On This Day: Andrew Golota's One-Round KO By Lennox Lewis Sums Up His Career

Andrew Golota's consistently inconsistent career was summed up on this day in 1997
07:00, 04 Oct 2023

26 years ago today, Lennox Lewis blasted out Andrew Golota in a single round. ‘The Lion’ retained his WBC heavyweight championship with this stunning knockout of the highly-rated ‘Foul Pole’. The British great would go on to become the undisputed champion in the years that followed, while racking up career-defining wins over Evander Holyfield, Mike Tyson and Vitali Klitschko. But the path his opponent walked after the boxers left Atlantic City that night was not the gilded road of legends that Lewis occupied. No, for Andrew Golota there would be a drastically different journey in store.

Rewind to 1996 and Golota was a promising heavyweight with the world at his feet. The 6’4 slugger from Warsaw had accumulated a fearsome 28-0 record with 25 knockouts. Golota was also known for his somewhat questionable conduct between the ropes. This included the time he bit Samson Po’hua on the neck during a clinch before.


These stories did not faze former world heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe. After signing to fight Lewis, ‘Big Daddy’ selected Golota as his tune-up fight. Underestimating ‘The Powerful Pole’, Bowe responded to a question about his preparations with “How do you train for a bum?”. From observing the overweight Bowe, it was clear not much training had gone on at all. While Bowe fought the urge to laugh, Golota prepared for the fight of his life.

Golota simply could not stop landing leather on the shadow of Bowe before him. Apart from a mini-revival in round two, it was one-way traffic from the underdog. But, while Golota landed no shortage of shots, he could not keep a sufficient amount of them above the belt-line. Five low blows, during which Bowe took rests of varying lengths, were all referee Wayne Kelly could stand. Golota was disqualified in the seventh round.

Chaos unfolded, with Golota being attacked by Bowe’s team. He threw punches at one assailant before being struck with a cell phone. The resultant wound would require eleven stitches. Golota’s trainer Lou Duva went down clutching his chest. Fans of both fighters waded into the brawl while George Foreman tried to protect his colleagues on the HBO broadcasting team. Madison Square Garden was in disarray and Golota was at the centre of it all. It would not be the last time.

Bowe and Golota agreed to a rematch in Atlantic City the following year. Bowe had learned his lesson, weighing in 17 pounds less than he had for the humbling first bout. ‘Big Daddy’ had perhaps recognised he’d got lucky to emerge the victor last time. It looked for a while like Golota had learned his lessons too. Despite Bowe being in better shape, Golota was able to knock him down twice and was once again dominating the action. He also sent Bowe to the canvas three times with low blows and was disqualified, this time in the ninth round. Once again Golota had been afforded a golden opportunity for a signature win and once again he had destroyed it through his own carelessness.

Bowe would retire after the fight, not returning to the ring until 2005. This provided Golota with a stroke of luck. Despite losing his last two fights, the low-blow happy boxer was slotted into Bowe’s scheduled fight with Lewis. It was an exciting prospect. Golota could near enough match Lewis for size and, if he kept his punches up, he had the power to trouble the WBC champion. But, as you must have realised by now, no chapter in the boxing career of Andrew Golota goes quite how you expect it to.

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Golota was given a shot of a strong painkiller called lidocaine before arriving at the Atlantic City Convention Center to face Lewis. Referee Joe Cortez later remarked that he had noticed the Pole acting strangely before the bout. In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun, the official said, "I've seen a lot of fighters who were tight before a big fight, but he was exceptionally tight."

Golota froze in the ring, unable to stave off Lewis. The fight was over in 95 seconds. In one of the tamest heavyweight title challenges in boxing history, Golota just stood and watched as Lewis pounded him up against the turnbuckles. It was a mugging. But Golota lost more than just the fight. He had a seizure in his dressing room after the bout, his breathing stopping for 30 seconds. While the contender made a full recovery, he was fined $5,000 for allowing the lidocaine injection. Once more, a Golota fight had ended in the strangest of circumstances.

It would be a theme that the curious heavyweight returned to intermittently over the following few years. Golota went 8-1 after Lewis, manoeuvring himself into a fight with Mike Tyson. ‘Iron’ was starting to show signs of decline and some thought Golota, the sort of tall, rangy mauler that Tyson hated fighting, would be able to surprise a few folks. The only thing unsurprising about Golota is his propensity to surprise. Golota asked his corner to stop the fight after one round. They refused and so he reluctantly and disinterestedly ate more punches from ‘Iron’ Mike. He kept asking to be pulled out until eventually he just walked away, forcing the referee to stop the action. To add to the circus aspect of this scene, Golota did not even suffer a loss. While Mike was awarded the TKO on the night, he later failed a drugs test. Marijuana was found in the former champion’s system and the result became a no-contest.

Golota took three years away from the sport before knocking over a couple of soft touches in 2003. In the post-Lewis vacuum of the era, this was enough to secure Golota not one, not two but three world title shots. The first two served as a redemption of sorts for the troubled big man. A thrilling split draw with IBF champion Chris Byrd earned Golota a shot at WBA counterpart John Ruiz. In perhaps his finest top level performance, ‘The Powerful Pole’ looked to have done enough to win. But Ruiz was given a highly questionable unanimous decision nod.

These near-misses in world title fights secured him one last shot at a belt. WBO champion Lamon Brewster had stunned Wladimir Klitschko in four rounds to capture that belt the year before. After a poor first defence in which he beat fringe contender Kali Meehan by split decision, fans and pundits alike thought he was there for the taking. Golota was backed to finally complete his comeback by lifting the world title. Instead, he was spectacularly knocked out in the first round. The cursed existence of Andrew Golota, ladies and gentleman.

Golota would win his next three, before losing three fights and retiring in 2013. A symmetrically satisfying end that sums up the consistent inconsistencies of one of history’s most fascinating heavyweights. A man who outboxed the great Riddick Bowe and lost two fights to him. A man who earned fights with the very best in Tyson and Lewis, then wilted in the spotlight. A man who came within a whisker against two heavyweight champions in a row before being destroyed by a third. Golota represents a strange period in heavyweight history. You could argue that period reached its zenith 26 years ago today, as he was clubbed to the canvas by Lennox Lewis.

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