Dark Heart’s Cowboy vs. The Tortured Soul Kid

By G.E. Simons on January 29, 2013
Dark Heart’s Cowboy vs. The Tortured Soul Kid
"Come on you f*ck ya!" said Lou Duva. "You’re gonna fight and you’re gonna win this fight."

Boxing is more than difficult. It is life and death. It is basic and poetic. It is euphoric and catastrophic. It is tragic and heroic…

                                                          Part 1

Mike Tyson and Andrew Golota agreed to diagnose each other through the psychology of Queensberry, on October 20, 2000. The Palace of Auburn Hills, Michigan provided the consultation space.

Back then this was a fight that generated true gothic fascination. Because it pitted two meaty, vicious bullies who both owned fragile and complex psyches more typical of Gertrude Stein’s literary clique of 1920s Paris than elite level fighters.

In the buildup, Tyson himself described the forthcoming encounter as “A freak show between two of the dirtiest fighters in the business.”

But in Victorian freak shows, the event was always more glorious than grotesque, more staggering than sickening and more revelatory than repugnant. In millennial heavyweight boxing promotion, the rules were slightly different, especially when Mike Tyson was producing the marketing copy.

By way of reply, Golota had stated “I don’t know how dirty I will get if Tyson gets dirty.”

The Showdown in Motown, as it was billed, might have offered shoals of muscle but was clearly going to end with most of us asking “what’s goin’ on?”

As the “always classy” Jimmy Lennon Jr. would announce on behalf of his Showtime paymasters, Mike Tyson still really needed no introduction the world over in 2000. But his man of iron aura was at best a reddish, oxidizing and deeply historical one.

Those that had swigged Diet Pepsi, watched Back to the Future and listened to Bad as the Tyson freight train gathered momentum now knew, as of course did he, that it was already all over.

Tyson himself had partied and self-destructed the decade to death, until the end well and truly started to begin. Buster Douglas had capitalized on that as the new decade began. Imprisonment for rape had incubated it and Evander Holyfield had rubber-stamped it in 1996 and 1997.

In the six fights leading up to this vampyric encounter, and in chronological order, Tyson had been proper whipped and then disqualified out of sight with the infamous ear biting DQ, in his brace of fights with Evander Holyfield.

A foul filled fight with the gamely pugnacious Frans Botha had followed. He clutched show-stopping victory from the jaws of ugly defeat with a highlight reel right-hander, even though he had been trying to break the White Buffalo’s arm for most of the spiteful five rounds that the fight had lasted.

Then came a no contest against the unspectacular cruiserweight Orlin Norris who he popped right on the stroke of the closing bell of the first round. The “Night Train” collapsed as if zapped by a sniper in the cheap seats.

This was followed by a patsy smashing second round TKO of the journeyman Julius Francis at Manchester’s MEN Arena in the UK. Francis had sold advertising space on the soles of his boxing boots to The Sun newspaper if you need a reminder of his ambitions.

Next was a night of McFilthy action at Scotland’s Hampden Park where the gales from Tyson’s missing right hooks felled the comically win-heavy record owner, Lou Savarese in one. But this was a night more famous for Tyson assaulting intervening referee John Coyle, as his meds kicked in (or out) and he looked to smash his Italian-American opponent in a way that Apollo Creed could never do to Rocky Balboa. 

In summary, Tyson was at his maddest, saddest and probably least balanced in more than a decade when he inked the deal to fight Poland’s, Chicago-based Andrew Golota. 

So what of Andrew Golota?

Until 1996 he was considered a deadly Eastern European insurgent. Way before the Klitschko brothers had made a significant impact on international heavyweight boxing. Let alone the Valuevs, Ibragimovs or Povetkins of this world.

Andrew Golota was a 6’4”, ice-white killer. A thick-necked, broad-backed, emotionless assassin who cut through opponents like icebreakers in the Antarctic Ocean. He racked up a 28-0 record with 24 of those wins coming by KO or TKO and looked unbeatable.

Then he ran into Riddick Bowe.

His brace of 1996 fights with Big Daddy were sickeners for everyone involved, be it the crowd, the cornermen and most especially the fighters themselves, because no one was ever the same again.

Golota smashed Riddick Bowe up in both of those fights, took a massive amount of punishment in return and along the way somehow managed to foul himself into low blow disqualification in both of them.

The second saw him flailing at the heartbeat of a visceral Boardwalk Hall riot, as Bowe lay prostrate on the canvas in urological agony.

Following that mayhem, Lou Duva, Golota’s streetwise dynamo of a chief trainer told him, “Go away and don’t come back until you’ve found your head.”

Golota returned just under a year later to face Lennox Lewis. In that fight he had an anxiety attack before the bout. Was knocked out in the first round of it. Then suffered a seizure in the locker room afterwards and was hospitalized for observation.

To some degree Golota was able to rebuild following this big defeat with six routine wins over the likes of Eli Dixon, Corey Sanders and Quinn Navarre.

In his next fight he was outpointing the big old unit of Michael Grant, having knocked him down twice, before walking onto a solid straight right and follow up barrage in the 10th that felled him. Referee Randy Neumann asked the risen Golota twice if he wanted to continue but received no reply. When he asked for a third time, the reply was an audible “no” and the fight was over.

Ordinary wins over Marcus Rhode and previous Tyson “foe” Orlin Norris followed.

The fact that he never really found his head became the constant Achilles heel of Golota’s career and the last thing any fighter would want lurking in his makeup. Let alone when facing even a 34-year-old Ironish Mike Tyson of Catskill, New York, who if nothing else was still a bloody mean puncher.

Which takes us back to The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan in October 2000.

                                                          Part 2

“The man who thinks he can and the man who thinks he can’t, are both right. Which one are you?”—Henry Ford

Golota stalked to the ring looking his usual, pre-fight brutal self, in red and white satin, as a smattering of Polish fans with red-crayoned faces shrieked their ex-patriot approval from the stalls.

He certainly looked the simmering part, all thickset, cold-eyed and determined of jawline.

Tyson made his way to a ring now occupied by rap collective Cash Money Millionaires. Public Enemy they weren’t, but offered a toastin’ template of the mainstream future of hip-hop, boasting Lil’ Wayne amongst others in their ranks as they spat out a bespoke Iron Mike eulogy.

Visually, Tyson still had it. A white snag of toweling hung over his bench-pressing shoulders and pectorals in a V and his famously thick neck rolled as he ring-walked in animalistic forbid. His face was a sweat of diamonds. His eyes were merciless and his boots were basic, just like in the 1980s.

Somehow, Tyson still just about retained that dark cowboy aura that shriveled his opponents at the stare down, like a desert sun boiling young tomatoes on the vine.  And with his shaven scalp, jail tattoos and jet-black trunks he did it again to Andrew Golota.

During the introductions, neither man looked especially keen to be there. And with the autobiographical information we have learned since, that is no surprise. Especially in the case of Mike, who had long ago stopped fighting for anything other than dollars.

This apparent reticence, thankfully making a mockery of his reply “die” to the pre-fight interview question of, “What do you expect Golota to do?”

Referee Frank Garza, had infamously been the only official who would agree to preside over a Tommy Morrison fight following his HIV diagnosis. This gave his appointment here an added frisson of macabre appropriateness too.

He noted that Mike’s belly button offered the low blow plimsoll line. Tyson shuffled his feet, Golota spasmed his neck and neither man fancied much in the way of eye contact.

They sort of touched bright red gloves on the turning away from each other.

Round one.

Tyson came out swinging, showing the head movement of the good old days as he whipped in a chaos of early hooks. Golota rigidly skittered in tense looking reply, holding his classically European upright style while lancing out the odd left hand rangefinder.

They started to exchange a little bit. Tyson looked squat and muscular, against his visibly much bigger looking opponent in the clinches.

Then with 14 seconds of the round remaining, Tyson caught Golota with a pitch perfect right hook that detonated on the Pole’s jaw and sent him clumsily to the canvas like a deflating accordion.

He was up quickly and didn’t look unduly hurt by a punch that had put many former recipients down, out and then up into an orbit from which they would not return to their feet before the end of the 10-count.

A ribbon of blood leaked from Golota’s right eye as he returned to his corner.

Chief second, Al Certo, has since said that Golota returned with the words “I quit.” Somehow he was coerced back into action as the bell rang to open round 2, with an imploring, “Come on let’s go!”

The irony is, that if Golota had held his nerve and stood his brutal ground as he began to do in the second round, this is a fight he definitely could have won.

A booming smack or two to Tyson’s outwardly rippling midriff but inwardly partied out gut could well have put him away. And sustained pressure, of which Golota was eminently capable, almost certainly would have.

And for the first minute, the then WBC No. 9 ranked heavyweight, Andrew Golota, gave it a go as the two big heavyweight bullyboys went at it, traded leather and roughhoused with heads, elbows and forearms as well as with fists.

Round two was competitive.

Tyson returned to the calm of Tommy Brooks’ always-impeccable advice and considered strategy, sat on his stool and received the squeezing of an orange sponge of water onto his famous neck.

In the opposite corner all hell was breaking loose.

Andrew Golota: (Spitting out his mouthpiece and falling to his stool) Stop the fight.

Lou Duva: Shut up! Don’t talk like that!

Andrew Golota: Stop it. Stop it.

Lou Duva: Come on you f*ck ya! You’re gonna fight and you’re gonna win this fight.

Lou Duva: Throw that right f*cking hand! You hear?

Andrew Golota: Stop the fight.

Lou Duva: Don’t you dare. Don’t you dare, you c*cksucker! You’re gonna win this fight. Wash his mouthpiece. Take a deep breath.

As so it went on. Until Golota rose from the stool shrugging off the team working on his cuts and Duva himself who was trying to replace his mouthpiece as the bell loomed.

Duva begged Golota not to “disgrace himself” as the fighter began pacing the ring, repelling the similarly confused referee Garza by gloves to his shirtfront.

Tragicomically Duva then followed the stalking Golota around the ring trying to insert that rinsed mouthpiece into the fighter’s closed mouth and through a tangle of his muscular Polish arms.

But that was that. The fight was over.

Tyson was held aloft in victory by his corner where he offered a more aggressive facial expression than he had throughout the fight.

He was forced to accept a gifted victory. One that he had he wanted to earn, preferably by exciting rather than technical knockout. Remember, Tyson was still rebuilding toward a qualified tilt at a version of the title again and the financial rewards that that would bring.

Andrew Golota left the ring to a hail of junk food remnants, beer cups, popcorn and soda that the crowd had been gorging on while hoping for a knockout. You had to feel for Andrew as a final cherry-colored Slush Puppy hit him full in the side of the face before he disappeared into the catacombs beneath the arena and the baying crowd. 

Incredibly, Showtime’s reporter Bill Bogs actually gained immediate access to Golota’s dressing room seconds after the fighter himself got there.

Bill Boggs: Mr. Golota, Andrew… The crowd is stunned. They can’t believe it. What happened?

Andrew Golota: First of all it wasn’t my day today but. I got a head-butt…

Then tellingly, the clearly anxious and suffering fighter twitched and stammered his answers. He covered referees not doing their jobs, being the victim of a head-butt, resultant dizziness and latterly apologized to stadium attendees and pay-per-viewers for letting them down.

Andrew Golota: Listen, boxing is a very difficult sport you know…

Boxing is more than difficult. It is life and death. It is basic and poetic. It is euphoric and catastrophic. It is tragic and heroic.

In the days that followed the fight, Mike Tyson tested positively for marijuana metabolites, which forced the Michigan Athletic Board of Control to change the technical knockout victory to a no contest.

Andrew Golota was proven to have suffered concussion and a fractured left cheekbone as a result of the encounter and would not fight again for three years.

Perhaps boxing is a very difficult sport.

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Mike Tyson Vs Andrew Golota 2000

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  1. David 05:48am, 12/09/2015

    Al Certo not Lou Duva

  2. pugknows 09:17pm, 02/09/2013

    The Pole was very foul.

  3. Peter 05:31am, 02/02/2013

    It wasn’t Lou Douva! The article should be edited.

  4. Jason 07:03pm, 01/30/2013

    Eric, yes.

  5. Eric 04:51pm, 01/30/2013

    If Jerry Quarry had been blessed with Golota’s body he would have been champ. Of course if Golota had been blessed with Quarry’s heart he would have been champ. However, both were erratic and unpredictable. Golota had all the physical attributes but as strong as he was physically he was just as weak mentally. You could also say the same thing for another talented, huge, wrecking machine named Gerry Cooney.

  6. McGrain 08:00am, 01/30/2013

    New boy did good!! re-watching this fight now.

  7. Jason 07:16am, 01/30/2013

    I’ve watched this fight ... this brief clash…many times. It was obvious the Pol was hurt. He wasn’t a head case. He just had a severe case of a cracked head.

    The guy was hurt. In addition to the injuries mentioned, I read he had a fractured neck.

    The interview is the most important part. It says it all in ways Andrew was clearly unable to.

    Anyone who has suffered a concussion, it’s immediate and apparent to the recipient. I got laid out last week, and my head hurt for days. I felt like I had a bad hangover that wouldn’t go away. Like I had been eaten by a pack of wild dogs and crapped off a cliff.  During this time, I missed that peaceful few seconds of sleep I got, napping there on the canvas.

    He knew he was hurt. He knew if he went back out there, he would die. Boxing is a very difficult sport indeed.

  8. Mike Casey 05:39am, 01/30/2013

    Two head cases together. It was always going to be wacky. G.E.‘s opening paragraph is nicely apt!

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