The evidence could be put into the VCR on the bus. Riddick (Big Daddy) Bowe was no different from other fathers on Father's Day—strong, invincible, a protector against all things that go bump in the night—except, well, this father had the tape to prove it. His four kids and his wife, Judy, pregnant with their fifth, could gather around him on his day, in the back of his $365,000 Beaver Coach Grand Marquis somewhere in Interstate America, and watch him do all the heroic deeds kids think their fathers can do.
"What's the bad man in the black cowboy hat saying to you?" Riddick Jr., 8, or Riddicia, 6, or Brenda Joyce, 4, might ask while Julius, 1, was dozing.
"He's saying, 'I will kill you,' " Big Daddy could reply.
"What are you saying to him?"
"I'm saying, 'Well, I will kill you back.' "
The tape was courtesy of HBO, handed to Bowe on Saturday night, after he had finished 5� rounds of violent heavyweight boxing work against Jorge Luis Gonzalez at the Las Vegas MGM Grand, work that left Gonzalez twitching on the floor at the end, referee Mills Lane stopping his count at seven to remove the fallen man's mouthpiece. Bowe had not allowed his kids to watch the fight as it happened, but they could see it now. The bus ride was his family celebration.
"This is the first fight his kids have come out to see," Bowe's publicist, Kelly Swanson, explained after the fight. "Not see, exactly, but be around. With Father's Day the next day, he wanted them here. This was one of the reasons he bought the bus, so he could be with his family. If he was flying home, he couldn't leave until [Sunday]; he'd miss the whole day. This way, he fought, did the press conference, then everyone got on the bus. They won't stop, except for gas, until they get home. Probably sometime Monday."
Three members of Bowe's camp would split the driving. Big Daddy could relax and watch the bad man fall again and again. No parties. No interviews. No nonsense. The road stretched all the way to Fort Washington, Md., and his big house. The first sunrise of a revitalized future awaited.
Father's Day, 1995. Big Daddy was back in the hero business. "I've got my head on straight now," Bowe said after improving to 37-1 with his 31st knockout. "I had a costly experience before, but it was a learning experience. I know what I have to do."
Twenty months of questions had trailed him. Did he still want to fight? Could he still fight? Would he ever look like the fighter he once was? Since he lost the WBA and IBF heavyweight titles on a decision to Evander Holyfield on Nov. 6, 1993, while seeming out of shape and unconcerned, his dedication had been doubted. Through the three bouts of his comeback—a no-contest against Buster Mathis Jr. ( Bowe inadvertently hit Mathis while he was down), a desultory decision over Larry Donald and even a six-round knockout of English boxer Herbie Hide for the WBO title he now holds—the doubts remained. Gonzalez finally helped to change opinions.