Can any man or women reading this tell me that back in 1996, after Andrew Golota exhibited the tendencies of a madman, as he got himself disqualified in two straight bouts with Riddick Bowe, you thought Golota would still be active in the sport 12 years later?

Didn’t think so.

But the man formerly known as The Foul Pole is still at it, and will take on Ray Austin in a Don King-promoted card in China on Friday, Nov. 7.

On July 11th, 1996, many of you hardcore TSSers will recall, Golota was handing it to Bowe at Madison Square Garden, but was periodically ramming his fists into Bowe’s groin region. Ref Wayne Kelly could delay the inevitable no longer and in the seventh round, after deducting three points for the same transgression, he halted the bout and declared Bowe the winner. Golota landed 243 of 440 punches (55 percent), compared to 143 of 361 (40 percent) for Bowe at the time of the final cupbuster.

Bowe's posse stormed the ring, and one of those hooligans smashed a walkie-talkie over Golota's head. The stands erupted into a race war and when all was said and done, 17 people were arrested, while 14 spectators and eight cops were injured. Golota's trainer at the time, 74-year-old Lou Duva, collapsed with chest pains in the ring as a melee raged around him. Even for boxing, the scene was shocking and scary.

Golota, who turns 41 in November, fought Bowe in an Atlantic City rematch on Dec. 14, and amazingly, picked up where he’d left off, which was Bowe’s groin area. Here’s how our Ron Borges, then with the Boston Globe, called it.

“Andrew Golota shouldn't have been disqualified last night. He should have been arrested. After head-butting Riddick Bowe once in the second round and hitting him low a dozen times before referee Eddie Cotton finally deducted another point in the fourth round, Golota was disqualified at 2:58 of the ninth round after brazenly rifling home two more low blows in succession. It was the second straight time Golota had been disqualified in a fight with Bowe that he was winning by a wide margin, but Cotton was well within his rights. He had warned both fighters in their locker rooms that after two deductions they would be in jeopardy, and he made a point of showing each combatant the belt line during his final instructions in the center of the ring.”

Golota could’ve and maybe should’ve exited the game for a long term cycle of therapy, but he kept hacking away.

In his next bout, he took on Lennox Lewis, in a fight that was put together to capitalize on the Pole’s notoriety, but in retrospect, seems glaringly exploitative. Shaking in his boots, he hit the deck twice and was a KO victim at 1:35 of the first. After the bout, he collapsed, because of anxiety, and was taken to the hospital. Still, he persevered. He won six in a row, and then took on Michael Grant, who was being primed to butt heads with champ Lennox Lewis. That fiasco took place in November 1999. Here’s how TSS alum Michael Katz, of the NY Daily News, called it: “The fatigued Grant, both eyes swollen, knocked down twice in the opening round, threw a left hook in the tenth that moved Golota into the path of one of his big right hands. The Warsaw-born fighter, 34-4, rocked back on his knees and while he managed to remain erect, a furious attack by the 6-7, 252-pound Grant sent him sprawling. He was up at the count of two and took the mandatory eight-count, but when referee Randy Neumann asked him, “Do you want to fight?” Golota said, “No.” Neumann asked three more times, Golota said, “No, no,” and shook his head. At the time, the worn-out Grant was leaning on the ropes in a neutral corner, breathing heavily through his mouth. After two disqualification losses to Riddick Bowe and a first-round KO by now-unified champion Lennox Lewis, Golota's future in boxing seems over.”

You’d think a vet of Katz’ ilk would know better. A boxer’s career isn’t truly over until he takes his final dirt nap.

A supposedly chastened and psychologically rehabilitated Golota was trotted out again, against Mike Tyson in October 2000, and after the second round, in his corner, he pulled another No Mas. That move almost prompted another health scare for an elderly Golota trainer—-73-year-old-Al Certo almost tore Golota’s head off when the Pole told him he wanted to call it a night.

Golota, then 32, left the game for three years, and whether it was maturation, or therapy, or meds, or quitting “meds” or whatever, he returned a more mellow man. He gave a solid performance in title shots against Chris Byrd (a draw in April 2004) and John Ruiz (a controversial loss in November 2004).  He steered clear of the groin and didn’t try to bite off a piece of either man, as he did against Samson Pou’ha, in 1995. He was awarded, by Don King, another title crack. Against Lamon Brewster in May 2005, Golota was sent to the mat three times, and declared the loser after 52 seconds. He promised to retire. Instead, he took two years off, and then the life, and the payday, lured him back. He whacked out Jeremy Bates in Poland in June 2007, and followed that with a gritty, gutty showing against Kevin McBride underneath the Sam Peter/Jameel McCline main event in October 2007 at MSG. This time, Golota’s head and heart held up, and he prevailed, via TKO6. OK, so there was the minor blot on his record, that June 2006 out-of-the-ring matter with the Chicago authorities. Golota was charged with possession of unregistered weapons, and investigated for a sex assault. The disposition of that case hasn’t been publicized; presumably, the assault charge lacked merit, because there has been no subsequent mention in national media of the situation.

So, here we are in 2008, and the 40-year-old Golota, with a trail of turbulence in his wake, is still at it. He meets another ultra-vet, 38-year-old Austin (25-4, 16 KOs) in China. A win moves him that much closer to another title crack, probably for the WBA’s honorific. And a win carried off in a fashion that follows the Queensbury rules will take him another inch or two away from the nickname that will follow him to his dying day. Really, who among us woulda thunk it?

Please feel free to offer a caption to accompany the above photo. I will start.

“King has promised Golota a title fight with the WBA titlist, Peter Panda (pictured at left), if he gets past Austin. Team Panda, however, is still in negotiations with King. King wants an option for three fights from Panda, while Team Panda is holding out for a single fight.”