The Chronicles of Riddick… and Andrew

By G.E. Simons on March 27, 2014
The Chronicles of Riddick… and Andrew
Bowe hit the canvas heavily and was out in a fire of publicly private urological agony.

MMA kamikaze missions to Thailand aside, Bowe should be remembered as one of the nearly-greats of modern heavyweight boxing…

It has been said that in boxing, the violence is often more evident on the outside of the ropes, amongst the jaw clenching, jugular popping, blood vessel straining ringsiders than it is inside the ropes, where the real athletic integrity takes place.

But when Riddick Bowe met Andrew Golota for the first time, in July 1996 at Madison Square Garden, the violence started in the ring, spilled out of it into the arena and carried on out into a malevolent New York night.

The official fight ended with low blows, chaos and collapse, spilling over into one of the worst crowd riots ever seen at a high profile, modern sporting event.

The fight had ended after seven nasty rounds when Golota was disqualified for persistent and proper low blows, even though he was on the way to a clear points victory.

As Riddick lay prostrate on the canvas, in a pool of his own agony, a Team Bowe entourage retaliator burst a diagonal across the chaotic ring and smashed a two-way radio over Golota’s head, causing a gash that required 11 stitches.

Sheer chaos erupted.

Golota’s 73-year-old trainer, Lou Duva, collapsed in the Pole’s corner and was stretchered from it.

Numerous spectators and police were hospitalized in the guerrilla rioting that followed.

Sheer chaos continued.

This was the dark and brooding backdrop to what ring announcer Michael Buffer introduced as “the rematch that everyone had been waiting for” when the two met again only five months later.

On December 14th, Bowe and Golota faced off in a 10-round heavyweight feature at Caesars Atlantic City, in front of a full house, with millions of pay-per-viewers and more than 100 precautionary security guards in attendance.

Five months previously Bowe had strutted to the ring, pumping his fists and proclaiming ‘”Born to be king!” at the top of his ample lungs, despite not being in the greatest shape and weighing a then career heaviest of 252 lbs.

But then five months previously he hadn’t tasted the visceral nastiness of Polish thunder and didn’t expect to.

This time he looked pensive and much lighter as he walked towards the ring, but without the support of his long-time mentor in the legendary trainer Eddie Futch.

Futch had refused to be involved in any future encounter involving Golota and further believed that it was time for Bowe to hang up his gloves anyway.

So it was Thel Torrance who would be manning the corner in New Jersey.

Through the Polska Republica pageantry of his national anthem, Golota moved towards the ring with focused purpose, rolling his thick muscular neck to the delight of a small but vocal contingent of Polish supporters revelling in the occasion.

Pre-fight instructions.

Pensive combatants.

A brushing of blood red gloves.

Round one started with both fighters flicking out tentative jabs, but Bowe’s balance appeared fragile, his body mass diluted as the bigger, sturdier looking Golota stalked about and edged the opening stanza by jabbing with more authority and menace.

The second round opened with Golota peeking icy, slate eyes through his high European guard as Bowe tried to get a feel for the canvas through legs that looked over-trained to almost middleweight anatomy.

His winging right hands suggested that his fight narrative might be based on survival and one show-stopping knockout detonation.

Then Golota landed a short, chopping right hook to Bowe’s temple that saw the formerly undisputed heavyweight champion of the world turn, half-pirouette and then fall like heavy syrup.

He rose unsteadily and listened wearily to referee Eddie Cotton’s standing eight-count as if willing some respite already, but there were two minutes of the round remaining.

Bowe didn’t attempt to hold and tie things up; perhaps he couldn’t, so Golota was able to unload a brutal barrage of head and body shots.

He looked only seconds from victory, which might have been a blessing given what was to happen.

Somehow Bowe survived, flailing and bobbing like sloop masts gagging on Baltic Sea spray, until – typical of the Pole and maybe out of frustration that he hadn’t managed to end the fight – Golota rammed a spiteful head-butt into his opponent’s face.

This uncontrolled moment only succeeded in his being fined one point and the opening of a cut above that icy, slate left eye.

The round ended with Golota throwing out bombs, threats and glares as the bell tolled to end their three-minute congregation.

The fourth round started slowly until Bowe suddenly and finally found a shot to stiffen Golota.

Hope sprung and he followed it up with an untidy, almost desperate, five-punch combination that drove the Pole to the canvas for the first time.

Golota rose, his eyelid leaking a ribbon of blood, and as the action resumed he unloaded two more very low blows that saw Bowe crumple to the canvas.

Tellingly, Golota rested his blood-smeared head on the referee’s shoulder in subservience as another point was deducted.

His bright red glove seemed to be hovering over a bright red self-destruct button once more.

As the fifth started both fighters had been down.

Golota was cut and looked like he might melt down at any moment, whereas Bowe seemed barely there.

As the midpoint approached, Golota trapped Bowe on the ropes and unleashed a barrage of clubbing shots to head and body, which dropped his opponent.

This time it looked like the end.

But again Bowe somehow survived – he rose and even winked at his corner as he returned to it. If Eddie Futch had been there, that corner may not have let Bowe out for any more punishment.

But Futch was not there, and Bowe somehow weathered rounds six, seven and eight with Golota rattling off heavy, scoring punches that wobbled and rocked Bowe towards an inevitable defeat.

Riddick Bowe trudged out bleary-eyed for the ninth round, and was quickly pinned into a corner where Golota began to unleash more bombs.

But from nowhere Bowe suddenly landed his biggest right of the fight, squarely in the center of the Pole’s face, backing him up.

Bowe was too tired to fully capitalize.

So the scrappy action continued, that is, until out of frustration, malice, panic or all three, Golota slammed three full-blooded low blows into Bowe’s groin.

He hit the canvas heavily and was out in a fire of publicly private urological agony.

Referee Eddie Cotton immediately waved that the fight was over.

Bowe, already exhausted, his head resting on the bottom rope, received immediate medical treatment on the canvas. Worryingly, he was down for more than five minutes as the bloodied Golota had his gloves removed in silence by his dumbfounded corner and to the jeers of a disgusted crowd.

Those jeers of derision intensified as Michael Buffer announced that at two minutes, 58 seconds of the ninth round, Andrew Golota had been disqualified for persistent low blows. Riddick Bowe was declared the winner – again.

The scorecards confirmed that Golota had been merely three minutes from victory, all showing scores of 74-72, 75-73 and 75-71 in his favor, which entirely summed up the one-sided beating.

“Even I can’t control this guy!” Lou Duva had said pertinently in the build-up to the rematch. It seemed that no one could, let alone Andrew Golota himself.

After the first fight, Riddick Bowe’s mother Dorothy had famously told her son, “if that’s the best you can do, you may as well give up.’”

As Golota left the ring to a chorus of jeers and a hail of paper cups, Larry Merchant reminded the DQ winner of her assessment. Bowe simply responded by saying, “I thought I did a little better this time.”

Bowe didn’t fight again for more than seven years, during which time he joined and left the US marines over the course of 11 days.

Sadly, he slid downhill from there into much darker territory. Three months after leaving the Marines, Bowe was accused of assaulting his sister and, three months after that, assault and battery of his wife, which led to an injunction.

Bowe’s desperate response to this led to his later conviction for kidnapping his wife and children, and a sentence of 17 months in federal prison. In the initial court hearing, pleas were made by his legal defense based on diminished responsibility due to brain damage sustained during his boxing career, especially in the Golota fights. Tapes of Bowe’s voice before and after those encounters were played in court to highlight the slurring.

On September 25, 2004, 37-year-old Riddick Bowe returned to the ring, knocking out Marcus Rhode in the second round. Then followed a narrow points victory over 23-33-9 journeyman Billy Zumbrun, who landed far too many heavy blows on an overweight, under-prepared former undisputed heavyweight champion.

Bowe was declared bankrupt in late 2005, despite earning an estimated £30m in a career that had started with the NY Golden Gloves, progressed with an Olympic silver medal, and peaked in the early 1990s with true sporting superstar status when Bowe took the undisputed heavyweight title from Evander Holyfield in one of the greatest clashes of all time.

After another three-year layoff, a 41-year-old Riddick Bowe returned to the ring on December 13, 2008 on the undercard of Wladimir Klitschko’s title defense against Hasim Rahman in Mannheim, Germany.

He beat Gene Pukall over eight rounds by decision.

Whether or not he boxes again, MMA kamikaze missions to Thailand aside, Bowe should be remembered as one of the nearly-greats of modern heavyweight boxing.

Quicksilver hands, inside fighting guile world-class power and granite jawed, Bowe was an athlete bursting with natural talent, but one who never truly applied himself to his craft.

His record stands at an exceptional 43-1 with 33 knockouts, and we cannot rule out further fights both inside or outside of the boxing ring.

For Golota it seems the damage was more mental than physical.

Revealed as a bully whose machismo evaporated into fouling when his bludgeoning didn’t bring him victory, he appeared insecure and troubled in the fights that followed.

In his first post-Bowe fight, Golota ran into a prime Lennox Lewis who blew him away in a brutal round of punching, following which Golota reportedly collapsed from anxiety in his locker room.

A complete rebuild would be required if he was to continue as a fighter.

This he managed, with wins over the overmatched Eli Dixon and Jack Basting, the underpowered Corey Sanders, the aged pair of Tim Witherspoon and Jesse Ferguson, followed by the unknown Quinn Navarre.

Confidence restored, he then signed to meet the unbeaten American hope Michael Grant in a WBC heavyweight title eliminator in November 1999.

Golota started fast, flooring Grant twice in the first round. He outpunched and outthought the touted Grant until the 10th round when, heavily floored himself, Golota audibly said “No” when asked by the referee if he wanted to continue.

The next significant fight held a dark fascination. Taking place in Auburn Hills, Michigan, it was against fellow offender and tormentor of Queensberry, Mike Tyson.

The 2000 encounter was sold against an anything-can-happen outcome, with even Mike Tyson suggesting at the final press conference that Golota was a worse offender than himself – a statement that brought little disagreement from anyone.

As it was, Golota was felled in the first, survived the second and refused to come out for the third. A fast-corroding Iron Mike won the battle of the bullies and it looked like it might also be the end of the Pole’s pugilistic hopes too, beneath a rainstorm of soda, beer and verbal abuse as he left The Palace arena.

But when it comes to redemption, heavyweight boxing is very forgiving – especially if there is a dollar to be made.

Following an easy win over an overmatched Terrence Lewis in New York, Golota secured back-to-back world title fights.

He won neither, but both went some way to restoring his reputation and reminding spectators that he really could fight. The first, for the IBF title against Chris Byrd, saw a draw announced as the verdict.

This was followed by a unanimous 12-round defeat by John Ruiz for the WBA title, a fight that saw Ruiz hit the canvas twice and that most observers felt Golota had done more than enough to win.

A third consecutive tilt at the heavyweight world title, albeit the lesser WBO version, saw Golota meet Lamon Brewster as an overwhelming favorite, only to be dropped three times and blown away in just 53 seconds of the first round.

Following two years of inactivity, Golota returned to the ring in his home country of Poland, knocking out Jeremy Bates in two rounds. He then captured the IBF North American title by stopping “Ghost of Tyson” victor Kevin McBride in New York, followed by a unanimous points victory over Mike Mollo in the same city.

On November 7, 2008, Andrew Golota returned to China having previously beaten Marcus Rhode there in 2000 in what was China’s first mainstream boxing showcase.

He was to fight the very beatable Ray Austin and, in what should have been the end for the fragile 40-year-old Pole, quit after an opening round in which he tasted the canvas following a stiff Austin right hand, citing an arm injury.

Footnote fights in his native Poland in civil wars against Tomasz Adamek in 2009 and Przemyslaw Saleta in 2013, ended in TKO and KO losses respectively.

Golota has been in with most of the greats and fringe contenders of heavyweight boxing of the last 20 years and is probably one of the better modern heavyweights never to win a major version of the world title.

The potential he showed pre-Bowe, and in fleeting glimpses since, pales into insignificance against the impression that he is ultimately a deeply flawed and insecure man.

That is no crime in itself, but it isn’t the make-up required to step into the heavyweight-boxing ring, the most dangerous, beautiful and high-adrenaline crucible, not only in sport but also perhaps in all human endeavor.

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Riddick Bowe vs Andrew Golota I

Riddick Bowe vs Andrew Golota II

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  1. Eric 08:36am, 03/30/2014

    Bowe should get into the HOF. Ken Norton is in the HOF and his career was basically built on his trilogy with Ali, just as Bowe is noted for his trilogy with Holyfield. Norton beat up a washed up Quarry, Bowe beat up a washed up Pinklon Thomas and Michael Dokes. Bowe had the Golota fiascos and Norton had Foreman, Shavers and Cooney. Both would rank in the top 20-25 heavyweights.

  2. kid vegas 10:20pm, 03/29/2014

    Bowe belongs in the Hall of Fame but won’t get in for all the wrong reasons.

  3. Darrell 12:26pm, 03/29/2014

    I still can’t see Bowe getting past Lewis, aside from landing a flush one which can happen at any time in heavyweight boxing.

    Lewis is undeniably great, with a stronger mind (when he wasn’t in over-confident bordering on arrogant mode), bigger right hand, better defence and power right at the end of his punch, he would’ve beaten Bowe convincingly methinks.

  4. bikermike 06:43pm, 03/28/2014

    I’m not so sure about that comparison of Golota and Cooney

    Cooney…poorly managed and poorly matched…remained inactive…due to the whacko twins’ strategy..

    Cooney stepped in with BIG CAT….and ...didn’t fold…he too took a few more shots at the below the belt region…Mills Lane nailed him for that….

    but Cooney didn’t fold…..

    Golota did…twice for sure

  5. bikermike 06:31pm, 03/28/2014

    and bowe…doing his own unique version of applying to become an actor…after his ring career ends…..........gave some grand performances

  6. bikermike 06:30pm, 03/28/2014

    I got to tell you…this guy Golota had me scratching my head….He is ahead..and beating the bloated bowe….and still launches repeated shots to the pills !! new meaning to that old croon…..I threw it all away

  7. Gajjers 12:57pm, 03/28/2014

    Well put Eric, but to my jaundiced eye Cooney was a gentle giant, killer left hook notwithstanding, whereas Golota was a roughneck bruiser, & all round bad ass (ran from the Polish law to the US, if the article I read was right). That phrase “inside fighting guile” used in reference to Bowe pretty much sums him up in my mind. Never saw a real big man with a better inside game - still marvel at it, truth be told. I thought he was better than Lewis when he pulled that title belt-dumping stunt (their respective trainers Eddie Futch & Pepe Correa should adequately qualify their respective development at that stage), but his personal demons got the better of him eventually. Huge under-achiever in my view, but the human landscape is awash with them. Nice write-up, Mr. Simons. I’m waiting for your next offering - well done!

  8. Eric 08:18am, 03/28/2014

    @Darrell, Agree. Golota was like Cooney. As big, strong, and powerful as both were physically, they were both pretty fragile mentally. Both had the tools to become champions. If only you could have given both the heart, guts, and determination of an undersized Jerry Quarry, they both would have went a long way.

  9. Darrell 09:49pm, 03/27/2014

    There was always something to like about Golota.  Maybe it was his rough hewn, powerful “brick layers” physique…..a bit of a working class hero persona.  He could certainly box when he had his head together.

  10. raxman 02:38pm, 03/27/2014

    I want to like Bowe - great boxing skills especially for a guy his size - but I can never get past the shameless ducking of Lewis. dressing it up for the press by literally dumping the belt doesn’t disguise the fact that the Olympic final KO had really got into Bowe’s head and he just didn’t want to ever face LL again.
    Say what you will re Rock Newman but it would be fascinating to see what the guy would’ve come up with if around in the modern age of social media and the like

  11. nicolas 01:17pm, 03/27/2014

    the eventual of both ,men was seen coming. I think that Rock Newman might have been bad for Bowe. the throwing of the belt into the garbage can, and the other incidents that bordered on Pro Wrestling type events. With Golota, I remember in frustration how he head butted Darnell Williamson because the guy would not go down, and his biting a Samoan boxer when he was in some difficulties. Bowe will always be best known for having beaten Holyfield twice, and once by knockout, though I think to all concerned, had they had a forth meeting Holyfield would have won.

  12. Eric 07:36am, 03/27/2014

    Riddick Bowe is like Ken Norton, his career is remembered mostly from three memorable fights with an all time great. Beating shopworn versions of Jesse Ferguson, Tyrell Biggs, Michael Dokes, Tony Tubbs, and Pinklon Thomas doesn’t make an all time great. In reality the “Foul Pole” defeated Bowe twice, if not for the strange behavior of Golota, Bowe would’ve had two more Ls to his ledger. And Bowe avoided Lennox Lewis aka thus avoiding another loss. Bowe probably belongs in the top 20, but no way he gets in the all time 10 rankings for heavyweight. Bowe would’ve fit right in the Moob era of the early eighties.  Tubbs, Page, Witherspoon, and Bowe would’ve jiggled their way to some memorable fights back then.

  13. Pete The Sneak 04:43am, 03/27/2014

    G.E. Simons, thoroughly enjoyed this read. Yeah, those were some crazy ass fights Bowe/Golota (aka Foul Pole, one of the great nicknames given by the press)...Credit Eddie Futch, who saw Bowe’s downfall coming and implored him to perhaps pack it in. He knew Bowe was notorious for his lack of training and not being in shape and his gluttony would have made George Foreman cringe. Thus his refusal to be in his corner for the Golota fight (or any other after that)...Still, Bowe was indeed special early on in his career and you would have thought his reign would have been much longer…Golota was also tough as nails, until he discovered his ‘South of the Border’ offense, which may have cost him a heavyweight title at the time. Yeah, I think the dude (Golota) definitely had some mental instability issues when things didn’t go his way…Peace.

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