Bowe - Golota I: The Ten Year Anniversary

11.07.06 - By Geoffrey Ciani: Ten years ago today, Riddick ‘Big Daddy’ Bowe was widely considered the best heavyweight on the planet. It is true, Bowe did not hold a major portion of the heavyweight championship at this time; those belonged to Mike Tyson (WBC), Michael Moorer (IBF), and Bruce Seldon (WBA). However, few questioned the fact that Bowe was better than the likes of Moorer and Seldon—this was common knowledge..

Likewise, the once invincible ‘Iron’ Mike Tyson was not seen in the same light since before his trip to prison. Indeed, most reputable experts felt that the current version of ‘Iron’ Mike would be no match for ‘Big Daddy’. After all, Bowe had just dispatched his nemesis, Evander Holyfield, in his previous bout with a brutal knockout victory.

However, boxing fans and experts alike needn’t have quarreled over whether Tyson or Bowe was the better fighter. The two were on an inevitable collision course, and everyone believed a showdown between Tyson and Bowe would soon become a reality. All that stood in the way was a relatively unknown Polish commodity by the name of Andrew Golota.

Andrew Golota began making a name for himself on Tuesday night fights where he scored a number of impressive knockout victories, most notably, against the hard-punching Samson Po’uha. Po’uha was known as a powerful young fighter whose strength was often compared to that of another young heavyweight prospect, David Tua. Golota would dominate the early parts of his bout with Po’uha before getting into some trouble in round three. However, Golota didn’t panic. Instead, in what looked like a scene from a low-budget vampire film, Golota proceeded to bite his opponent’s neck, putting an end to the momentum he had gained. Golota would go on to stop Po’uha in the fifth round.

This paved the way for an HBO date on “Night of the Young Heavyweights” wherein Andrew Golota was afforded the opportunity to showcase his talents against up-and-coming Emmanuel Steward protégée, ‘Doc’ Nicholson. In this fight, Golota showed an incredible jab, deceptively fast hands, and outstanding overall boxing ability. However, he also showed that he has a flare for the dramatic. Using his head as a battering ram, Golota unleashed one of the most vicious head-butts in the sport’s history. Even odder, this was a bout Golota was handily winning at the time of this brutal foul. When the fight resumed, Golota went back to business before it was mercifully stopped by the referee in the eighth round. This set the stage for a big money fight against the uncrowned King of the division, Riddick ‘Big Daddy’ Bowe.

Few people imagined that Golota would pose much of a problem for Bowe. After all, Bowe was, by all credible accounts, the premiere fighter in the division. Surely he’d have no trouble dispatching an unknown Polish fighter with a reputation for being dirty – especially with a potential mega-bout on the horizon with either Tyson or Lennox Lewis.

What transpired that night was simply amazing. When the bell sounded, Andrew Golota looked superior to Bowe in everyway imaginable. Golota was winning the battle of the jabs, unleashing some vicious combinations and body shots, and was getting the best of the uncrowned King, literally battering him from pillar-to-post. When Golota wasn’t kicking Bowe’s ass inside the rules, he amplified his own reputation as a dirty fighter by repeatedly fouling Bowe. In particular, Golota had a knack for punching Bowe in the balls. Forget the fact that Golota was inexplicably given multiple warnings and had three points deducted before finally being disqualified. By my count, there were no fewer than twenty low blows that hit their mark that the ref either ignored or didn’t see.

Forgetting the unfortunate riot that would transpire after the bout, one was left bewildered by Golota’s unusual behaviour in the ring. Here was a man who was once again, winning a fight, and yet, he resorted to dirty tactics time and time again. Why? Golota was kicking Bowe’s ass when he was fighting within the rules. I mean, the same proved true when he was fighting outside of the rules, but why break the rules when you’re putting on a clinic against the man who was considered the best fighter on the planet? There were many questions left that needed answering, and luckily for the fans, a rematch would commence five months later.

Sadly, the rematch did nothing to clear matters up; it only further complicated them. In fact, it was much like a replay of their first bout, except this time, Golota dominated Bowe even more thoroughly than he had in their first encounter. Once again, Golota succumbed to the urge of unleashing multiple low-blows which led to yet another disqualification loss at the hands of Bowe. In fact, Golota only needed to survive another three minutes and nine seconds and victory would surely have been his. However, he inexplicably took the low road by throwing the most vicious three-punch combination below the belt ever seen.

The rest is history. Bowe would retire as a result of the vicious beatings he received at the hands of Golota, and Golota would never fulfill the potential he had showed in his fights with Bowe. History will probably write this off as a fluke, and history would have a good point. After all, Bowe was a very undisciplined fighter who allowed himself to balloon up nicely in between fights. He preferred eating to training, and would feast like a king in between fights. As for Golota, he was a mentally frail fighter who would subsequently fold under pressure in future bouts.

However true these points regarding their flaws might be, one is still left wondering about the entertainment value these two magical and unusual pugilists provided. To be sure, Golota and Bowe twice battled it out in absolute wars. At the end of the bout, HBO commentator Larry Merchant said something to the effect that neither fighter would ever again be the same – and as usual, Larry was right on the money with this observation. Wars like the Bowe-Golota wars do ruin fighters.

It’s quite possible that the Gods of Boxing brought us an event that we took for granted at the time. Indeed, in 1996, I believe that Andrew Golota and Riddick Bowe were the two best boxers on the planet, though we didn’t know it at that time and we’ve no reason to believe it after-the-fact. However, when one considers the brutal beatings each man inflicted and absorbed, and when one considers the tolls these wars took on these fighters, it becomes much more likely and much more believable.

The Bowe-Golota saga begun ten years ago today, and will forever live in the lore of boxing legends.

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Please check out THE RETURN OF THE SUPERBABES in episode 26 of Seeking Madam Mushroom.

Article posted on 12.07.2006

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