Lewis Vs Bowe: The Fight That Never Was

Updated: Aug 6, 2019

The last time these two fought was in the 1988 Olympic Super-heavyweight final, where Lewis; who was representing Canada took gold with a 2nd round stoppage of the American Bowe.

Both men turned professional, with Lewis taking his original British roots under the promoter Frank Maloney. Even though Lennox was born in London and didn't up sticks until he was twelve years old, the public took time to warm to this man claiming to be British with a Canadian accent.

Lewis turned pro on the 27th June 1989 against Al Malcolm, who he stopped in the second round. Bowe turned professional with Rock Newman's promotional outfit, under the tutelage of the great trainer Eddie Futch. On 06th March 1989 he defeated future danger-man Lionel Butler (who had a record of 0-1-0) in two rounds of his professional bow.

Both Lewis and Bowe stayed unbeaten in their first twelve months of the paid ranks. You could say arguably Bowe was the more impressive of the two as Lewis struggled to win over the British public and was involved in some lacklustre performances, but he did seem to be taking on a slightly higher calibre of opponent. In his twelfth contest he was put in with former WBA cruiserweight champion Ossie Ocasio, who took him the full eight rounds.

By October 1990 Lewis, contesting in his 14th bout, picked up the European championship by stopping Jean Chanet, the French gypsy with a sixth round stoppage. This set up a domestic dust up with the British champion and world rated Gary Mason, who boasted a record of 35-0.

Gary Mason was the first big test for Lewis

This was Lewis' first major test. Mason was ranked no. 5 in the world, opposed to Lennox's eleven. Mason had knocked out thirty-two opponents of his 35 wins and was a slight favourite to add the EBU crown to his British title; even though he suffered a detached retina in his points win over Everett 'Big Foot' Martin in his last but one contest.

Lewis made no secret of going for Mason's damaged eye and used a good left jab to do such a thing. Mason wasn't there to roll over, he came out hooking to try and answer some questions about the EBU champion's untested chin. Lewis let Mason in and unload on him, with Lennox shaking his head in a you haven't hurt me notion. As the fight wore on Mason's right eye was beginning to swell.

By the 7th round the eye had completely shut. Lewis fired a left hook then a straight right that caught Mason's eye. His face contorted with agony as he backed to the corner post. Lewis unleashed a series of shots that left referee Larry O'Connell with no option but to save Mason from serious damage.

In his next fight Lewis travelled to Las Vegas where he took on thirty-nine year old ex heavyweight champion Mike Weaver. What was looking like the battle of the jabs and another lacklustre performance; Lewis stunned the crowd when he followed up a slow jab with a crushing right hand. Weaver was out, with Lewis showing some signs of grazing around the eyes.

Lewis then when back to London's Royal Albert Hall to defend his British and European titles against former IBF cruiserweight champion Glenn McCrory. Lewis proved too strong for his opponent and stopped him with a powerful performance in the second round. McCrory was at a catch twenty-two; he was too big for the cruiser's, but not big enough for the heavyweights.

Riddick Bowe was taken the four round distance in his third bout against Garing Lane, winning an unanimous decision. He didn't really fight anyone of note until his nineteenth paid contest when he took on former WBC champion Pinklon Thomas. At thirty-two years old Thomas was ten years Bowes's senior. On 31st August 1984 he beat Tim Witherspoon on a majority decision to take the title, defending it against Mike Weaver via a eighth round TKO victory.

The following March he lost the belt on points to Canada's Trevor Berbick. Three stoppage victories later he challenged Mike Tyson for the WBC and WBA belts on 30th May 1987, losing by a sixth round TKO. He was also Evander Holyfield's second heavyweight opponent and retired after seven rounds. A victory and a loss later Thomas took on Bowe and retired after eight rounds of boxing.

Bowe then beat former cruiserweight Bert Cooper with a second round TKO, then KO'd Tony Morrison in the first, before taking on 1984 Olympic Gold super-heavyweight medalist Tyrell Biggs. Biggs challenged Mike Tyson for the undisputed heavyweight championship on 16th October 1987. Tyson gave him a systematic beating over seven rounds. Biggs' career went spiralling down when he lost his next bout by a fifth round TKO to Francesco Damiani (who he beat for the 1984 gold medal), then lost by a seventh round knockout to Britain's Gary Mason.

He won four on the bounce before losing to Bowe via an eighth round TKO. In his next contest Biggs fought Lennox Lewis on the Evander Holyfield vs Bert Cooper undercard. Lewis looked superb as he blasted Biggs out in three rounds.

Bowe then boxed another former WBA champion Tony Tubbs and took a ten round unanimous decision, this was only the third time he had gone the distance. Lewis stayed in America and was involved in a lacklustre display against Levi Billups. Though he won a ten round unanimous decision, Lewis did look easy to hit, especially by the right uppercut.

On the 30th April 1992 Lewis put his British and European titles on the line against Commonwealth champion Derek Williams. Lewis had a new trainer in Pepe Correa, who trained fighters such as 'Sugar' Ray Leonard, Roberto Duran, Simon Brown and Maurice Blocker. Williams also had a legendary trainer in his corner, the great Angelo Dundee, who trained Cassius Clay/Muhammad Ali.

Lewis didn't put in a great performance, but the finishing combination in the third round of right uppercut, followed by a left uppercut and a straight right hand was enough to stop Williams for the first time in his career. The victory made Lennox Lewis the first holder of the British, European and Commonwealth titles since Joe Bugner stopped Richard Dunn on 12th October 1976. Though he did win, the crowd couldn't help but chant the name 'Bruno, Bruno," who won his second comeback fight against Jose Ribalta eight days before.

After beating Tubbs, Riddick Bowe scored two KO victories before going against fellow prospect Bruce Seldon. Seldon was making his first appearance since losing in the ninth round to Oliver McCall. Bowe wasted little time and despatched Seldon after just 1.48 of the contest.

Bowe on his way to pounding out a victory over Pierre Coetzer to become No.1 WBA contender

Bowe then had back to back wins over Elijah Tillery for the WBC Continental Americas title, the first fight ending in a disqualification; the rematch ending in the fourth. He then stopped Conroy Nelson and TKO'd the normally durable Everett Martin, before going in with the South African Pierre Coetzer to become the official number one WBA heavyweight contender. Bowe won by TKO with one second remaining of the seventh round.

After stopping Derek Williams, Lewis went to America again and stopped Mike Dixon in the fourth round in what was a warm up fight for his most dangerous assignment to date - Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock.

Ruddock from Canada was the leading WBC heavyweight contender, with Lewis ranked at number two. Ruddock was considered a real threat, not only the fact he had a deadly left hook, he also went nineteen rounds with Mike Tyson. The first fight ended in a controversial seventh round stoppage, before losing on points in the rematch. Stoppage wins over ex champ Greg Page and the unbeaten Phil Jackson put him back to the top of the pile.

Lewis on the attack against Donovan 'Razor' Ruddock

The fight took place on Halloween 1992 at Earls Court Exhibition Hall in London. This was the fight that would answer many questions about Lewis, especially his untested chin. Ruddock came into the ring full of confidence as he spoke to his man during the referees instructions. Ruddock came out stalking at the bell, as Lewis boxed behind his jab, circling away from the dangerous left. Lewis unusually also had the crowd on his side.

Towards the end of the first round Ruddock aimed a lazy jab to Lewis' midriff; Lewis saw his chance and exploded a right to his opponent's unprotected head. Ruddock's legs seemed to be cut away from him as he crashed to the canvas. He got up, with the bell saving him.

The second round was seconds old before Lewis tagged him again with a left right, that staggered Ruddock to the neutral corner. He got up too quickly and took the eight count. He desperately began swinging to try and turn the disastrous start into his favour, but Lewis wouldn't be denied as he floored the Canadian again. Ruddock was lying on his front as referee Joe Cortez took out his gum shield without bothering to count after just 46 seconds of the round.

The victory meant that Lewis was next in line to face the winner of Holyfield Vs Bowe, which was scheduled for 13th November.

Undisputed heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield took the belts off Mike Tyson conquerer James 'Buster' Douglas on 25th October 1990. Douglas was out of shape and surrendered his title when he was caught with a right hand in the third round. The following April Holyfield went the full twelve rounds with 'Big' George Foreman, the first heavyweight to take him the distance since he moved up from the cruiserweight division.

The victory set a path for a mega showdown with Mike Tyson scheduled for 05th November 1991. Tyson injured his rib during a training session and pulled out of the fight. A January date was drawn up, but the Tyson camp declined as it was too close for his pending court case for the rape of beauty pageant Desiree Washington. (Tyson was sentenced to six years imprisonment.)

On the 23rd November that year Holyfield took on second substitute Bert Cooper (Italian Francesco Damiani also pulled out with an injury). Cooper, also a former cruiserweight wasn't given much of a chance against the champion, and things looked bad for the challenger as a left to the body floored him in the opening round.

Cooper survived and was having some success with his right hand. Then the unthinkable happened; Cooper caught Holyfield with one of his rights and dropped him into the ropes. Referee Mills Lane issued Holyfield the first count of his professional career. Holyfield struggled on and eventually a rally in the seventh round helped him make his second successful defence in front of his home fans in Atlanta.