By Geoffrey Ciani: When Andrew Golota left the ring in shame following his bout with Mike Tyson, most observers felt that was the last we’d see of this once-promising career. Having decided not to continue, Golota appeared to have sealed his own fate. It was an unfortunate ‘ending’ that left many people wondering what might have been. Andrew Golota was living proof that it takes more than raw talent to succeed in boxing.
After a two and a half year hiatus, few people paid notice when Golota returned to face Brian Nix in his comeback. It appeared to be nothing more than the common tale of an aging pugilist seeking out a few extra paydays before calling it quits. What nobody realized at the time, was Golota was on a mission for redemption. Ironic, then, that he ultimately sought redemption through one of the most controversial figures in the sport, Don King. The decision to sign with King paid off almost immediately.
When Derrick Jefferson was forced to back out of his scheduled bout with IBF champion, Chris Byrd, King turned to his newly-signed commodity as a replacement.
The decision must have been a no-brainer for King, especially given that nobody was particularly interested in a Byrd-Jefferson bout. On the other hand, a Golota-Byrd bout was most intriguing and many wondered whether Golota had anything left in the tank.
Going into the bout, many assumed Byrd’s style was all wrong for Golota. After all, Byrd was one of the most frustrating tacticians in the division and Golota was one of the most easily frustrated. Most observers wrongly assumed Golota was shot, and that Byrd would take advantage by flustering him with awkward tactics. This was not to be. Instead, what we witnessed was a very competitive fight in a brilliant clash of styles.
At the halfway point in their bout, it became clear to all that Golota still had something left. He was winning the bout, as he continuously stalked the slick southpaw, following him around the ring whilst unleashing the type of combinations that brought him initial fame in his two wars with Riddick Bowe eight years earlier. Although Golota did not possess the same raw talent he once had, he was still holding his own as he and Byrd battled it out. After Golota injured his arm around the halfway point, he was no longer able to utilize his jab as he was earlier in the fight. This led to some extremely close rounds that were very difficult to score.
In the end, the bout was ruled a draw, albeit, a very controversial draw. Judges scored the bout 115-113, 114-114, and 113-115. I scored the bout 116-112 in favor of Golota, having given him five of the first six rounds and three of the final six. Admittedly, this bout was close, and many rounds could have gone either way. This bout personified Golota’s redemption following the Tyson debacle. He may not have been awarded the decision, but regardless, he gave the champion all he could handle in a bout many felt he deserved to win. Furthermore, this happened when Golota was eight years removed from his prime.
Following this bout, the inexplicable happened, and that’s to say, nothing happened! When heavyweight title fights end in a draw, logic dictates there should be an immediate rematch! Unfortunately, this was not to be, cheating fans from what would have undoubtedly been another exciting bout. Byrd apparently wanted no part of a Golota rematch. Instead, he seemed happy to escape with a draw and wanted to move elsewhere. In his next bout, he faced his former sparring partner, Jameel McCline. It’s nothing short of a shame that there was no immediate rematch following this entertaining championship fight.
Luckily for Golota, he was still a member of the Don King stable, and King rightfully got Golota another title shot. This time, Golota was pitted against WBA champion, John Ruiz. After a lackluster first round, Golota dropped Ruiz twice in the second, and appeared to have the champion in big trouble. Ruiz survived, and Golota continued boxingrather than going for the kill. Ruiz was deducted a point in round four, and afterwards, the bout was mostly competitive.
In the end, I had each boxer taking six rounds, but with the two knockdowns and the point deduction, that meant Golota should have won, 114-111. The judges, however, didn’t see things that way. In fact, Ruiz was inexplicably awarded a unanimous decision over Golota in what may have been the worst decision rendered in recent memory. Judges scored the bout 114-111, 114-111, and 113-112 all in favor of Ruiz. This meant that one judge had given Ruiz eight rounds whilst the other two gave him nine rounds! How anyone could have watched that fight and given Ruiz any more than five or six rounds seems well beyond the realm of reason. Even if you had Ruiz winning seven rounds, he still would have lost the bout 112-113.
It’s interesting to note that Golota was the main draw in both of these fights. When he fought Byrd, Ruiz-Oquendo was on the under card; when he fought Ruiz, Byrd-McCline was on the under card. In each instance, the challenger was showcased as the main attraction, and in each instance, the challenger lost despite the fact most observers felt he won. At this point in time, strong arguments could be made that Golota had a rightful claim as a unified champion. Unfortunately for Golota, Ruiz wanted no part of a rematch, and Byrd still wanted no part of him, either.
Following this bout, Golota would go full circle. In May 2005, he was stopped in under a minute by WBO champion Lamon Brewster. This would be just the latest fiasco in a career defined by fiascos. Unlike the Tyson debacle, however, Golota never quit, rising to his feet after each knockdown in hopes to clear his head and continue. Unfortunately, the blitzkrieg tactics of Brewster worked to perfection. Noting that Golota often entered the ring with his hands held high, Brewster unloaded with a left hook to the body, causing Golota to lower his guard which opened him for a left hook upstairs.
That was the last we’ve seen of Golota. Despite various rumours concerning another comeback, there has been no official announcement. Where is Andrew Golota? Golota has always been one of the most exciting attractions in the heavyweight division, and despite his advanced age, it seems reasonable to believe he could still put up competitive fights against many top fighters. In fact, it’s reasonable to believe he’d have a good chance at beating several reigning champions, including Oleg Maskaev, Shannon Briggs, and Nicolay Valuev.
This article was also published at East Side Boxing