- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 16, 2003

Riddick Bowe wants to get back in the ring. He has spent time the last two years working out in a home gym, hoping to get into boxing shape. But he might be going to jail instead.

It might appear unusual that a man, who has not fought in six years, would be training again. But considering Bowe's history especially his mental state in recent years the bizarre is status quo.

Several severe beatings in the ring might have left him brain damaged. His behavior out of the ring grew more unstable after he retired in early 1997, ranging from a brief stay with the U.S. Marines to kidnapping his estranged wife and five children nearly five years ago.

But his is not your typical boxer-down-on-his-luck story. Things fell apart for Bowe a long time ago, and they just seem to be getting worse.

Today the once-undisputed heavyweight king of boxing will appear before a federal judge in Charlotte, N.C., to face a sentence of 18 months in prison for the kidnapping. But even his legal proceedings have taken a bizarre path: This will be the third time Bowe has been sentenced in this case.

A series of legal maneuvers by several sets of attorneys (including Johnny Cochran) designed to keep Bowe out of jail have backfired. Instead, he finds himself in this predicament facing prison after two years of house arrest and a probationary period.

"This is a tragic situation," said his former manager, Rock Newman.

Bowe is being forced to abide by a plea bargain agreement his original attorney worked out with the U.S. Attorney's office. Bowe was to serve between 18 and 24 months in prison a plea agreement that was amended at the last minute at sentencing when Bowe's attorneys argued their client had suffered brain damage from boxing.

He is scheduled to appear today before Judge Graham Mullen the same man who agreed with defense lawyers that Bowe's brain damage contributed to the behavior that led him to kidnap his wife, Judy, and their five children from her North Carolina home in February1998 and bring them back to his Fort Washington home. Mullen allowed the plea agreement to be amended to keep Bowe out of jail, but his rulings twice have been overturned by the Fourth Court of Appeals in Richmond.

Mullen could decide that Bowe doesn't need to live by the plea agreement, which would send him immediately to prison for at least 18 months. However, it seems likely Mullen finally will sentence Bowe after being overturned twice by a higher court and having the case sent back to him both times.

"He is, of course, disappointed by the ruling of the Fourth Circuit, but he is looking forward to putting this matter behind him and getting on with his life," said Erik D. Bolog, one of Bowe's lawyers.

Getting on with his life includes, remarkably, returning to boxing. Those close to him say he is intent on fighting again despite questions about his mental state.

In fact, there was a plan for Bowe to return to the ring. A neophyte Washington promoter named Jeffrey Jackson, whose security business, Unlimited Security, is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, and a wealthy area technology executive named Cecile Barker fostered the plan. Barker identified himself in an e-mail as Bowe's manager and said he had put together a 10-fight, $300million deal with the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. That deal was never finalized because the federal judge who amended Bowe's sentence refused to allow the fighter to return to boxing the judge imposed the ban as part of his amended sentence.

"I had 'in principle' negotiated a $300million, 10-fight contract with the MGM Grand to be their 'house fighter' after Mike Tyson was banned from boxing in Nevada," Barker said. However, Scott Ghertner, a spokesman for MGM Grand, said he was unaware of any such talks or deal.

Phone calls were made regarding Bowe's return to the ring, including one to HBO, which had a contract with the boxer when he retired.

"We were quite surprised to have received a phone call from Riddick Bowe's representatives regarding his possible return to the ring," said HBO spokesman Ray Stallone. "We declined to proceed."

Jackson, who is being sued by Bowe in a financial dispute, formed a promotional company called World's Finest Promotions and was going to be Bowe's promoter for his comeback. He could not be reached for comment.

Barker, founder and CEO of OAO Corp. in Greenbelt, said he advanced Bowe "millions of dollars" in hopes of his returning to the ring. He said when he agreed to be Bowe's manager he was "unaware" of Bowe's plea agreement. Barker said he had Bowe undergo tests at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz., in January 2000 in order to determine whether the boxer was fit to fight again. He said those tests revealed Bowe to be essentially "normal."

Two years later, on Jan.22,2002, an attorney for Bowe named Joseph Ledford filed a motion seeking to allow Bowe to fight again while he remained under probation. Mullen denied that motion.

If Bowe, 35, is sentenced to prison and comes back to fight when he gets out that is if he is licensed to fight, a big if he will have gone nine years between fights.

The last fight for Bowe (40-1-1, with 32 knockouts) came on Dec.14,1996, when he took the second of two severe beatings that year from Andrew Golota. Both fights went into the record books as Bowe wins because Golota was disqualified for low blows. Two months later, Bowe retired.

Barker believes Bowe is being singled out by the government in its pursuit of the case.

"I believe Bowe being sentenced to 18 months in jail is totally unfair and unjust," he said. "I do not condone his actions that led to this debacle. But clearly, because of his fame as a former heavyweight champion of the world, the U.S.Justice Department decided to use him as the 'poster boy' for domestic violence."

Prosecutors, though, insist that the only motivation behind pursuing this case was the move to revoke their original plea agreement.

"The reason we pursued this thing as long and as hard as we have now is that 4½ years ago we entered into an agreement with Bowe for him to do 18 to 24 months in prison," said U.S. Attorney Ken Bell. "Ever since then, he has been trying to avoid his part of the deal. We are just trying to get the benefit of the bargain that was struck 4½ years ago."

Newman, who became estranged from Bowe a short time after the kidnapping incident, blames Bowe's current problems on his new management team and its desire to get the fighter licensed again.

"It was an ill-advised, idiotic thing for the people who were supposedly managing and promoting him at the time, the Jeffrey Jacksons of the world, to try to undertake," said Newman, who was being sued by Bowe for mismanagement in a suit recently dismissed. "I think it had absolutely contributed to Bowe now being subjected to have to go back and spend time in jail."

Bowe told The Washington Times recently that he was prepared to serve his time.

"I'm just going to go ahead, do the time, and get on with my life," he said.

Such as it is.

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