Atlantic City, New Jersey, March 15th 1996.
An exciting heavyweight card dubbed “Night Of The Young Heavyweights” took place on this day in 1996, and the three main events all proved memorable in their own way. Young talent expected to go places, David Tua, Shannon Briggs and Andrew Golota, were in action but things did not go exactly as planned.
Today, when looking back almost a quarter of a century later, it is the Tua fight with John Ruiz that most fans remember most clearly. The powerful, stocky and muscular Tua, with his venomous left hook and his rampaging style, really did make a name for himself with his utter annihilation of Ruiz. Ruiz was not unbeaten, but he had never been stopped, instead dropping close decisions to Sergey Kobozev and Dannel Nicholson. Tua wiped him out with frightening efficiency in just 19 seconds.
Tua, now 23-0(21) looked for all the world like a future world heavyweight champion, if not a future superstar of the division. Tua did go on to score more notable wins, and the Samoan slugger also thrilled us with his absolute classic war with Ike Ibeabuchi (lost by close decision), but overall, Tua never lived up to his enormous promise. Ruiz was instead the fighter to regroup and win a version of the heavyweight title. Quite amazing.
Briggs, who was seen by many as the next champ, was 25-0 when he entered the ring to face Darroll Wilson, a decent fighter who was unbeaten himself, having a couple of draws on his record. Briggs was forced to quit on his stool after three rounds. It was a big upset and an even bigger disappointment for the Brooklyn man. Briggs claimed he suffered an asthma attack and was unable to carry on. The two never had a rematch. Briggs did manage to regroup, later becoming the lineal champ by controversially decisioning George Foreman. Wilson was soon flattened by Tua, in a round, but he did later give guys like Ray Mercer (L10) and Oliver McCall (KOby4) decent fights.
Golota, with his winning performance over Nicholson, gave us a foreshadowing of the crazy stuff he would get up to in the ring over the coming years. Golota, in charge of the fight with Nicholson, who had been beaten just one (stopped by Jeremy Williams), for some reason known only to him decided to crack his opponent with a blatant and obviously intentional headbutt. Deducted a point, the soon to be dubbed “Foul Pole” won when Nicholson retired after the eighth round. To his enormous credit, Nicholson came back after the butt, belting Golota with some hard shots in round six. Golota then gave Nicholson a hammering in the eighth. A wild fight indeed. But nothing compared to some of the unbelievable stuff Golota would get up to in the future.
For now, Golota was a 28-0 contender with a bright future. Nicholson would also go on to face Tua, being KO’d like Ruiz and Wilson were, although not as quickly (Nicholson lasting into the sixth round). Nicholson’s final fight saw him get stopped in four rounds by Wladimir Klitschko in a non-title fight.
All in all, it was an exciting, thrilling, unpredictable and memorable night of Young Heavyweights back on this day in 1996.