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BLOOD BROTHERS
Richard Hoffer
April 14, 2003
A decade after their epic ring trilogy, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe are still bound together, hostages to their dreams and delusions
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April 14, 2003

Blood Brothers

A decade after their epic ring trilogy, Evander Holyfield and Riddick Bowe are still bound together, hostages to their dreams and delusions

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Reassured by his $12 million payday and the prospect of other big ones now that he was champ again, Holyfield broke ground on his 54,000-square-foot house. "They had to dynamite the earth, on account of the rock," he says. "They had a 30-foot hole dug by the time I lost to Michael Moorer [five months later]. Couldn't turn back then."

Bowe's defeat was celebrated in the boxing industry. Not that anybody wished him ill, but it was now payback time for the abrasive Newman. Trash a title? The establishment delighted at the comeuppance.

Had Bowe retained his belts, he could have run the table. Tyson was still in prison on his rape conviction, and anybody who wanted heavyweight respect, not to mention money, would have had to pass through Bowe. But now? With just one extremely close loss to a two-time heavyweight champion, Bowe was unranked—unranked!—by all three of the alphabet organizations.

Explained Don King, who was expected to march Tyson out of prison and into the rankings over which he had such influence, "Herein lies an immigrant who is capable of treasonous activity. So he was deported." King made no mystery of the treasonous agent, either, blaming Newman. "Any sane man knows [ Bowe's] the best. But he's got this manager, here's a guy who burnt every bridge and then set dynamite under them." What could you do?

Holyfield was soon out in the cold too. After losing his titles to Moorer, he was found to have a congenital heart defect. His next retirement was immediate and final. His estate, possibly a room or two smaller than planned, would be paid for out of savings. The prospect of a rubber match with Bowe was dim.

But miracles do happen. In Holyfield's case it involved the laying on of hands. An actual, nonmetaphorical miracle, compliments of the evangelist Benny Hinn, whose healing paved the way for the resumption of his boxing career. The Nevada State Athletic Commission required a battery of tests from the Mayo Clinic (not that the commissioners were skeptical) and accepted the doctors' reversal of Holyfield's earlier diagnosis. He was cleared to fight.

King, meanwhile, began to gather the heavyweight titles and keep them on ice for Tyson's return to the ring. Neither Bowe nor Holyfield fit into his plans, so the two had nobody to fight but each other. Three years after their first fight, to the week, they entered the ring together—somewhat reluctantly, as the two had grown quite fond of each other. "I think I'm starting to like you," Bowe told Holyfield in that period of time that encourages prefight hostility. For his part Holyfield told the press he admired Bowe for his attention to his children. Now he admits it was more than that. The two boxers were on Arsenio Hall's late-night show to promote the fight, and Bowe began bragging on his wife, Judy, his high school sweetheart.

"I looked out there," says Holyfield, "and it was no woman out of a magazine. She had on these big glasses, kind of homey-like. But she was beautiful to him. "That's my girl, I love her so.' I was thinking, He has loyalty, integrity."

By then they had visited each other countless times and probably played more pool together than they had boxed. It was impossible to muster hatred. In one prefight interview, the two seated together, Holyfield managed to complain of low blows and other infractions in their two fights. (He was probably still stung by Bowe's "gargoyle" characterization, which Bowe had defended as "nothing personal, just an opinion.") Bowe smirked into his mitt. They had become the Odd Couple.

Behind the scenes, though, it got strange. Bowe decided that $8 million wasn't enough, and he disappeared from camp "for longer than usual," says Newman. He returned only when Newman agreed to give him $2 million out of his own cut. "He said, 'What's a million or two between buddies?' " says Newman.

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