Andrew Golota: Mike Tyson’s opponent even crazier than ‘Iron Mike’
Andrew Golota was a heavyweight boxer who faced off against Mike Tyson and displayed even more erratic behavior than the infamous “Iron Mike.” Despite his talent in the ring, Golota gained a reputation as an enigma due to his shocking actions, including biting one of his opponents and being disqualified twice in fights he was winning.
In 1996, Golota had a significant fight that resulted in a chaotic riot, so severe that Madison Square Garden, New York’s renowned boxing venue, refused to host any fights for three years. Then, in 2000, Golota abruptly quit after just two rounds against Tyson, leaving both the American fighter and the crowd bewildered and infuriated.
Considering his tumultuous upbringing, it’s perhaps not surprising that Golota exhibited such erratic behavior. He was dubbed the “Foul Pole” due to his numerous fouls during fights. Golota’s childhood was exceptionally difficult, even compared to Tyson’s upbringing in Brooklyn. At the age of five, his father took his own life, and his mother struggled to cope, resulting in Golota being placed in an orphanage.
Similar to many troubled individuals, boxing provided Golota with some solace. He showcased his exceptional talent as an amateur and even won a bronze medal at the 1988 Olympics. However, his behavior outside the ring continued to be problematic. In 1990, during a bar fight, Golota humiliated a man by stripping him naked and discarding his clothes in a garbage bin.
“I didn’t intend to harm the guy,” Golota later explained. “I simply wanted to embarrass him.” Nevertheless, he faced assault charges and decided to move to Chicago to commence his professional boxing career in the United States.
Golota accumulated an impressive record of 28 wins, all but three by knockout (25 KOs). However, it was in his 24th fight that the controversy surrounding him began to gain attention. After being rocked by Samson Poʻuha, Golota resorted to biting his opponent’s neck—an act that went unnoticed by the referee, allowing Golota to eventually secure a knockout victory over the Tongan fighter.
In 1996, Golota faced a significant challenge when he fought Riddick Bowe. Bowe, a former undisputed world champion, had recently defeated Evander Holyfield in their thrilling trilogy, winning the series 2-1. Bowe was widely regarded as one of the top heavyweight boxers in the world, and the match against him represented a significant step up in class for Golota.
“How do you train for a bum?” remarked a rather out-of-shape Riddick Bowe prior to the fight, clearly underestimating the challenge posed by Golota.
However, Golota was a physically strong and heavy-handed heavyweight, standing at 6 feet 4 inches tall, with an impressive amateur background. He demonstrated his skills by consistently outpunching Bowe, using his jab effectively and repeatedly rocking the sluggish American with powerful right hands.
Unfortunately, for every notable head shot Golota landed, he also landed numerous punches below Bowe’s belt. After losing several points due to low blows, Golota’s trainer, Lou Duva, pleaded, “Don’t throw anything below the shoulder! Just aim for his head.”
Despite the warnings, Golota couldn’t resist delivering another blatant shot to Bowe’s groin in the seventh round, leaving Bowe crumpled on the canvas. As a result, Golota was disqualified. Even with the three point deductions, Golota had performed so well that he was leading on all three judges’ scorecards at the time of the disqualification.
Following the disqualification, chaos erupted. Furious fans started a riot, and Bowe’s team attacked Golota, resulting in Lou Duva, the 74-year-old trainer, being knocked down, and Golota himself sustaining a cut on his head from being struck with a walkie-talkie.
Jim Lampley, the HBO host, who was shielded from the violence by analyst George Foreman, described it as the most terrifying situation he had ever witnessed during his extensive years of being ringside. The brawl lasted for about half an hour, leaving 22 people injured and resulting in 16 arrests.
Six months later, the rematch between Golota and Bowe took place, and unbelievably, it unfolded in almost the same manner as their first encounter. Bowe entered the ring weighing 17 pounds less than before. However, the toll of years of grueling fights and weight fluctuations had taken its toll on Bowe, and Golota once again had the upper hand, even scoring a knockdown in the second round. However, Golota was disqualified for low blows, this time in the ninth round.
With a record of 28 wins and 2 losses, and never having been stopped or defeated on points, Golota was widely regarded as a new threat in the heavyweight division. However, his reputation suffered a significant blow in his next fight, which happened to be his first heavyweight title challenge against Lennox Lewis.
In one of Lewis’s best performances, he quickly overwhelmed a stunned Golota in the first round, knocking him down and ultimately finishing him off in a mere 135 seconds. While Golota had demonstrated resilience and durability in his battles with Bowe, his mental fragility became apparent as a major issue.
In October 2000, Golota faced another troubled heavyweight figure, Mike Tyson. Prior to the highly anticipated bout, Tyson openly admitted, “I felt bad for that little referee. Between me and Golota, one of us might clock his ass.”
The first round of the fight ended explosively, with Tyson aggressively knocking down Golota with a powerful right hand. However, Golota managed to get back on his feet, and although Tyson dominated most of the second round, the Polish boxer fought back with several shots of his own.
There were no indications of what was about to unfold at the end of the second round when Golota informed his corner that he had no intention of continuing the fight. He then got up and began pacing the ring.
One of Golota’s cornermen sternly warned, “Don’t you f***ing do this!” while Al Certo, Golota’s trainer at the time, tried to forcefully put the gumshield back into his boxer’s mouth. Reflecting on the incident later, Certo remarked, “I should’ve shoved it up his ass.”
Despite their efforts, Golota remained resolute in his decision, and when the crowd caught wind of his surrender, he was bombarded with drink cups, some containing soda while others contained a more unpleasant-smelling liquid, as he hastily made his way back to the dressing room to prevent another potential riot.
Tyson, who had ominously risen from his stool upon hearing Golota’s retirement, seemingly prepared to confront Golota, was eventually calmed down by his own training team. After the fight, Golota attributed his self-sabotage to Tyson’s alleged headbutts during the match.
While sympathy for Golota was understandably scarce, a trip to the hospital revealed that the boxer had sustained a fractured cheekbone and a herniated disc in his neck from his brief six-minute encounter with ‘Iron Mike’.
Adding to the unusual nature of the fight, it was later declared a no-contest instead of a TKO victory for Tyson, as it was discovered that Tyson had failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana.