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Riddick Bowe was forced to chase Larry Donald through 12 rounds Saturday night in a fight that left him frustrated but a winner for the first time since losing his heavyweight titles 13 months ago.

Bowe overcame Donald's efforts to move and fight in flurries by wearing him down to take a lopsided and unanimous 12-round decision in his bid to return to the top of the heavyweight ranks.The former champion, who marked Donald's face and nearly put him down in the final round, won all 12 rounds on one ringside scorecard in handing the 1992 Olympian his first defeat in 17 professional fights.

Donald fought in the style of his hero, Muhammad Ali, but didn't throw nearly enough punches nor land any hard ones in a fight he seemed more happy to survive than win.

"Larry was more elusive than I anticipated," Bowe said.

Judge Dalby Shirley gave all the rounds to Bowe, scoring the fight 120-108, while Judge Bill Graham had it 118-110 and judge Art Lurie 118-109. The Associated Press had Bowe ahead 118-111.

"I needed a fight," said Bowe, whose only fight since losing the titles to Evander Holyfield in November 1993 was an aborted four-round no contest against Buster Mathis Jr.

Donald, though, turned the night into more of a track meet than a boxing match.

Donald bounced on the balls of his feet almost the entire fight, throwing punches only in short flurries before either moving out of range again or tying Bowe up on the inside.

"Come on, come on," Bowe implored Donald throughout the fight.

Donald's habit of fighting in spurts showed in ringside punching statistics, which had Donald throwing only 233 punches for the 12 rounds to 473 for Bowe. Ringside punching stats showed Bowe landing 219 punches to 103 for Donald.

"I know I won pretty easy," Bowe said. "I can't do any better. I trained hard for this fight and so did Donald."

The fight came a day after Donald filed suit in Los Angeles, charging assault and battery for an incident at a prefight press conference in which Bowe threw two punches at Donald. He might have helped make his case during the fight, emerging with his right eye puffed up and seemingly unable to discuss the fight.

Bowe, who had refused to apologize before the fight for hitting Donald, did so after getting his legimitate chance to hit him inside the ring.

"I realize it was wrong. It was wrong," Bowe said.

Bowe, who raised his record to 35-1, took a big step toward becoming a factor again in a heavyweight division now ruled by George Foreman and Oliver McCall.

Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, said Bowe would fight Herbie Hide in the spring for the lightly regarded WBO version of the title in an attempt to further fracture the heavyweight picture.

"If I can get the (WBO) title, I can bring some legitimacy to it," Bowe said.

Foreman was at ringside for the fight, doing color commentary for HBO.

"You got guys like George Foreman who claim to be heavyweight champion," Bowe said before the fight. "Oh, man, give me a break."

Donald, whose pro career began only 23 months ago, came into the fight with 12 knockouts in 16 wins.