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Bowe Knocks Out Rhode in Second Round
The former heavyweight champion was heavy and a step slow, but there was nothing wrong with the way he punched. He put Rhode down once with 10 seconds left in the first round and then knocked him down three times in the second round before Rhode’s corner stepped in and the fight was stopped.
“It’s good to be back,” Bowe said. “I feel like a kid in a candy store.”
Bowe showed no ill effects from getting hit again, although Rhode didn’t hit him very much. In his last fight before retiring, Bowe showed signs of brain damage and there were worries that getting hit in the head could damage him more.
“They said crazy things like I was punchy,” Bowe said. “They’re the ones who are punchy.”
The first knockdown came on a right hand to the head, while the second came on a combination after Bowe stunned Rhode with an uppercut. The end came on a right, left, right that put Rhode down alongside the ropes.
The 37-year-old Bowe, wearing a robe with “Big Daddy” on the back, came back to a far different scene than the one he left in 1996, when his last fights were at Madison Square Garden and Atlantic City. This fight was held in a ring set up in a park next to the pool and pow wow grounds of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation.
Under a nearly full moon, Bowe came into the ring with a layer of flab around his belly but a smile on his face. Though he reportedly trained lightly for the fight, he didn’t need much to take care of Rhode, who had been knocked out in three of his last four fights.
“The uncrowned champ, that’s me,” Bowe said. “I was very nervous and anxious and I guess it showed a little bit. But this is something I’ve been craving for eight years.”
Bowe appeared to be 30 pounds to 40 pounds heavier than he was during his first career, though there was no way of actually knowing. He refused to get on the scale at Friday’s weigh-in, and claimed later he was 253 pounds at a private weigh-in.
“They can’t whip me and make me get back on there,” Bowe said of the scale. “I’m a heavyweight, so I’m not really worried about my weight.”
Others in boxing were more concerned about Bowe’s mind than his weight.
Bowe’s only official loss came in a rematch with Evander Holyfield, but he took a severe beating in both of his last two fights against Andrew Golota in 1996. He won the fights when Golota was disqualified for low blows, but his reflexes were slow and his speech was so slurred it was barely understandable.
His former manager, Rock Newman, said he couldn’t understand how Bowe could be licensed to fight, and a neurologist and chief ring doctor for the Nevada Athletic Commission said he was at severe risk of serious brain damage if he fought again.
In federal court four years ago, a doctor testified that Bowe sufered from frontal lobe damage caused by repeated punches to the head. But Bowe insisted he was OK, and should be allowed to return to the sport he loves.
“I never even heard of no frontal lobe before,” Bowe said.
Rhode, who is 29-25-1, weighed 273 pounds and came in strictly as an opponent for Bowe’s first fight. He connected with a few punches in the first round, but never hit Bowe hard.
Bowe, who improved to 41-1 with 33 knockouts, said he wants to fight every three weeks and eventually fight Vitali Klitschko for the heavyweight title he once held.
Bowe, released in April after serving 15 months in prison for kidnapping his ex-wife, won the heavyweight title in a brilliant fight against Holyfield in 1992, the first of three fights he would have with Holyfield that made him millions.
Bowe wasn’t the only former heavyweight champion on the card. Oliver McCall, who knocked out Lennox Lewis to win the WBC title in 1994, stopped a flabby Vernon Woodward of Shawnee in the third round of a mismatch.
McCall, who improved to 41-7 with 31 knockouts, was pummeling Woodward at will when the referee finally stopped the fight at 1:26 of the third round.