Bowe finds time weighs heavy

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New York exhales, having escaped fallout from Hurricane Bertha, but the promoters of tonight's fight at Madison Square Garden between the former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe and the undefeated Andrew Golota braced themselves for a direct hit on the box office. As of yesterday, only 4,400 tickets had been sold for the 17,000 capacity arena.

A far cry from February 1993, when the Brooklyn-born Bowe, on his last home-town appearance, broke MSG box- office records with his 139- second win over Michael Dokes. But times have changed.

Bowe profited handsomely from the four-year absence of Mike Tyson, succeeding his former schoolmate as undisputed heavyweight champion in November 1992. But Bowe ate himself out of the titles within a year and, although one of boxing's highest earners, he has been outside looking in ever since.

The only man to have held the World Boxing Council, World Boxing Association, International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Organisation heavyweight titles is now absent from all four top 10s. A common accusation is that promoter Eugene "Rocks" Newman has negotiated Bowe out of title shots.

Pointing to his battle-scarred slit of a left eye, Bowe complained: "You think I need this? I got plenty of other things to do in life. I could be in the park playing ball with my son, or taking my daughter to ballet class. I need to fight Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson to secure my place in history. But when I've fought them, I'm outta here."

Bowe, floored for the first time as a pro in his previous fight, weighed in at a career-highest 18st, prompting speculation of further lapsed dedication. His 84-year-old trainer, Eddie Futch, was recently forced to climb into the practice ring and demonstrate moves to Bowe. "When you have a fighter seven years, you don't think you have to show him," Futch complained.

All will be revealed tonight - to precious few paying customers - but Bowe's experience should bring the powerful but ponderous Pole's downfall inside eight rounds.