Boxing: Bowe courts wary Lewis

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The Independent Online
SPECULATION that Riddick Bowe and Lennox Lewis could soon meet for the undisputed world heavyweight championship increased last night when their managers attended a meeting in New York at the offices of Home Box Office, the American cable television network.

So severe was the criticism of his farcical title defence against a pathetic Michael Dokes at Madison Square Garden last Saturday that Bowe is said to be pressing for Lewis to be his next opponent.

There is talk of a contest worth dollars 65m ( pounds 45m) at Caesars Palace on 18 June which would put paid to Lewis's defence of the World Boxing Council championship against Tony Tucker for which he has a dollars 9m ( pounds 6.25m) guarantee.

However, Lewis and his manager, Frank Maloney, have yet to be convinced it is a genuine possibility, suspecting that Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, is merely trying to escape the censure aroused by the Dokes fight. 'It will take a lot to convince us that this is for real,' Maloney said. 'Because of everything that has happened, it may only be Newman at his tricks again.'

The fact that last night's meeting was attended by Rich Rose, the chief executive of Caesars World, suggests that Newman, probably under pressure from Bowe, is serious about the contest, but only on his own terms. The 80-20 split Newman has in mind certainly would not appeal to Maloney who is more inclined to think in terms of parity. A source close to Bowe said: 'They would never get it. Lewis and his people have been going around saying that Riddick is scared. Now they may get a chance to prove their confidence.' Either way, the negotiations will not be quickly concluded and there is a lot of wild talk including the suggestion that both fighters might be persuaded to relinquish their titles.

Seth Abraham, the chief executive of HBO who missed the meeting in order to attend the funeral today of Arthur Ashe, said: 'I asked Rock if it was a fight he could take and make, if it was worth the effort. He said it was.'

In yielding to the possibility, Newman had in mind the difficulty of making defences for Bowe that would not immediately be thought ludicrous. For HBO, which has a contract with Bowe, there is the problem of coming up with contests that will appeal to its pay-per- view audience. Lewis apart, there is nobody beyond George Foreman and Evander Holyfield, who has foolishly chosen to resume his career after losing the undisputed title to Bowe.

Last Monday, when criticism of the Dokes fight was fiercest, Bowe asked Newman whether Lewis had already signed to fight Tucker. In fact Lewis was holding back on the advice of Maloney who had discovered that Don King, the promoter, was attempting to reduce their end of the purse which was suddenly dollars 600,000 ( pounds 420,000) short of the original amount. 'If Lewis hasn't signed, then let's get it on,' Bowe is reported to have said.