Riddick Bowe, former world heavyweight boxing champion, has tried and failed to make it in kickboxing. Now, he’s going to try and become a professional WRESTLER.
Bowe was destroyed in his Muay Thai debut in June by Russia’s Levgen Golovkin. And weeks ago, he made clear his next port of call via his social media channels.
Those of you hoping that he’d find a more graceful, less ridiculed use of his time may as well turn away now, because ‘Big Daddy Bowe’ - just like his nickname namesake from British wrestling's glory days on terrestrial TV - will be appearing inside a squared circle in Britain.
This of course is far from the first time boxers have crossed over into the pre-determined world of piledrivers, chair shots and heel turns: even greats such as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson and Floyd Mayweather have been known to get physical in the sporting soap opera that is professional wrestling.
While most of those examples took place on huge global stages such as WWE Wrestlemania and Japan’s storied Budokan Hall, local British federations are no stranger to the concept, either.
In 2004, British heavyweight Danny Williams – riding a wave of momentum after stopping a past-his-best Mike Tyson – took part in a realistic storyline at a Frontier Wrestling Alliance show where he was goaded into a pull-apart brawl by chief villain Alex Shane whilst attending as a ‘spectator’.
Yahoo!-Eurosport caught up with Steven Fludder, owner and promoter of Preston City Wrestling, who was able to secure a deal with Bowe which will see him step into the ring for the first time on March 1, 2014.
“He appealed via social media for someone to train him to wrestle, and through a mutual contact we have offered him the opportunity to learn with Preston City Wrestling,” Fludder explained.
“Riddick is an old school wrestling fan, and we have had some big names from the past appear for us, such as ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase, Goldust and the Steiner Brothers. I imagine their connection to us helped persuade him that we were the right choice.
“He will hopefully appear a few times for us as he learns the basics with the intention of pushing him on to being able to make wrestling appearances for bigger companies in the US.”
Bowe’s very first wrestling-orientated appearance will be the day before his official debut for a ‘final contract signing’ on February 28, at which point his very first opponent will be known.
Will something special be in store? Fludder is giving little away for the time being.
He said: “We can’t let on exactly what he will do or what is in store for the fans, but the announcement alone spread across wrestling and fight sports websites like wildfire and is now being picked up on the mainstream, and his debut will justify that hype.”
Wrestling, as a combination of combat sports and serial drama, is mocked by the majority but followed fanatically by those who embrace the concept.
That said, on the two occasions where pro wrestling became popular in the mainstream – during Hulk Hogan’s heyday in the 1980s and the Steve Austin ‘Attitude’ era around the turn of the millennium – mainstream crossovers have been key to the explosion.
Boxers, in particular, have played a huge part in this. Tyson’s ‘endorsement’ of ‘Stone Cold’ at Wrestlemania 14 in 1998 sent Austin’s rise into supernova and led to a career in TV and movies for the former champion, as well as the most successful spell in the WWE’s history.
But what can a fading and ageing Bowe bring to the industry?
Fludder is under no illusions: Bowe’s contributions will be limited and carefully-controlled. But that doesn’t mean he can turn a lot of heads in the process.
“Let’s be honest. Riddick is 46 years of age,” Fludder went on. “He’s not going to turn out to be an amazing professional wrestler five minutes after starting.
“But if you look around, wrestling is full of limited performers who turn out successful because of their appeal, especially when they are played to their strengths.
“A few years ago, Mayweather did something similar when he ‘wrestled’ the Big Show at Wrestlemania. But it wasn’t really a wrestling match – it was more like a fight scene from a film, it was well rehearsed and ended up being entertaining.
“You have guys like The Great Khali (also known as actor Dalip Singh, who featured in movies such as The Longest Yard and Get Smart) who quite honestly is a very limited wrestler and yet he was made the world champion at one point.
“Nobody is expecting Riddick Bowe to start wrestling like Rey Mysterio. But he is determined to succeed at this and still has that presence and charisma from his boxing days.”
Preston City Wrestling are next in action on October 11 when they present 'Final Fight' from Church Street, Preston. For details and ticket information, as well as more on Riddick Bowe's professional wrestling debut at 'Road to Glory 3' from February 28-March 1, 2014, visit their official website here.
Liam Happe | Follow on Twitter