This story begins, as it must, on the night when Andrew Golota
stole another man's pants.
Poor Piotr Bialostocki had no clue when he bumped into Golota on
May 12, 1990, at a disco in Wloclawek, Poland, that Golota was a
member of the Polish national boxing team or, perhaps more
important, that he was the undisputed heavyweight champion of
barroom brawls. Bialostocki rather impudently asked the 6'4",
205-pound Golota to move out of his path. Golota denied the
request. Fortified by some cocktails, the machinist, who was
about half a foot and some 50 pounds smaller than Golota,
challenged the similarly inebriated Golota to fight. Bad move,
Piotr. After a scene that can only be described as something out
of Looney Tunes, Bialostocki found himself wearing only a
shiner, his BVDs and one shoe. Golota, accompanied by several
boxing buddies, had removed the rest of Bialostocki's wardrobe
and deposited the garments outside in the trash. "I didn't want
to hurt the guy," Golota says. "I just wanted to make him look
A few months later, facing charges of assault and robbery that
could carry a punishment of five years in jail, Golota fled his
native Poland and has not returned. So it should have come as
little surprise on the evening of July 11 at Madison Square
Garden when Golota, well on his way to a stunning upset of
Riddick Bowe in the biggest fight of his life, interpreted the
rules of boxing in his unique fashion, nailing Bowe at least six
times below the belt. Golota was disqualified, sparking a riot
that lasted half an hour and injured 22 people.
The headlines above the exultant accounts of the bout in the
Polish newspapers the next morning referred to Golota as
scigany. The "fugitive." "It's crazy," Golota says. "In Poland
today I am a hero, and I am also a wanted man."
A Polish joke. That's how Bowe saw Golota before the bout. But
why? Golota hadn't lost any of his previous 28 pro fights,
registering 25 knockouts and demonstrating his eagerness to do
anything to win. During a March showcase for up-and-coming
heavyweights, Golota used a vicious head butt to knock Dannell
Nicholson loopy in the fifth round before knocking him out in
the eighth. In another bout, against Samson Po'hua in May 1995,
Golota struggled until he bit his rival on the neck during a
clinch. Po'hua understandably lost his nerve and then the fight
in five rounds. "I have to teach Andrew the rules without taking
away his hunger," says Golota's trainer, Lou Duva. "Fighting for
survival has been the story of his life."
Golota was born in Warsaw on Jan. 5, 1968, the only child of
Bozena and Andrzej Golota. His parents split up when he was
three, and he was raised primarily by his uncle Zdzisla and aunt
Jadwiga in one of Warsaw's most menacing neighborhoods. Golota
describes himself in his youth as a bully, thrown out of school
regularly, mostly because he was the largest, meanest kid in his
class and he possessed a slight stutter, which acted as kindling
for dozens of unsanctioned after-school bouts. Recognizing the
grit in his 12-year-old nephew, Uncle Zdzisla brought Golota to
the Legia Boxing Club, an elite military training center, for
some world-class tutoring in the ring. Golota was a pugilistic
prodigy. "Most of my family was against my boxing, feeling I
should not play such a brutal sport," Golota says. "They were
scared that I would get a flat nose."
While building a 111-10 amateur record from 1984 to '90, Golota
won a bronze medal in the heavyweight division at the '88
Olympic Games in Seoul. In the summer of '89 Golota traveled to
the U.S. for the first time, as a participant in a dual meet
between the American and Polish amateur boxing teams. During
that trip he met Mariola Babicz, a native of Poland who had
lived in Chicago since the age of nine, and they were married in
Golota was frustrated in America because he spoke almost no
English (a situation that has improved only slightly). He was
pondering a career as a truck driver. Then one day at O'Hare
Airport he was spotted by a U.S. customs agent, Dick Trindle,
who was also a USA Boxing official. Trindle steered him toward
Bob O'Donnell's Windy City Gym, and O'Donnell became his
manager. Though Golota was initially intimidated by professional
boxing, Mariola persuaded him to return to the ring.
Golota earned $50 per round for his early fights, most of which
ended in first-round knockouts before boisterous Polish crowds
in Chicago. "In the Polish community he is like Rocky, but the
Poles don't really understand boxing," says Perzemyslaw
Garczarczyk, a Polish journalist who lives in Chicago and has
known Golota for six years. "At the beginning they said to
Andrew, 'Why not fight Evander Holyfield on Wednesday, then Mike
Tyson on Friday, and you will be world champion by the weekend?'"
Golota eventually learned the subtleties of pro boxing by
serving as a sparring partner for former heavyweight champion
Lennox Lewis. But most experts believed that Golota had bitten
off more than even he could chew against Bowe, who was a
From the opening bell, Golota's body punches wandered south. He
was warned about a low blow in the second round, an act of
revenge that Golota admits was intentional. "The first low blow
was real," he says. "Bowe hit me behind the head and in the
kidney, and I said, 'You've got to feel something too. Here's
Meanwhile Golota set about proving he could box. He outjabbed
Bowe, who is considered to have the best jab in the division,
regularly beating the bloated 252-pounder to the punch. Trouble
was, Golota was penalized a point for borderline low blows in
the fourth, sixth and seventh rounds. After a second low blow in
the seventh round, Bowe collapsed to the canvas and rolled
around in apparent agony.
Golota was disqualified by referee Wayne Kelly, handing Bowe the
victory even though the former champ had won just one round on
two of the judge's scorecards and two rounds on the other card.
"I've looked at the last low blow on tape 20 times, and you
couldn't knock over my grandmother with that punch," Duva says.
"Bowe was losing, so he put on an act, and it was an Academy
When asked to respond to Duva's accusations, both Bowe and his
manager, Rock Newman, refused.
During the postfight fight Golota was attacked by members of
Bowe's entourage, one of whom cracked him over the head with a
walkie-talkie, opening a gash on his scalp. Golota had to sit in
his dressing room for two hours while the riot boiled and a
doctor sewed up his head with 13 stitches.
Now Golota is the biggest thing in Poland next to kielbasa and
Pope John Paul II. The prodigal son admits that he would like to
return to his homeland, but he is apprehensive about the pending
legal action. During a recent meeting with Polish president
Aleksander Kwasniewski in New York, Golota appealed for help,
but the president could promise no Warsaw pact, instead telling
the boxer, "Good job in the ring, but next time keep your
Kwasniewski has no recourse because in Poland criminal charges,
no matter how trivial, cannot be dropped without a trial, even
though Bialostocki no longer wishes to pursue the matter. "If I
could, I would forget the case and throw it from the court,"
Bialostocki has told a reporter. "Nobody likes to be beaten up,
but it's always better to be beaten up by a champion."
The judge who would handle the case says, "We've got more
important things to do in Wloclawek." The public agrees. One
Polish newspaper conducted a phone poll to sample opinion on
Golota's legal fate. Clemency won by a landslide.
Golota's people are negotiating a deal with HBO, even though
none of the current heavyweight champions are daring or dumb
enough to fight him. There is talk of a rematch with Bowe later
this year that would net Golota his first million-dollar
paycheck. In the meantime, Golota is going Hollywood, reading
for the role of Slashchev, a Russian mafia goon, in the upcoming
remake of The Day of the Jackal. His lines are as follows:
"No. No English. Private here. You go."
"I say you go!"
The script sounds a lot like one of his interviews. At a recent
lunch with Garczarczyk and another reporter, Golota restlessly
answered inquiries in a similar manner, adding a series of
grunts and other guttural mumblings. Finally, after an hour or
so, Golota left the table, thus ending a conversation slightly
more arduous than spleen removal. At that point Garczarczyk
turned to his fellow journalist and said sincerely, "Wow, I have
never seen Andrew open up like that before."
Just when Polish-American relations appeared doomed, Golota
returned, and he was suddenly, magically, eloquent in his
adopted tongue, as if he had crammed Berlitz or at least
rehearsed a speech while settling the bill. "I wanted to tell
you that growing up in Poland, I would watch videotapes of
Muhammad Ali, thinking all the time about becoming the
heavyweight champion of the world and living the American
dream," says Golota. "Now I guess I am living the dream better
than most of you Americans, yes?"
Now that's a low blow.