Boxing: Bowe the great waist joins quest for suitably big belt

Haye waits in wings as giants of yesteryear cling on to hopes

As Riddick Bowe hauled his 41-year-old and near- 20-stone carcass around in Mannheim, Germany, last weekend, blowing like an old bull elephant to overcome a Christmas turkey named Gene Pukall, it was not a pretty sight. More a salutary reminder that the boxing ring is no country for old men.

Remember Riddick? He is the man who lost to Lennox Lewis in the Olympic super-heavyweight final in Seoul 20 years ago, then beat him to the punch by becoming a world champion before throwing his belt in the bin. Lewis duly picked it up to be installed as the new title-holder.

It is a complicated tale, but then Bowe is one of boxing's most complex characters. One of the sport's great wasted talents, he has been beaten only once in a 45-fight career which has embraced repeated retirements, a prison sentence and some apparent mental instability.

That defeat was inflicted by Evander Holyfield in one of their trilogy of contests. Last night the 46-year-old Holyfield was himself involved in another vainglorious attempt to win back a version of the world heavyweight title against the World Boxing Association champion, the seven-foot Russian Nikolai Valuev, in Zurich.

Why do they do it, these big men in their not-so-roaring forties? Why cannot old fighters, like old golfers, grow old graciously? They say old golfers never die, they just lose their balls; alas, old fighters are more likely to lose their marbles.

The reason they fight on or come back is usually cash, sometimes ego but invariably an unwillingness to accept the decline in their talents. They continue to chase a pot of gold. "Money makes the world go around," says Bowe. "Why knock a man when he is trying to do something right? I could easily go and get a gun and do something bad. I'm just trying to earn an honest dollar."

His second fight against Holyfield, in Las Vegas in 1993, was halted when a man parachuted into the Caesars Palace ring from out of the Nevada sky. When it restarted, Holyfield snatched a majority points decision.

"Big Daddy" Bowe's career was then pockmarked by controversy. He disappeared from the sport in 1996 after two brutal bouts with Andrew Golota, the Pole being disqualified in both for low blows – one fight caused a major riot at Madison Square Garden. Bowe joined the Marines but quit after only 11 days of basic training. In 2000, he was charged with kidnapping his wife and five children, and served 17 months in jail after his defence counsel appealed for a lenient sentence, claiming that he had suffered brain damagein the ring.

Bowe's fight in Germany last Saturday was only his third in 12 years, and his lumbering corpulence was an indication that whatever he may have lost, it wasn't his appetite. When he was champion he had a mansion built in Maryland in which the first-floor master bedroom had an en suite kitchen.

The trouble with these ageing monoliths is they never seem to know when they are past their fight-by date. That may be why Britain's David Haye is going for broke by taking on Vitali Klitschko rather than his less lethal brother Wladimir, whom Haye saw stopping another over-the-hill heavyweight, Hasim Rahman, in Mannheim.

Haye would have been an even-money bet to beat the defensively suspect Wladimir, as the Londoner has always punched above his weight, but the 6ft 8in Vitali will be odds-on to beat him. Haye, five inches shorter, will struggle to get inside a long, clunking jab that can take your head off. Not only has Klitschko the elder never been knocked out, he has never been knocked down or even wobbled.

Haye, 28, the self-proclaimed saviour of heavyweight boxing, says he is bringing in Lennox Lewis as his strategist, but Lewis had trouble working out Vitali and was behind on points on all three scorecards when the fight was stopped with the Ukrainian'seyebrow severely lacerated.

What Haye is banking on is the age factor. At 37, Vitali is five years older than Wladimir, and in boxing they say that every month of inactivity that passes after 30 adds six months to the fighting age. Vitali has fought once in the past four years, a nine-round demolition of a passive Samuel Peter two months ago. The fight is touted for either Wembley or Stamford Bridge next June but could well end up at the O2, which would be easier to sell out.

Haye believes Vitali decided to fight him because he wants to protect his fragile-chinned little brother from the Hayemaker's hammer blows. But it is a dangerous gamble for David. You have to respect his fortitude and ambition, but you fear he will not get within a stone's throw of this Goliath.

Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Life and Style
life

Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Life and Style
Alexander McQueen A/W 2014
fashionPolitics aside, tartan is on-trend again this season
Arts and Entertainment
Rapper Jay Z performs on the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury in 2008
musicSinger sued over use of the single-syllable sample in 'Run This Town'
Sport
Joel jumps over the board...and into a giant hole
footballFrom joy to despair in a matter of seconds
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Life and Style
i100

Caption competition
Caption competition
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

MFL TEACHER, SUPPLY VACANCY, LOVELY SITTINGBOURNE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: The Job We are currently recruit...

NQT Teachers

Negotiable: Randstad Education Crawley: Randstad Education can provide you wit...

MATHS TEACHER, PERMANENT VACANCY, TONBRIDGE SCHOOL

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad Education is currently ...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week