You be the judge. (Fast forward video to 7:30)
Twenty-eight years ago, on August 13, 1994, former heavyweight champion of the world Riddick Bowe (34-1, 29 KO) fought then-unbeaten contender Buster Mathis Jr (14-0, 3 KO).
The latter, of course, was the son of a former 1970s top 10 heavyweight with the same name.
Bowe vs Mathis was Riddick’s first bout since losing the lineal heavyweight title to Evander Holyfield in their rematch 10 months prior so the fight was must-see TV.
As expected, the more experienced, more polished Bowe dominated early as the much shorter Mathis had no answer for Bowe’s reach and speed. And let’s not forget, Bowe was a heck of an in-fighter too.
In Round 4, Bowe hurt Mathis with a sharp combination, and the latter, out of position to defend himself well, voluntarily took a knee.
Looking to take the count from the referee, Mathis, instead, ate a pulverizing right hook from Big Daddy that put him flat on his back and out for the count.
A blatant disqualification?
When Mathis kneeled, the referee immediately walked toward him to administer the count but couldn’t get there in time to get in between the fighters.
At first, it appeared Riddick would be disqualified but the New Jersey Athletic Commission declared it a No Contest.
“We felt we could not allow Bowe to win the fight even if it had gone five rounds, half the scheduled distance,” said Larry Hazzard, the commissioner, in a confusing news conference.
Another board member, Gary Shaw, said, “We did what we thought was the right thing to do, without regard to anyone’s career or record.”
Was it the right call?
It should have been a disqualification
Bowe clearly hit his opponent while he was down, a flagrant violation of the rules. He saw his foe was in a compromising position and took advantage of the situation. The instant replay showed that Mathis was clearly down, but the punch came before the 74-year-old Mercante could wave Bowe away.
Bowe should have lost by disqualification.
No Contest was the right call
Sometimes fighters are so excited and have so much adrenaline, it’s unnatural to stop punching on a dime. Given the nature of the sport, it’s instinctive to keep punching if you don’t hear a bell and have not been separated by the referee.
Also, Rule No. 1 in boxing is to ‘Protect yourself at all times,’ something Mathis failed to do.
Obviously, Bowe shouldn’t have been rewarded for his actions. However, he was winning the fight and simply succumbed to his own aggression in the “heat of battle.”
Interesting point: The 5’11” Mathis was often ducking low during the bout; much lower than your typical heavyweight. Bowe said later about the incident he thought Mathis was ducking instead of taking a knee.
“You were down, I didn’t know, I’m sorry,” a distraught Bowe told Mathis, when he the latter revived.
Disqualification or No Contest? Or should it have been ruled a legit knockout?
You be the judge.