RIDDICK BOWE was once boxing’s heavyweight champion of the world, filthy rich and boasting a driveway filled with flash cars.
But after hanging up his gloves, his life derailed.
As well as an aborted enlistment in the Marines and a 17-month prison term for kidnapping his family, Bowe was also forced to file for bankruptcy.
Bowe, now 52, won the world heavyweight title in 1992 – before promptly throwing the belt in the bin in protest over being forced into fighting Lennox Lewis.
All in all, “Big Daddy” won 43 of his 45 career fights, losing just once, with 33 KOs.
After retiring, the boxing legend tried to make his mother proud by joining the Marines, only to quit after three days of training.
In 1998, he tried to save his marriage by kidnapping estranged wife Judy and their five kids – threatening her with a knife, handcuffs, duct tape and pepper spray before forcing them into his car.
During the chaos, Bowe stabbed his wife in the chest and was sentenced to 18 months to two years in prison.
After his legal team asked for a smaller sentence, blaming brain damage caused by boxing, his term was cut to just 30 days.
But on appeal it was bumped back up again to 17 months.
Bowe declared himself bankrupt in 2005 before making a comeback to boxing – and then attempting to forge a career for himself in wrestling – to make ends meet.
Incredibly, Bowe turned to trucking and driving a bus to pay the bills.
Having once been worth millions and owning a luxury mansion and three Rolls Royces, it was a tough pill to swallow.
But now Bowe has exclusively told SunSport all about his experiences.
In a warning to the heavyweight boxers of today, Bowe warned: “Control your expenses and budget.
“Control your income and your outgoings. If you don’t have a lot of income coming in then be more conservative.
“Learn to not overspend. Don’t try to impress others, be yourself and live.”
“Understand the budget, have a financial advisor, have folks around you who are able to advice you correctly.
“As a fighter, you have to have a house, you have to have a trainer, you have to pay all these people, and you have an accountant.
“Instead of building a massive mansion, live in a smaller one.
“Don’t fly on a private plane when you can take a car where you’re going, don’t go to fancy casinos when you don’t have to, don’t stay at big hotels when you can stay in an average hotel.
“Look into your expenses and put together a budget.”
Bowe also warned the likes of Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua against con artists pretending to be financial experts.
He continued: “Usually a lot of fighters are taken advantage of by folks who are just there for the fame and fortune… they don’t care about the fighter.
“Ninety-nine per cent of the so-called financial experts have zero experience – they don’t even have a thousand dollars to their name.
“That’s because they’re just trying to make a buck coming in taking advantage of a fighter who lets them into his world.
“Have the right financial advisors and if you want to take it a step further, have a pension plan.”
Bowe also opened up about his time driving a bus and trucking, admitting he “love it”.
The Brooklyn-born fighter continued: “Yeah, I was involved in trucking and I drove briefly. I loved it, it was a lot of fun.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie of being able to go down the highway. I enjoy driving it relaxes me.
“I’ve always considered myself as a regular type guy. I was sitting around home and thought why not have a new career?
“So I pursued that for some time and enjoyed it and it helped my mind to be free with no worries.
“You move on – I did after a while of that.
“When I was at training camps I used to take the bus because I was scared of flying.
“I had my own promotional bus called ‘Bowe Bus’ which I used to travel the country in.”
But Bowe also recalled the good times post-retirement, including acting – with a cameo on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air – and music.
Bowe said: “I was involved in acting. I did a cameo on Fresh Prince of Bel-Air with Will Smith, who is a good friend.
“For many years I was involved with the legendary hip hop artist B.I.G – I was in one of his music videos: More Money, More Problems.
“I knew him well, growing up in Brooklyn.
“I remember walking down the street back in the 1980s, Christopher Wallace is his real name, he would be on the corner and we would hang out and talk.
“He would come to a lot of my amateur fights. I won the Golden Gloves, he was in the audience.
“Just like Mike Tyson, I was pretty close to Christopher.”
In a final word of warning to current champion boxers, Bowe urged them to always remain “humble” and help others.
Bowe revealed: “The most important lesson I’ve learned is to always be humble.
“I’m a people’s champion… I represent the common man. A real champion is one who does this.
“Helping others and fighting for a bigger cause is something that I’ve always believed in.
“I did a lot of charity and I believe in helping others.
“During one of my 1995 fights there was a boy who had been hit by lightning and had to have his leg amputated.
“The boy’s family had written a letter. I said I want to donate money for the house, $100,000, which had been struck with lightning, but also for the medical bills for the boy.
“I did and the boy has perfect legs and is a friend of mine to this day.
“I say this not to boast, but one of my missions have been to help others in life.
“I’m more than interested in doing a charity fight now – although I’m equally happy to have a pro fight.
“After all, it will help raise money also for a cause.
“I visited Nelson Mandela in South Africa. I have always been a great supporter of Nelson Mandela and the civil rights.
“I was born at a time the civil rights were going on in America.
“I did what I could to help support him when it came to help end apartheid.”