The World Boxing Council had threatened to strip heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe of its title Jan. 2 if he didn't make his first defense against Britain's Lennox Lewis. Bowe beat the WBC to the punch yesterday; he tossed the WBC belt into a trash can in London, Lewis's hometown.

Bowe remains recognized by the other two main sanctioning bodies -- the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation.

At a news conference, the Associated Press reported that Bowe picked up the belt and dropped it into a large black garbage can. "The WBC is wrong, and I will not be intimidated by them," he said. "I am the heavyweight champion of the world and today I withdraw my recognition of the WBC. I am stripping them. ... If Lewis wants the belt, he has to get it out of the garbage. Then we will call him 'garbage picker.' "

Later in the day. the WBC counterpunched, stripping Bowe of the title he'd tossed in the trash and declaring Lewis the WBC's new heavyweight champion because Bowe failed to honor a written promise to make his first defense against Lewis.

Let the hype continue.

It started the night last month Bowe scored a unanimous decision over champion Evander Holyfield for the unified title and it will build to a crescendo until Bowe finally fights Lewis, who defeated him for an Olympic gold medal in 1988. That fight is expected to take place sometime late next year or early in 1994.

Bowe's manager, Rock Newman, meanwhile, is putting together a two-fight plan for the champion that does not include Lewis. He says he expects to make an announcement later this week. Bowe wanted to fight in New York in February, he said, which would seem to rule out a fight at halftime at the Super Bowl on Jan. 31. Possible opponents are former world titlist Michael Dokes and Alex Garcia.

Bowe and Newman were returning here from London last night and could not be reached for comment. Milt Chwasky, their New York-based attorney, said negotiations are continuing for an opponent and site for a Feb. 6 bout. He declined to discuss details, but said Washington remains a possible site, even though casinos in Atlantic City and Las Vegas can pay substantial site fees in order to attract high rollers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.