CHICAGO – Boxing press conferences are different than any other I’ve attended – especially when they belong to Don King.
Any room the loquacious promoter walks into becomes the temporary property of Don King Promotions. His voice precedes his entry, cutting through the ambient chatter and drawing attention. Where a king enters with a trumpeted fanfare, this King needs merely to open his mouth.
But that electricity isn’t just a fireworks display to herald his entrance, it’s the essential tool a promoter needs. It’s the kind of energy Chicago boxing has lacked for almost 2½ decades. It seemed the “City of Broad Shoulders” had narrowed its shoulders and interest in pugilism until this May.
King dubbed that May fight the “Battle of Chicago,” with WBO heavyweight champ Lamon Brewster facing Andrew Golota, the champion of Chicago’s 500,000-strong Polish population. With it being the first heavyweight title fight in town since 1981, it wasn’t a hard sell at the United Center.
Polish light heavyweight Tomasz Adamek’s winning the WBO title in an undercard bout against Paul Briggs only raised anticipation among the largely Polish gallery.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t but a few words about the undercard on the screen in the pressroom when I watched Golota tumble to the canvas in the first seconds of round one. I typed faster in hope of making it out before the referee called the bout, but he went down again. I doubled my efforts once more, but so did Brewster. He knocked Golota down for the third time in less than a minute.
TKO for Brewster. KO for those who’d planned for a suspenseful 12-round cuffing session.
During Tuesday’s press conference at Playboy corporate headquarters, Golota stayed reserved as King proudly acknowledged him as one of the 12-round combatants on the Aug. 13 Monte Barrett-Hasim Rahman card.
“You don’t leave your man in the heat of battle, and because he slipped you’re going to leave him out there,” King said of Golota. “You pick him up and you save him.”
Even with King swooping in as savior – be it contractually or not – Golota sat quietly throughout the press conference. His disgust in sitting so close to his upcoming opponent Przemyslaw Saleta may have been a factor.
Of course, Saleta was parading his 21-year-old girlfriend and prospective U.S. Playboy centerfold Kasia Kraszewska. Golota almost stood up for a face-to-face photo pose with Saleta but was met by Kraszewska instead. Knowing better than to give Saleta any more inspiration for the fight, Golota planted himself back in his chair faster than Brewster had planted him on the mat.
Golota still refused to say more than two sentences throughout the event. I didn’t buy into his rage over his proximity to Saleta. I chalked it up to avoiding any pointed questions involving the words “Lamon Brewster” or “your last fight.”
I chased Golota down afterward and shot my Brewster jab.
“I wanted to ask you about your last fight with Lamon Brewster,” I said, making sure to get all of the words I figured he wanted to duck.
Golota surprised me.
“That was [bleeped] up, wasn’t it,” he said, with his hardened posterior cracking into a joking manner.
He continued to talk about it, but I was just as stunned as he was in that first round.
“But I can’t do anything about it; it’s irritating to talk about,” he said, bringing me out of my stupor.
Weighing his reach and strength advantage over me, it was best not to upset him anymore and I kindly floated to the other side of the room. Although I replayed his initial comment in my mind, shaking my head at what he said.
Perhaps the whole reason for King to “pick-up” Golota is Golota’s unpredictability. He may, at 37, still have a few good fights left in him. Then again, he could slip the whole way.
“Only in America,” as King would put it.
Will we ever find out.