Dan Rafael: The Wrestler
AP Photo/Apichart WeerawongFormer heavyweight boxing champ Riddick Bowe continued his fall in a one-sided Muay Thai match.
Fighters carrying on past their primes is nothing new. It's a time-honored, albeit sad, tradition. It has happened with more fighters than I care to count.
Of recent vintage, Roy Jones Jr., Evander Holyfield and James Toney, to name just three, have stuck around too long. They were once among boxing's elite and rate as all-time great champions, but they didn't know when to hang up their gloves.
Still, as rough as it might be to watch them now, or any other older fighter trying to recapture past glory that is never coming back, what I saw over the weekend was about as bad as it gets. It was downright disturbing.
I watched a YouTube video of former heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe in a Muay Thai fight in Thailand, where that kickboxing discipline is an immensely popular sport.
Bowe has to be one of the saddest cases in boxing history. He was once the undisputed heavyweight champion. He was charismatic, kicked butt and earned obscene sums of money. His famed trilogy with Holyfield will go down as one of the greatest rivalries the sport has known.
But that was a long, long time ago.
Bowe has been swamped with legal, personal and financial problems for years, and even did jail time for a domestic incident in which he held his family against their will. As far as boxing goes, he began showing signs of brain trauma, slurring his words, after his second brutal disqualification win against Andrew Golota in 1996. (His lawyer even used brain damage as part of the defense to fight the kidnapping charges.)
Injury or not, Bowe made a comeback and fought once in 2004 and once in 2005, both times against nobodies. He won the first bout by easy knockout and struggled to a 10-round decision in the second. Then he fought again in 2008, looking horrible in an eight-round decision win against another nobody.
All the while, Bowe would boast about how he was training seriously (although, obviously, he wasn't; his weights for his three most recent bouts were 263, 280 and 271) and wanted a shot at one of the Klitschko brothers, which would have been a laugh-out-loud-joke if he wasn't so delusionally serious.
Although Bowe hasn't boxed since that 2008 travesty, he took part in the Muay Thai fight over the weekend and got embarrassed in two rounds by 30-year-old Russian Levgen Golovin.
Bowe is now 45. He weighed 300 pounds against Golovin. He could barely move. He didn't throw a single legitimate punch or kick in the entire fight. And he got the stuffing kicked out him for a reported purse of $150,000 -- good money, I guess, for a guy who is in financial difficulty.
The entire thing was gross by every definition, from the fact that a promoter paid him to get into a ring at all, that it was sanctioned, that people actually showed up to watch and that Bowe would so demean himself.
I'll admit that I watched the fight in the same way somebody might look at the car wreck on the side of the road. Anyone who watched Bowe saw an old man with no remaining discernible skills -- one who looked like he hadn't trained for five minutes -- get dropped multiple times with kicks to the shins. Honestly, I lost count of how many times he went down, but the Associated Press report on the bout said it was five.
The report also said that the sweltering-hot venue had no dressing rooms, so Bowe and the other fighters changed in open-air tents beside the stage. That's a long way from the glitz and glamour of Caesars Palace.
When the fight was over, I felt like I needed to take a shower. Yet Bowe incredibly said he would try it again.
The whole thing was reminiscent of -- but worse than -- the movie "The Wrestler," in which Mickey Rourke played broken-down, past-his-prime pro wrestler Randy "The Ram" Robinson. Robinson would perform on small, out-of-the-way club shows, trading on his once-great name and nothing more.
Bowe is doing precisely the same thing, except this isn't a movie. This is real life, and that just makes it even sadder.