- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 25, 2004

Riddick Bowe — the fighter who has declared he has suffered no brain damage, despite court testimony otherwise — offered this story about his well-being entering his comeback fight tonight at the FireLake Casino in Shawnee, Okla.:

“If you ever see me in a fight with a bear, don’t help me — help the bear,” Bowe said. “Pour honey on me. Don’t worry about me.”

There are people, though, who are worried about Bowe as he enters his first fight since taking a brutal beating from Andrew Golota in December 1996. The concern is not just for Bowe personally but for the sport itself should the former heavyweight champion suffer serious injury in the ring or aggravate his perceived condition.

“I hope he is OK, but I wouldn’t go near him,” trainer Joe Goossen said. “If he has brain damage, and it looked like he did after he fought the last time, it’s not good for anyone to have him fight again.”

Bowe (40-1, 32 knockouts) should be OK in his return against perennial loser Marcus Rhode, a club fighter who has been knocked out in three of his last four fights. Rhode is the fifth opponent lined up for Bowe since the fight was first announced.

But Bowe, who was world champion from November 1992 to November 1993, is determined to move his comeback along quickly, with a goal of 15 fights in the next 18 months culminating with a shot at regaining the heavyweight championship.

“I want to get to fight the guys in the upper echelon of the division,” Bowe said. “You see some of these guys fight? The division needs me. I’m the guy to bring back heavyweight boxing. I’m going to clean it up. I’m the clean-up man.”

The Fort Washington resident will have to convince a lot of skeptics before he gets a chance to contend for one of the heavyweight titles held by Vitali Klitschko (World Boxing Council), Chris Byrd (International Boxing Federation) and John Ruiz (World Boxing Association).

Promoter Bob Arum said Bowe’s representatives approached him recently to see if he would represent the fighter, who was released in May from a federal prison in Cumberland, Md., after serving 17 months on a kidnapping conviction involving the abduction of his former wife and his five children in 1998.

“I went to the Nevada Athletic Commission [considered the strictest boxing commission in the country] and asked them what I should do,” Arum said. “They told me I should stay away. He should not be allowed to fight unless he receives a series of tests from a boxing commission that does a lot of fights.”

Dr. Margaret Goodman, a neurologist and chief ringside physician for the Nevada Athletic Commission, said Bowe is taking a dangerous chance by getting back in the ring because, “he has evidence of chronic brain injury caused by the sport of boxing.”

The fact Bowe is fighting at an Indian casino — the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, a place without the regulations and oversight of Nevada or other licensing bodies that deal regularly with major fights — would indicate some doubt that Bowe, 37, could pass the required tests to be licensed in those jurisdictions.

But his manager, Jimmy Adams, said he has tests from two different medical centers, including George Washington University, that show Bowe has not suffered brain damage and has been cleared to fight.

Bowe’s former lawyer, Johnnie Cochran, argued in court four years ago that the former fighter suffered from a diminished mental capacity as a result of damage from boxing and even presented a forensic psychiatrist who testified that Bowe underwent a personality change due to “frontal lobe brain damage” caused by the blows he received to the head in the ring.

But now Bowe says it was a lie, nothing more than a defense concocted by his attorneys.

“I’m as sharp as ever,” said Bowe, who weighs (depending on who you believe) between 250 and 270 pounds for tonight’s fight (as opposed to 235 when he defeated Evander Holyfield in November 1992 for the undisputed heavyweight championship). “That was something my lawyers did. Any tests they want me to do, I will do. I don’t want to fight if there is something wrong with me. But there isn’t.

“I am the last of the warhorses,” said Bowe, who talks about fighting his old Olympic nemesis, retired heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis. “I just want a second chance. What’s wrong with that?”

Washington businessman Rock Newman, Bowe’s former manager, sees a lot wrong with it.

“For him to be allowed to fight is a prescription for disaster,” Newman said.

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