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Retired boxer Riddick Bowe celebrates his 50th birthday today and owns one particular distinction in the heavyweight division. He is to date the first and only boxer to hold a world title in the four major sanctioning bodies in the sport.

Bowe was born and raised in the Brownsville section of Brooklyn, New York and was the 12th of his mother’s 13 children. His rough upbringing shifted for the better once he discovered boxing and became a notable amateur fighter and Golden Gloves champion. A towering 6-foot-5, he earned the name “Big Daddy.”

As a member of the U.S. Boxing team in the 1988 Summer Olympics, Bowe tore through the competition but lost to Canada’s Lennox Lewis, earning him a silver medal at the Games. He then went pro and worked his way up the boxing hierarchy to face off against the formidable Evander Holyfield in November 1992. At that time, Holyfield was the undisputed heavyweight champion, but Bowe bested the legendary fighter with a TKO win in the 11th round.

Bowe went into a decline after losing his titles in a rematch to Holyfield in 1993, which was Bowe’s only loss. He went on to classic battles with Andrew Golota and a third match with Holyfield. He won the WBO title from England’s Herbie Hide in 1995, completing his historic mark. He vacated the title after defeating Jorge Luis Gonzalez.

While he never lost again, Bowe’s struggles with weight and a long layoff from the ring ultimately led to his retirement in 2008. His legacy was tarnished after a stunt where he tossed the WBC title in the garbage for refusing to fight his Olympic rival in Lewis after offering a curious 90-10 split of a $32 million purse. There was also a domestic violence incident with his first wife – the mother of his five children – that led to him serving 17 months in federal prison. 

Away from boxing, Bowe settled in the Washington, D.C. suburbs of Ft. Washington after dealing with bankruptcy and other issues. Now he owns a gym and a restaurant in Harlem.

PHOTO: YouTube screenshot

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Little Known Black History Fact: Riddick Bowe  was originally published on