Bowe's Entourage Blamed For Madison Square Garden Riot
Jul. 12, 1996
NEW YORK (AP) _ Boxing's latest black eye came courtesy of a wild post-fight brawl ignited by heavyweight Riddick Bowe's huge entourage, a nationally televised fistfight that could block the Brooklyn native from ever returning to Madison Square Garden.
The Thursday night melee, which started in the ring and spread into the stands, resulted in 16 arrests, 22 injuries and yet another low blow for the beleaguered fight game. The brawl raged for more than 30 minutes before more than 250 police officers and Garden security personnel managed to restore order.
``It was a very ugly night,'' said Bowe's manager, Rock Newman. ``I apologize ... for the pain, grief, anguish and embarrassment it has caused all of us.''
Two of the suspects in custody and a third at large were members of Bowe's entourage _ and all three had criminal records, said police commissioner Howard Safir. The trio, including a man who sprinted across the ring to club Bowe's opponent, Andrew Golota, with a walkie-talkie, were identified from videotape of the fight, he said.
The man with the walkie-talkie, identified by police as Jason Harris, surrendered to police Friday. Police could not immediately say what he would be charged with, nor could they provide his age or address.
Newman himself could also face criminal charges, Safir said. Newman entered the ring shouting and pointing at Golota _ a gesture that some took as a call for others to follow. Newman said Friday that was not true.
``I did not participate in it or encourage in any way people to conduct themselves the way they did last night,'' said Newman, whose past post-fight conduct belies his claim.
MSG president Dave Checketts vowed that anyone convicted in connection with the brawl would be banned from the Garden for life. If that included Newman and his fighters, Checketts said, ``So be it.''
The Garden, which re-entered the fight business last year after staging fights only sporadically since 1982, will continue to stage boxing, Checketts said. The next card at the arena, famous as the site of the 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bout, is scheduled for Aug. 13.
At this fight, Bowe was being battered by the unheralded Golota, a Polish fight who appeared on the way to a major upset. The brawl started after Golota was disqualified in the seventh round for repeatedly landing low blows.
A group of 20 people affiliated with the Bowe camp _ some in his corner, others seated behind it _ then flooded the ring, witnesses said.
``There was a wave of humanity,'' said ring announcer Michael Buffer. ``I didn't even try to get in the ring. There was no security ringside.''
The initial group of brawlers apparently received credentials or tickets from the Bowe camp.
``This was precipitated by people inside one fight camp,'' said MSG vice president John Cirillo.
Fighting then spread into the crowd, with scores of Golota supporters waving Polish flags and squaring off with Bowe backers. Safir said there was no indication that the fight was racially motivated.
Garden officials did not call for police until at least five minutes after the fighting broke out. As a national television audience watched on HBO, the combat raged on while announcer Jim Lampley scrambled from ringside to safety.
Lampley went from play-by-play man to concerned parent, wondering on the air if his 16-year-old daughter, Brooke, was safe amid the melee. The teen, as well as the rest of HBO's crew, escaped injury, said HBO spokesman Ray Stallone.
There were some terrifying tableaus amid the waves of violence: A man in his wheelchair getting knocked to the ground. Angry men lifting and tossing chairs across the Garden. Lou Duva, Golota's 74-year-old trainer, flat on his back with chest pains, getting kicked by an unidentified attacker.
``I was half-screaming and half-saying, `Get him out of there!''' Duva's daughter, Denise, said Friday.
Denise Duva, echoing Garden officials, said the Bowe camp clearly started the fracas.
``We saw Rock (Newman) run over and shout something at Andrew,'' she recalled Friday. ``Then we saw somebody else with Newman throw a punch, and someone else with a Riddick Bowe shirt start bashing Andrew over the head.''
When Lou Duva tried to intervene, he received a jolt from an implanted defibrillator that regulates his heartbeat, his daughter said. Duva was released Friday from NYU Medical Center after spending the night.
It was not Newman's first post-fight brawl. When Bowe fought Elijah Tillery in 1991, Newman grabbed the other fighter around the neck and yanked him over the ropes. Tillery landed on the head of a boxing commissioner seated ringside.
Newman and another man attacked Associated Press photographer Doug Pizac after the Bowe-Holyfield fight in 1992. Pizac needed a dozen stitches to close a gash on his face.