06.02.05 - By Don Caputo: "I beat the man who beat the man who beat the man, I guess that makes me the man." He was right, that's how it works in boxing and when Riddick Bowe seized the heavyweight crown from Evander Holyfield in their epic first encounter he was indeed the man of the division. Bowe, for whatever reason, failed to fulfill his enormous potential and achieve the level of greatness his kind of talent demanded. Lennox Lewis holds the distinction of being the only truly great super heavyweight to have emerged but make no mistake about it, Riddick Bowe was blessed with all the tools to have been even greater in my opinion, perhaps even rival Joe Louis and Muhammad Ali for the mythical top spot. But, as we all know, talent is only one of the intangibles required to determine greatness in an historical sense and unfortunately for Bowe he fell short in the other crucial areas much in the same way Mike Tyson did.

Despite his short comings he was still regarded as the number one guy of the division going into his first clash with the undefeated Polish contender Andrew Golota. Bowe had just taken on and knocked out rival Evander Holyfield in the final installment of their stunning trilogy, becoming the first man to do so which on paper is a tremendous achievement but in truth he had never looked more vulnerable as he teetered on the verge of being stopped himself before eventually prevailing in the eighth round. Many attributed Bowe's obvious decline to a fundamental lack of dedication to the sport and accused him of laziness, his weight regularly ballooned to almost alarming extents in between fights and even when in the ring he more often than not appeared to be in less than perfect shape.

He was still winning though and at 29 reasonably young in heavyweight years so I don't think anyone could have predicted that the virtually unknown Golota's fists would effectively send Riddick Bowe, the top dog of the division, into a premature retirement. Bowe absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment in two grueling slugfests, a career ending amount it seemed. We all know Golota inexplicably got himself disqualified both times around for brutalizing a battered and weary Bowe with repeated low blows in fights he was clearly winning, throwing away what looked like a pair of certain victories over the faded former champion in the process. In defeat though his stock sky rocketed, the "Foul Pole" as he was now known looked unbelievably strong against Bowe and was now being proclaimed as the uncrowned man of the division. His reputation was based on official defeats but there is no question that in the wake of Bowe fiasco's he was regarded by experts and fans alike as an extremely formidable fighter who despite his obvious mental fragility was going to be a very hard man to beat.

Lennox Lewis's career was left in tatters after suffering a shocking one punch knockout defeat at the hands of Oliver McCall in 1994. He not only lost his WBC heavyweight title on that disastrous night but also gave his legion of critics and doubters the ammunition they needed to totally and mercilessly discredit him as a fighter. Lewis took a short break from boxing, regrouped, and made his return to the ring against the hard punching Lionel Butler, stopping him in five rounds. With hall of fame trainer Emmanual Steward now in his corner, Lewis showed significant technical development and maturity as he sought out and defeated the likes of Tommy Morrison and Ray Mercer before reclaiming a portion of the heavyweight crown in a rematch with McCall. In his second defense he was lined up to face the red hot Andrew Golota, fresh off his Riddick Bowe performances.

"Golota will force Lewis into his kind of a fight, and his power will be the determining factor in the bout." - Dave Bontempo, ESPN Boxing Analyst

"Golota is an underrated fighter who doesn't get enough credit. He will have leaned his lessons from the Bowe fights and will finish off Lewis." - Anthony Gargano, New York Post

"Golota in two rounds - no contest. I think Lewis talks, but can't back it up with the the walk. Golota will absolutely be too much for him." - Dan Hirshberg, The Trentonian

"Golota will put too much pressure on Lewis, who will make the mistake of slugging it out with him." - Steve Sneddon, Gannet News Service

"It'll be close through four, and then Golota hits and hurts Lewis in the fifth with a booming right. He then proceeds to wear Lewis down for a ninth-round win." - Chris Thorne, Newark Star-Ledger

"Golota will turn the fight into a war. he can take a shot. I'm not sure that Lewis can. Lewis will try to keep his distance but won't be able to for long." - Robert Seltzer, El Paso Times.

As I mentioned, Lewis had more than his fair share of critics and it's safe to say that Golota was the overwhelming favorite. The fight took place and mid way through the first round it was all over, Lewis crushed the challenger with a brutal volley of shots that sent him to the canvas twice before the referee mercifully waved off the massacre. Lennox Lewis was still the heavyweight champion of the world, producing arguably the finest performance of his illustrious career which forced more than a few people to eat their words.

Article posted on 06.02.2005

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