• July 23, 2024

Golota’s Shocking Legacy: The Boxer Wilder than Tyson, Whose Controversial Low Blow Ignited a Riot and Landmarks Arrests

Andrew Golota was the one Mike Tyson opponent even crazier than ‘Iron Mike’ – a talented heavyweight enigma who shockingly bit one rival and was disqualified twice in fights he was winning.

The Polish punisher had a step-up fight in 1996 that ended in a riot so chaotic that Madison Square Garden, New York’s home of boxing, would not host a fight for three years. Then in 2000, Golota quit after two rounds against Tyson leaving the American – and the crowd – baffled and furious.

Perhaps his erratic behaviour is no surprise when you consider the boxer who became known as the ‘Foul Pole’ had an upbringing so tough that it made Tyson’s in Brooklyn look almost idyllic. When Golota was five, his father killed himself and after his mother struggled to cope, he ended up in an orphanage.

Like many troubled kids, Golota found some solace in boxing. A gifted amateur, he won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics but got into scrapes outside the ropes. In 1990, a bar fight ended with Golota stripping a man naked and dumping his clothes in a dustbin.

“I didn’t want to hurt the guy,” Golota later explained. “I just wanted to make him look silly.” Nevertheless, the boxer faced assault charges and left for Chicago to begin his pro career in the USA.

 

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Golota built a 28-0 (25 KOs) record but the controversy that would flare up throughout his career was notable in his 24th fight. Rocked by Samson Poʻuha, Golota sank his teeth into his opponent’s neck – a bite that was missed by the referee, allowing Golota to eventually beat the Tongan by KO.

Riddick Bowe in 1996 represented a jump in class for Golota. The former undisputed world champion had just stopped Evander Holyfield, winning their epic rivalry 2-1, and was seen as one of the world’s best heavyweights.

“How do you train for a bum?” a rather flabby Bowe asked pre-fight, clearly unimpressed by the challenge Golota represented.

But Golota was a powerfully built, 6ft 4in, heavy-handed heavyweight with a fine amateur pedigree. And he showcased his skills by consistently beating Bowe to the punch, out-jabbing the sluggish American and rocking him repeatedly with right hands.

Yet for every eye-catching head shot Golota landed, he landed almost as many punches to Bowe’s testicles. “Don’t throw anything below the shoulder!” implored the Pole’s trainer, Lou Duva, after his fighter lost a series of points for low blows. “Just hit him in the head.”

However, after one more blatant shot to the nuts in round seven left Bowe crumpled on the canvas, Golota was disqualified. Even after three point deductions, Golota had boxed so well he was up on all three judges’ scorecards at the time.

Mayhem ensued. Angry fans rioted and Bowe’s team attacked Golota, leaving the 74-year-old Duva flat on his back and Golota sporting a cut after he was struck on the head by a walkie-talkie.

 

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HBO host Jim Lampley, who was protected from the violence by analyst George Foreman, described it as the most terrifying situation he had ever witnessed in all his years ringside. The half-hour brawl ended with 22 people injured and 16 arrests.

The rematch took place six months later and – unbelievably – played out in almost identical fashion. Bowe came in 17lb lighter. But years of hard fights and ballooning in weight had taken their toll and Golota was once again getting the better of him – scoring a knockdown in round two – before being DQ’d for low blows, this time in round nine.

It left Golota with a 28-2 record but, having never been stopped or outpointed, he was widely viewed as the division’s new danger man. That reputation was blown apart in Golota’s next fight: his first heavyweight title challenge against Lennox Lewis.

In one of his career-best performances, Lewis pounced on a shocked Golota in the first round, battering him to the canvas before finishing him off in only 135 seconds. Golota had shown in his wars with Bowe that he could take a punch but his mental fragility was clearly a major issue.

In October 2000, he would meet another heavyweight bad boy who struggled with his demons: Mike Tyson. Before the heavily-hyped contest even began, Tyson admitted: “I felt bad for that little referee. Between me and Golota, one of us might clock his ass.”

The first round ended in explosive style with a marauding Tyson felling Golota with a compact right hand. Golota got up, however, and while Tyson was largely on top in round two, the Pole fired back with several shots of his own.

Certainly there was no warning of what was to come at the end of the second round, when Golota told his corner he had no intention of fighting on, then got up and began pacing the ring.

“Don’t you f***ing do this!” warned one cornerman while Al Certo, now Golota’s trainer, tried to physically stuff the gumshield into his boxer’s mouth. “I should’ve shoved it up his ass,” Certo later assessed.

But Golota was insistent and when the crowd got wind of his surrender, he was pelted with drink cups – some containing soda, some containing a more stale-smelling liquid – as he ran back to the dressing room before another riot could break out.

 

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Tyson, who had ominously risen from his stool when the retirement was announced, seemingly ready to confront Golota was eventually cooled down by his own training team. Post-fight, Golota blamed Tyson’s headbutts for his latest act of self-sabotage.

While sympathy for Golota was understandably in short supply, a trip to the hospital did reveal that the boxer had been left with a fractured cheekbone and a herniated disc in his neck after his six minutes in the ring with ‘Iron Mike’.

Adding to the bizarre nature of the contest, the bout was eventually declared a no-contest rather than a Tyson TKO when it turned out the would-be victor had failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana.

Golota’s career staggered on after the Tyson debacle and, remarkably, he had three further shots at winning a world title (the closest he would come was a draw with Chris Byrd in 2004).

He had his final pro fight in his native Poland in 2013, ending a 52-bout career marked by nine official defeats. Yet the opponent Golota seemed to struggle most with was always himself: a gifted, mercurial heavyweight who’s fist was never far from the self-destruct button.

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