When Andrew Golota fights, few members of the viewing public watch for the accuracy of his jab or the crispness of his straight right. No, what they look for in an episode of Golota vs. Anyone is if he will blow a gasket. Will he bite again? Another spate of crunching low blows? Perhaps a total freeze? Maybe a “no mas”?
All of the above is possible - and more.
The ‘more’ part is, to my way of seeing a boxing match, the most intriguing aspect of Golota’s fights. While he is indeed capable of engaging in bizarre behavior, he has, on several occasions, demonstrated considerable underlying talent to go along with a 6’4” frame and 240 pounds of a well-formed, athletic body.
Indeed, no one has ever really doubted his physical gifts. It’s the other stuff – the mental wonderment that separates really top fighters from also-rans – that leads to serious misgivings.
Golota burst onto the boxing scene with a brilliant light in New York’s Madison Square Garden July 7, 1996 in what was supposed to be a tune-up fight for former undisputed heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe.
Bowe, working on a four fight win streak, including a stunning knockout of Evander Holyfield, appeared poised to again challenge for the title. Although in retrospect he may have left a great deal of himself in the ring during his bout with Holyfield on November 4, 1995 – he suffered his first knockdown in the fight – no one knew it at the time.
The bout was in Golota’s total control from the outset, pounding Bowe viciously. Unfortunately for Golota, that was the night he earned the dubious nickname “Foul Pole” - a derisive reference to his Polish nationality, mixed with his equally dubious tendency to go outside the lines of acceptable conduct in the ring.
His repeated low blows earned him a disqualification and a bitter fight after the fight in which he suffered a severe gash on the back of his head after being hit with a cell phone.
He may have lost that fight, but the boxing world took note of the punishment he dished out on Bowe’s head (and other body parts). More importantly, despite garnering an “L” on his record, he was seen as a player and was signed for a rematch.
The rematch, held five months later in Atlantic City, also earned him notice from the boxing world. The end of the second fight was much the same as the first: a disqualification at a point in the fight when all he needed to do was avoid a knockout to win.
Again he officially lost, but he proved that the first bout was no fluke and he signed to fight WBC champion Lennox Lewis on October 4, 1997.
The result could not have been more disastrous. He was blown-out in one round and sat on the ring floor with a stunned look on his face. His days as a serious contender seemed over.
Still, despite a three fight losing streak, he trudged on with a mild comeback winning six consecutive fights, including a decision over former champion Tim Witherspoon, before pulling another bizarre episode against fellow giant Michael Grant.
The two met November 20, 1999 in Atlantic City with the winner all but guaranteed a shot at the champion Lewis.
As with his bouts with Riddick Bowe, Golota went at Grant early and scored a pair of solid knockdowns against the 30-0 contender. His jab and power prevailed early and often, until the tenth round of the scheduled 12-rounder.
Although clearly behind on the scorecards, Grant continued to fight, eventually knocking down a fading Golota. Golota, inexplicably, informed the referee that he had no desire to continue. Again, he needed only to avoid a knockout to win. (In truth, the knockdown may have indeed been a sign that he was on the way out anyway).
Golota was now relegated to journeyman status. He won a couple of club fights, only to be setup as a feeding for a comebacking Mike Tyson.
In what was billed as a meeting between the two “Bad Boys” of boxing, they clashed in Auburn Hills on October 20, 2000. Tyson crashed into Golota, sending him down with multiple wounds. In the third round Golota had seen enough of Tyson’s power and the bout was stopped: a KO victory for Tyson, right?
Well, wrong. Tyson failed a post-fight marijuana screening and the Michigan Commission ruled the bout a no-contest.
While it had a strange ending – and one that did not add a loss to his record – it sent Golota into a two+ year exile.
Returning in 2003 with wins over Brian Nix and Terrance Lewis – neither of whom have made top-ten lists – Golota was suddenly, and inexplicably, a rated contender.
Deserving or not, he climbed into the ring with IBF champion Chris Byrd on April 17, 2004.
This time he made the most of the chance. Fighting a pressure fight, Golota stayed on top of Byrd throughout. He did not foul and he never flinched as Byrd tried desperately to hold onto his title belt.
True to Golota’s past, however, another controversy arose. This time it had nothing to do with his conduct. This time it was a bad decision, a very bad decision. The judges scored the bout a draw allowing Byrd to hold onto his title – if only barely.
But Golota was not left out in the cold. Just as he had officially lost two bouts immediately preceding his venture into his ill-fated title challenge against Lennox Lewis, the draw led to another title opportunity, this time against WBA titleholder John Ruiz. (Yes, we know that he is signed to a promotional deal with Don King, as was Byrd and Ruiz, and as is WBO champion Lamon Brewster).
But it was another good showing . . . and more controversy. Despite putting Ruiz on the canvas twice in the second round, and despite having Ruiz lose a point for hitting behind the head, he allowed himself to be absorbed by the stab-and-grab style that allowed Ruiz to snatch victories from more talented foes. The result was yet another decision loss in yet another title fight.
So, that brings us to his tour of alphabet championships as he faces Lamon Brewster, king of the WBO version of the heavyweight title. Again he faces a champion that ostensibly has less overall talent than he possesses (or perhaps possessed; remember he’s now 37 years old). Brewster also is coming off a very close win over a limited Kali Meehan.
Golota will likely be favored, perhaps on name recognition alone. But Brewster is not a patsy by any means. The punches he landed on the head of Wladimir Klitschko were real. He also comes into the bout with the very important knowledge that he can comeback from the brink of defeat and win. Furthermore, he knows that a solid win in this bout strengthens his bargaining position in possible unification bouts – something he really needs if he is to gain a shot at the big money.
I’m going way out on this one and I’m picking Golota to finally capture a trinket with the words “World Champion” neatly engraved on it. His talent should prevail upon the powerful, yet rough-around-the-edges Brewster. Obviously Brewster’s solid power gives him a chance that neither Byrd nor Ruiz possessed. Assuming he can avoid the big punch, Golota’s skill level is clearly above that of Brewster and should carry the day.
Should he win, he will undoubtedly get another chance to show his wares against one of the other trinket holders.
And we will be watching . . . not knowing what to expect.
Who will win the Sergey Kovalev vs Andre Ward fight?