  8. Clarence George 07:09pm, 10/05/2013

    Ha!  I told you, Ted—it wasn’t a double entendre.

    By the way, “Betrayal” was awful—a gussied-up soap opera designed to pick the pockets of pseudo-sophisticates.

  9. Ted 06:14pm, 10/05/2013

    BTW, I got that double entendre on fish the other day.

  10. Ted 06:13pm, 10/05/2013

    zxcvb , thanks mate and welcome to the best site on-line.

  11. Ted 06:12pm, 10/05/2013

    Joel, yep. Thanks CG

  12. zxcvb 02:21pm, 10/05/2013

    Wonderful website and equally wonderful article about a memorable period in boxing history. Thanks. I will visit this site often.

  13. Clarence George 11:27am, 10/05/2013

    “Joel,” Ted.  The only reason I remember is because of the “Seinfeld” episode.

    Going to see “Betrayal” tonight.  Hope it’s good.  Used to love Pinter, but have pretty much lost my taste for him.

  14. Ted 10:51am, 10/05/2013

    Thanks Tex and I agree, the Holyfield trilogy did it.

  15. Ted 10:38am, 10/05/2013

    That is correct Don. He was one of the best tall inside fighters I have ever seen and that might have given LL some fits.

  16. Ted 10:37am, 10/05/2013

    Our own Robert Mladinich wrote a great book about the prolific NY serial killer Glen Rifkin. A real chiller.

  17. Ted 10:36am, 10/05/2013

    Fritz Haarmann—yep

  18. Don from Prov 09:48am, 10/05/2013

    Bowe was NEVER boring—and at his best he was very very good

  19. Tex Hassler 08:05am, 10/05/2013

    Bowe was at his peak when he beat Holyfield the first time. That Bowe would beat Lennox Lewis. Even a past his prime Holyfield fought Lewis to a stand still years after his fight with Bowe.  I think Holyfield took just about every thing out of Bowe and he was never the same. Great article Mr. Sares!

  20. Clarence George 07:19am, 10/05/2013

    Peter Lorre was superb in that, Ted.  He managed to make a killer of children pitiable (albeit not sympathetic).  The Hans Beckert character was based, I think, on Peter Kuerten and Fritz Haarmann.

    “The Testament of Dr. Mabuse” is another great Fritz Lang movie.

  21. Ted 06:10am, 10/05/2013

    Gajjers has the beat

  22. Ted 06:09am, 10/05/2013

    Bike, great question. He only refereed two more fights and those were in 1994 and 1995, respectively. This one pretty much finished him off.

  23. Ted 06:06am, 10/05/2013

    CG, I always liked M

  24. Ted 06:05am, 10/05/2013

    I agree John. LL beats Bowe, but it would be very close.

  25. bikermike 05:29am, 10/05/2013

    Gajjers….excuse me

  26. bikermike 05:28am, 10/05/2013

    Cajjers…..nice post…..I agree

    Bowe showed that ...when properly trained and motivated….he was a top knotch HW Fighter
    ...but that isn’t the guy that always showed up…....another athlete who didn’t handle success well

  27. bikermike 05:25am, 10/05/2013

    Yet another great read Ted…..thank you

  28. bikermike 05:21am, 10/05/2013

    Did this ref ever get a chance to lose control of another major match ??

  29. bikermike 05:17am, 10/05/2013

    worst thing that ever happened to ‘Big Daddy’ Bowe RIddick…was rock neuman.

    That man was living proof that anal sex is dangerous !!

  30. Gajjers 04:04am, 10/05/2013

    Depends on which Bowe & which Lewis. Bowe had a better chin, Lewis had better discipline. The Bowe that beat Holyfield the 1st time trumps Lewis in my book - better technique, better inside game, equal will, and as I said earlier, better set of whiskers. The Bowe that fought Golota (either fight) would lose badly to Lewis, and take a beating doing so. Everyone knows that opinions are like nether-regions in their ubiquity, so that’s just my 2 cents worth. Subjective surely, but I preferred Bowe’s style immeasurably…

  31. Clarence George 03:24am, 10/05/2013

    Can’t do it, John, for I, too, think Lewis would beat Bowe, though I wouldn’t be too surprised by a draw.

  32. John aka L.L. Cool John 08:09pm, 10/04/2013

    How about someone taking my comment about Lewis beating Bowe and prove me wrong?

  33. Clarence George 07:32pm, 10/04/2013

    Among little boys…Harold Jones.

  34. Clarence George 07:27pm, 10/04/2013

    By the way, the most evil real-life little girl must surely be Mary Bell…and her squeezing hands.

  35. Clarence George 07:24pm, 10/04/2013

    Yes, though I prefer mysteries.  The Green Bicycle Case with that raven engorging itself upon the victim’s blood.  How thoroughly and wonderfully English.

  36. Ted 07:15pm, 10/04/2013

    The Bad Seed was , well, a good one indeed. Very scary. Damien had some possibilities as well. Kids make good monsters. But I must admit that, like being an unabashed Klitschko fan, I am also a hopeless fan serial killer-types..

  37. Clarence George 07:10pm, 10/04/2013


    Well, if Tillery is going to kick like a naughty little girl, then he deserves to be compared to the ultimate one.

    Of course, there was never a more evil little girl than Rhoda Penmark (brilliantly portrayed by Patty McCormack) of “The Bad Seed.”

    Mrs. Penmark:  What happened to old Mrs. Post in Wichita?
    Rhoda:  There was ice on the steps, and I slipped and fell against her.  And that was all.
    Mrs. Penmark:  That was all?
    Rhoda:  No.  I slipped on purpose.

    Tillery isn’t evil.  But he did kick…like a little girl.

  38. FrankinDallas 07:05pm, 10/04/2013

    Rock Newman was one of my all time most favorite guys to dislike intensely. He was always wearing that weird hat/beret/thingie.

  39. Ted 06:54pm, 10/04/2013

    CG, It’s taken some time, but you are truly a man after my own heart

  40. Clarence George 06:47pm, 10/04/2013

    I trust you found the search fruitful, Ted.  Ah, Withers as Joy Smythe, the quintessential spoiled and vicious brat.

    “Let’s play hospital,” says she to Shirley Temple.  “I’ll be the doctor and you’ll be the nurse.  We’ll get a big knife out of the kitchen and operate on your doll.”


    “You can’t have her [a doll discarded by Joy that Shirley found].  You wanna know why?  Because I’m gonna kill her.”

  41. Ted 06:15pm, 10/04/2013

    Thanks John and Djata. I agree that Bowe did start it CG. They should have allowed it to continue.

  42. Ted 06:12pm, 10/04/2013

    “Jane Withers in “Bright Eyes.”’ Once again, I am driven to Google by you, CG

  43. kid vegas 06:03pm, 10/04/2013

    A nice little piece that brought back plenty of memories. Maybe could have been titled, Bowe’s Bizarre Behavior.

  44. Clarence George 05:35pm, 10/04/2013

    I’ve seen the Bowe-Tillery fight several times, including just now.  I’ve always shared the commentators’ dismay that the ref disqualified Tillery.  There’s no doubt he behaved stupidly and with a marked lack of dignity, reminding me of no one so much as Jane Withers in “Bright Eyes.”  But it was Bowe who started it, flicking out a jab after the bell had rung.  True, it was more of a sneer than anything else.  Still, a punch was thrown when it shouldn’t have been.

  45. Djata Bumpus 04:46pm, 10/04/2013

    Nice piece, Ted…Informative and inspiring…Keep up the great work!...Cheers!

  46. John aka L.L. Cool John 03:48pm, 10/04/2013

    Bowe was on the top of his game around the Jorge Luis Gonzalez time. Gonzalez had boasted about eating his (Bowe’s) heart, but Bowe destroyed him in the sixth round. As I recall in the Tillary after-the-fight fight, Rock Newman busted his cell phone on Tillary’s head. Only in boxing! Thanks for bringing back some old memories, Ted. By-the-way, in my opinion, Lewis beats Bowe.

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