COMMENTARY : This Fight Has Little to Offer


Am I the only one who thinks Bowe-Ferguson has ignition, but no liftoff?

They’re calling it The Heavyweight Debate, but so far the only debate seems to be which round Ferguson is going out in. I mean, it’s not exactly Lincoln-Douglas. It’s not even Lincoln-Mercury.

At Thursday’s weigh-in at L’Enfant Plaza, by far the biggest draw was new boxing guru Hammer! Bowe and Ferguson must have wondered if they’d stumbled into Lake Edna.

Personally, I like a guy who calls himself “Boogie Man.” But is it Boogie Man, as in he’s gonna get you? Or, Boogie Man, as in Denny Terrio and “Dance Fever”? Or, Boogie Man, as in Diner Guy trying to buy the Os and get Bawlmer back into the NFL?


Do you realize this guy is a 40-1 underdog?

Iraq wasn’t 40-1 against Schwartzkopf.

Dale Hunter wasn’t 40-1 against Bettman.

Skylab wasn’t 40-1 against the earth’s atmosphere.

Forty-to-one isn’t merely long. The Mississippi River is long. Forty-to-one is from here to eternity.

Actually, Jesse Ferguson wasn’t supposed to be Riddick Bowe’s opponent. Ray Mercer was. Mercer was supposed to demolish Ferguson on the Bowe-Michael Dokes undercard a few months ago at Madison Square Garden, and then get a title shot against Bowe. But Mercer was a tomato can on the level of Contadina. And Ferguson is here instead. (I’ve heard they made a late attempt to get another guy, a guy everybody wants these days . . . but Little Ricky Pitino said he wasn’t interested.)

Look, you don’t have to be a genius to pick Bowe. He’s the champion of the world, he’s undefeated in 33 bouts and he’s clearly no “rootie-poot,” whatever that is. He’s facing a guy who lost eight of his last 12 fights before beating Mercer. Think about that. Eight of 12. If this is the DMV, they lift his license. Larry Holmes, who ought to be a ride in Jurassic Park because he now looks like a brontosaurus in shorts, finds guys he can beat. Oh, sure, maybe he finds them on a slab in med school, but he’s on TV every few weeks knocking another stiff into next Wednesday. Who gets a title shot after losing eight out of 12? Rocky Balboa at least had to defeat large slabs of meat. Does Apollo Creed give him a shot if he loses a split decision to a leg of mutton? I think not.

In Ferguson’s favor, he trained as never before for this fight. He’s 36, and though belated, this is his one chance for glory. He’s trim, and he’s got a warrior’s heart. He’s fought good people. He fought Mike Tyson. He fought Bonecrusher Smith. He fought Carl “The Truth” Williams. He fought Tony Tubbs and Dokes. Unfortunately, he lost to all of them, as well as Orlin Norris, Oliver McCall, Andeers Eklund and Bruce Seldon. Ferguson started out 13-0. Now, he’s 19-9. He’s spent most of his career as a sparring partner. If he pounds at Bowe’s ribs, maybe he can win. But on form, Bowe should knock him out.

“Ferguson has to go for broke,” said the ineffable Butch Lewis, who had on a black and white checkerboard silk shirt the other day at the Convention Center and a smart, pale yellow dress shirt Thursday at the weigh-in, but will assuredly be shirtless, as always, under his tuxedo Saturday night; you show me Butch Lewis actually wearing a tuxedo shirt, I’ll show you a guy who got out of the fight game and became a waiter. “Don’t outthink the guy. Don’t outsmart the guy. Don’t outbox the guy. Forget strategy. Ferguson can’t win that way. He’s got to look to beat the guy from pillar to post from the opening bell.”

(Thank heaven for Butch, doing all he can to administer CPR to a drowsy promotion. He’s managing Bernard (The Executioner) Hopkins, who will fight Roy Jones Jr. in the most attractive bout on a truly attractive undercard. The other day Butch brought in two pumped-up Philadelphia dudes, stripped to the waist, wearing black hoods and holding medieval pole axes, who stood silently as Hopkins worked out. “Who are they?” I asked. “They’re the executioners,” Butch said. “They have no names, just like in the days of old, when you never knew who was going to kill you. They check into the hotel that way. No names--just The Executioners.” I thought about that, then asked, “What if I want to call one of them on the phone? How will the operator know which room to ring?” Butch said, “You ask for Executioner 1 or Executioner 2.”)


I’ve read where the ticket sales are lagging. I’m sure that’s because folks don’t think Bowe-Ferguson figures to be much of a fight. They probably saw how awful Bowe-Dokes was, and they don’t want to feel suckered. They hear the talk about Bowe fighting Lennox Lewis, or Bowe fighting Evander Holyfield, and they say, “Why should I pay to see Bowe fight Jesse Ferguson?”

I don’t want to sound like a homer, but this is a chance to see a heavyweight title fight in Washington, D.C. The last time that happened was 52 years ago, which was so long ago, the Senators hadn’t even thought of moving. We’re not talking about some common occurrence--like Demi Moore posing nude. This thing comes around once every 52 years. This is An Event. So why isn’t the buzz louder?

Sure, I can think of a more compelling opponent than Jesse (The Boogie Man) Ferguson. (Jesse (The Body) Ventura comes to mind.) But Bowe would be crazy to jeopardize his title in his first couple of defenses. Rock Newman said sagely: “I made legitimate offers to Lewis. He turned them down. My first duty is to maximize the revenue and minimize the risk. When all is said and done, I am first governed by that.” When you win the title, you win the right to fight a lox or two. It’s part of the package. Joe Louis did it. You don’t remember Ali fighting Jean-Pierre Coopman, the Lion Of Flanders?

The tickets should have been cheaper; a people’s champion needs to be seen by the people--not simply watched on TV.