Riddick Bowe now understands why people warned him that Muay Thai is a dangerous sport.
“I would have to say, they have a valid point,” Bowe said after his debut in Thai kickboxing ended with a thud in the second round. “It’s much harder than boxing.”
The former world heavyweight boxing champion had hoped to show he could come out of retirement into an entirely new sport and revive some of his past glories.
However, Bowe is now 45 years old and weighs 136kg. He looked it on Friday in his first fight since 2008. Slow and out of shape, the fighter known as “Big Daddy” took a beating from unheralded 30-year-old Russian opponent Levgen Golovin, who attacked with repeated kicks to the shins that knocked Bowe off his feet five times. The bout was ended by a technical knockout after his last fall, with Bowe sitting on the ground clutching his legs, wincing in pain.
“You can recover from a head shot or a body shot, but when you get kicked in the leg it lasts a long time,” Bowe said. “My leg is still hurting. I don’t know how long it’s been — 15 minutes?”
Not once during the fight, which ended two minutes into the second round, did Bowe land a punch or a kick. However, he was happy to trade barbs with reporters afterward, showing the wit that made him one of boxing’s charismatic personalities during his brief reign as champion two decades ago.
“This ain’t a setback, it’s a getback,” Bowe said. “I had a lot of fun. I’m going to do it again. Next time it’s going to be different.”
Like so many prize fighters, Bowe lost the struggle to stay out of the ring. He had his reasons: He was bored with retirement; his millions are gone and he needs the money; he misses the adoration of fans; he loves to fight.
Bowe made US$150,000 for his Muay Thai debut, organized by Thai promoters trying to increase the international appeal of the sport.
The money is a far cry from the millions he earned per bout by beating Evander Holyfield in 1992 to become the undisputed world heavyweight champion. In his heyday, Bowe fought on boxing’s grandest stages. His return to fighting took place at an outdoor ring set up beside the beach in Pattaya, a Thai town best known for its sprawling red-light district.
Bowe’s fight was one of a dozen at the venue, which had the atmosphere of a fairground with loud music and amusement park rides nearby. Promoters had hoped to draw about 20,000 people, but a crowd closer to 1,000 turned up, even though admission was free.
Despite his loss, Bowe was optimistic.
“Hey, we’re going to do this again. I’ll be back soon,” he said. “I’m not a quitter. I want to do it until I get it right.”
Bowe’s opponent shook his head in disbelief when told the boxer plans to return to Muay Thai.
“It would be a big mistake. It’s not for him,” Golovin said. “He’s too slow and a bit too old.”