"You're next!" Bowe shouted.
"Sign a contract!" Lewis shot back.
Newman suddenly entered the impromptu negotiations. "Maybe," countered the man who now controls the biggest prize in sports.
The WBC is demanding that Lewis be Bowe's first challenger and has said it will strip Bowe of its share of the title if he meets anyone else. Newman has said all along that if Bowe were to win the championship, he would be happy to have him fight Lewis—perhaps as the second part of a two-fight package. The first part? Sadly for the sport, which regained a healthy dose of credibility on Friday night thanks to Holyfield and Bowe, Newman talks about fighting 44-year-old George Foreman. In boxing only the names of the champions change, never the back-room intrigues.
For his part, Holyfield remained a champion to the end. At noon on Saturday, he telephoned Bowe in his suite and congratulated him for a great fight. Bowe, whose sore body had prevented him from sleeping, nodded happily as he listened.
"Hey, Champ," Bowe said, "I was going to call you. You put up a hell of a fight and have nothing to be ashamed of. You always were a class act in my book, and my thoughts have not changed. I just hope we can get together and hang out. I want you to know we are still buddies. I want you to know you got me good, and I am going to have to sit down now."
After hanging up, Bowe talked about Holyfield. "What a classy guy," he said. "You know what he told me? To just keep doing the things I'm doing and to watch my money. He said everyone is going to try and get into my back pocket, and that I should put my money away for a rainy day. What a gladiator. He fights his heart out, he's gracious and he's humble, and for him to call and say how highly he thinks of me, well, wow...."
Bowe suddenly turned reflective. "Heavyweight champion of the world," he said in the voice of a man who has just pinched himself to make sure he's not dreaming. Bowe's former home in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, a cramped two-bedroom apartment in a building in which crack dealers stationed armed lookouts on every landing, seemed a world away. Murders there were commonplace. One victim, shot in the head one floor below where Bowe lived, lay in the hall for 11 hours before anyone moved the body. In 1988 Bowe's sister Brenda was murdered near the apartment, knifed by a drug addict who was trying to steal her welfare check.
"I knew somehow, someday I would get out of there," said Bowe, who now lives in Fort Washington, Md., with his wife, Judy, and their three children. "I lived there, I survived and I fought my way out, and they said I had no heart." He smiled. "The heavyweight champion of the world," he said for the hundredth or perhaps the thousandth time in the last 14 hours.
Someone knocked at the door. The caller was Alex Fried, a local jewelry salesman and acquaintance. "At no profit for myself," said Fried, as he displayed a variety of watches, rings and bracelets. "Let me show you these."