Bowe-mathis Hype Becomes Blooperfest

Posted: August 11, 1994

ATLANTIC CITY — You'd have thought it was a malaprop showdown between Norm Crosby and Ralph Kiner.

The press conference to hype Saturday night's HBO-televised heavyweight matchup of former champion Riddick Bowe (34-1, 29 knockouts) and Buster Mathis Jr. (14-0, three KOs) at Atlantic City Convention Hall featured so many verbal missteps, it seemed as though speakers were trying to outflub each other.

Eddie Futch, Bowe's venerable 83-year-old trainer, got yesterday's proceedings off to a rollicking start by describing water therapy Bowe had undergone to alleviate an aching back.

"He went in the tank," said Futch, using a phrase which generally describes a boxer who quits or gives something less than his best effort.

"I guess I'd better watch my terminology," Futch said, smiling. "What I meant to say is that Bowe did his road work for this fight on a treadmill, under water."

Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, fared no better as an elocutionist. First he referred to Mathis as "Buster Douglas," then he forgot to call Mathis, United States Boxing Association champion, to the microphone. In between, he mispronounced the name of Mathis's matchmaker, Bruce Kielty.

Brian Lee, Mathis's manager, seized on Newman's mistakes to slip in a shot of his own. Lee said, "I want to thank Alfred E. Newman for those kind remarks."

No one ever said boxing people were an erudite lot. But what does it matter? Fighters usually do their talking with their fists, and Bowe and Mathis promised to be most eloquent in that regard when the opening bell sounds for the scheduled 10-round bout.

"This time I'm going to be smart," Bowe said of his fight plan for Mathis. "My mother might have made me a little slow, but she didn't make no dummy. We're going to go out and box Buster Mathis. If he makes a mistake, we're going to capitalize on it. But if it goes 10 rounds, it goes 10 rounds."

Bowe, who has not fought since he lost his World Boxing Association and International Boxing Federation titles to Evander Holyfield on Nov. 6, 1993, contends that the majority-decision defeat, the first of his professional career, stems in large part to an overeagerness to knock out Holyfield.

"I didn't give myself the best opportunity to win," Bowe said. "Evander Holyfield didn't beat Riddick Bowe; Riddick Bowe beat Riddick Bowe. I figured since I was a bigger and stronger guy, I'd go out and knock Holyfield out. But you live and learn."

At 6 feet, 220 or so pounds, Mathis is a shorter version of Bowe. He'll give away 5 inches and perhaps as many as 30 pounds to Bowe, who towered above him when they posed for photographs.

"It really doesn't matter," Mathis said of the difference in size. "I'm the smallest heavyweight out there, so I'm used to it. But small guys are hard to hit. Riddick Bowe has to handle my style, just like I have to handle his. If he's expecting an easy time of it, that's a great advantage for me because I'm going to surprise him."

Mathis said his idol is "the Energizer Bunny because it keeps going and going and going. I love the Energizer Bunny.

"The things I lack, I make up for in other ways. I'm not a big puncher, right? So I throw a lot of punches. I'm not big, so I crouch down so I appear even smaller. You have to be able to use what you have, what God gives you."

The fight originally was scheduled for June 11 in Las Vegas, but it was postponed when Bowe suffered back spasms.

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