Bowe trained as he always did, under the watchful eye of Futch, the 81-year-old guru who had already guided five men to the heavyweight championship. Futch has trained Bowe since 1989, when the then 21-year-old picked pro boxing over a career in the Army. After the loss to Lewis, said Bowe, "I was on my way to the recruiter when Rock came to Brooklyn and said he had faith in me. Everybody else had given up. Since then it has been just me and Rock and Papa Smurf." Papa Smurf is Futch, a gentle man who tutors Bowe with the no-nonsense demands and love of a father.
To his support staff for Friday's fight—an $8 million payday for the challenger—Bowe added Dick Gregory, the onetime fat comic who has become a slim, self-proclaimed expert on nutrition. In early September, when Bowe began training for Holyfield, he weighed 281 pounds. Gregory put Bowe on a diet of 300 vitamin and protein tablets a day. Each day Gregory would arrive at camp with two or three six-inch-tall jars of pills. He would stand by waiting for Bowe to swallow them all, which usually took 15 minutes.
Gregory's other specialty was an ungodly concoction that Bowe called "maggot juice," a thick beverage of beets, carrots, celery, lettuce, cucumbers, garlic, onions, bananas, maple syrup and anything else that was within Gregory's reach and could fit into the blender. "I was afraid to put my hat down in the kitchen," said Newman.
According to Gregory, Bowe's innards represented a monumental challenge. The first thing he had to do, said Gregory, was clean Bowe's bowels, lymph glands and red blood cells. "The hard part was to clean out the 50 trillion cells in his body," Gregory said. "And each cell has three billion genetic bytes, and damn if I didn't have to clean out all of those, too."
But Bowe trimmed down to 235, and hours after the Nov. 11 weigh-in, he celebrated at Sadie's Southern Dining, a Las Vegas soul-food restaurant, with a repast of red beans, ham hocks, beef tips, collard greens, and macaroni and cheese.
And so the cast was in place, the good little man with all the experience against the good big man with the question-mark heart. Holyfield got off to a strong start, but his fondness for trench warfare soon had him in trouble. Tossing aside speed and mobility, Holyfield chose to fight inside, a place where big men are usually at a disadvantage. Not Bowe. In close he hammered Holyfield with short rights to the body and clubbed him hard with both hands to the head.
After nine rounds Holyfield's right eye was closing; his left one was cut. Bowe's left eye began to swell in the fourth round. In the eighth his right was almost closed by a Holyfield thumb. In the corners both cutmen worked furiously to keep their fighters' eyes open.
Still, neither man would give ground. By the 10th round Holyfield's jab and right hand had almost been forgotten. Instead he had taken to loading up and trying to take Bowe out with hard left hooks. But he was hunting a bear with an air rifle. And the bear had a sledgehammer.
Upon leaving his stool for the 10th, Bowe, ahead on all cards, decided that enough was enough. "I decided it was time for him to go," he said later.
After an early exchange, a Bowe right uppercut jerked Holyfield's head up hard and spun him to his right. Bowe jumped on the dazed champion, missed with two chopping punches and then drove him hard into the ropes with a hook to the head. As Holyfield reeled away, Bowe followed, firing hard with both hands but always with discipline. Unable to escape, Holyfield pressed forward, trying desperately to smother Bowe, who calmly backed away, firing as he went. At last, after the 40th punch of the assault. Bowe ran out of ammunition.