Boxing: Bowe swings in with a carrot for Hide: Contenders vie for the vacated British title as the world champion's goodwill tour contains only ill-will for Lewis

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The Independent Online
RIDDICK BOWE, the world heavyweight champion, made an appearance in London yesterday as part of a 'goodwill tour' that has taken him to South Africa, Somalia, Kenya and Rome, writes Jonathan Rendall.

Accompanied by his manager Rock Newman, their respective wives and a modest entourage, Bowe opened his remarks to the press by asking for a minute's silence in memory of the Irish aid worker who was shot dead shortly after he had met her at a famine relief station in Somalia. He also said he had brought with him rosary beads that had been blessed by the Pope for Michael Watson, the stricken British boxer.

Although it is barely three months since Bowe took the title from Evander Holyfield, he is fast establishing himself as the most generous and well travelled heavyweight champion since Muhammad Ali. Asked if he saw himself as another Ali, Bowe replied: 'Something different. I'd like to be remembered as a people's person.'

Newman, a former civil rights worker, said that Bowe had donated dollars 100,000 apiece to Somalian famine relief and to the ANC. He circulated a letter of thanks from President Clinton to Bowe which called for 'help to expand democracy's embrace'. Newman also revealed that Bowe had presented the Pope with a pair of boxing gloves as 'a great symbol of peace'.

Boxing reporters were urged by Newman to use their position to 'encourage people to become aware of the global situation'. But just as they were considering the dizzying possibilities of such responsibility, Newman injected a more familiar note of ill-will as talk turned to Britain's Lennox Lewis.

Bowe said that Lewis, who won the World Boxing Council version of the title by default when Bowe was deemed to have refused to face him, was 'a bogus guy'. Newman said it was Lewis who had refused to fight Bowe.

Pouring cold water on the likelihood of a Bowe-Lewis match, Newman said he was seriously considering matching Bowe with Herbie Hide of Norwich, who is unknown in world boxing circles, because 'the novelty of finding an Englishman who accepts the challenge of Riddick Bowe is unique'.

The world champion, who will be at ringside in Dagenham tonight to watch Hide box for the British title, said: 'I want to see if Hide has got the right stuff.' In the audience Hide, 21, looked bewildered.

The colourful Newman warned Lewis's camp that he had inside knowledge that all might not be well with negotiations for Lewis's first defence against Tony Tucker. 'You cannot swim in pig's dung and not get stinky,' he claimed.

(Photograph omitted)