In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com
Rather than face Lennox Lewis, Riddick Bowe, the undisputed heavyweight champion, puts the WBC belt in the trash can, vacating the title and splitting up the heavyweight division that Mike Tyson united five years earlier. Bowe had beaten Evander Holyfield in November for the heavyweight title but refused to fight Lennox Lewis, who beat him for the Gold Medal at the 1988 Olympics in Seoul.
Born in Brooklyn on August 10, 1967, Riddick Bowe had a quick rise in the heavyweight division after turning professional. Bowe had been a top amateur fighter, as he represented the United States in the Super Heavyweight class at the Seoul Olympics in 1988. He appeared to be on the way to a Gold Medal but ran into a brick wall when he was pummeled by Lennox Lewis in the final and settled for the Silver Medal after the fight was stopped in the second. Lewis was representing Canada at the Olympics and went home a hero, carrying the flag into the Closing ceremonies.
Lennox Lewis was born in West Ham, England, on September 2, 1965. Lewis moved emigrated to Canada when he was 12, living in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1977. It is Canada, where Lewis learned the sport of boxing and qualified for the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. After losing in the quarterfinals, Lewis decided not to turn professional and focus on returning to the Olympics four years later. It was this dedication that helped lead to the decision for him to be the flag bearer.
Both boxers turn professional after the 1988 Summer Olympics, but it was Riddick Bowe who received all the early accolades. Nicknamed “Big Daddy,” Bowe became a top-ranked contender in the early 90s and was in line to fight the winner of a proposed fight between Evander Holyfield and Mike Tyson. However, after Tyson was upset by Buster Douglas in 1990, the path to the heavyweight championship was put on a detour. Holyfield would win the title from Douglas and was set to fight Tyson in 1991 before Mike Tyson was charged and convicted of rape. Finally, on November 13, 1992, Lewis at 31-0 defeated Holyfield and was an undisputed heavyweight champion.
Lennox Lewis quietly was also moving up the heavyweight rankings and held a record of 22-0 at the end of 1992. He was considered the number one contender by the WBC and was given a mandatory shot at the heavyweight championship. However, Riddick Bowe refused to fight Lewis, remembering his loss in the 1988 Olympics and scheduled a fight against Michael Dokes for his first title defense. This led the WBC to strip Bowe and give the title to Lennox Lewis. Upon hearing the news, Bowe called a press conference and tossed the belt into a trash can.
Riddick Bowe would only hold the heavyweight title for a year as he lost a rematch with Evander Holyfield on November 6, 1993. Lewis meanwhile held the title for two years, losing to Oliver McCall. Lewis would win a rematch with McCall in 1997 and held the title on and off the rest of his career, losing it briefly to Hasim Rahman before winning a return fight seven months later in 2001. He would retire as WBC Champion in 2003. Bowe never regains his spot atop the heavyweight division and quickly faded away without ever fighting Lewis as a professional.