October 21, 2000
AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN
henever Mike Tyson fights, it's good to have a copy of The Big Book of Boxing Clichés handy. "Another black eye for boxing..." "expect the unexpected..." "controversy reigns supreme..." Even on a night when Mike Tyson fought within the rules (well, mostly) and doesn't threaten anyone's children in a post-fight interview (or even grant a post-fight interview), this tome can come in handy. After all, Tyson isn't the only one capable of ruining a major fight.
Tyson's rival in controversy, Andrew Golota, turned in a maestro performance of self-destruction that eclipsed almost every meltdown Tyson has ever had. In short, Golota finished the second round, returned to his corner, and decided that he had done enough to earn his $2.1 million purse. So he quit. The crowd, some of whom had paid $2,500 for a ringside seat, stood there in stunned silence. It was a bizarre night.
There were signs that Golota was not mentally up to the task prior to the bout. As the 2/3 full Detroit arena readied for the main event, ring announcer Jimmy Lennon, Jr. got on the mic and announced the ring entrance of Andrew Golota. The spotlight shown on the runway. The fans stood and looked. Golota did not come out.
As security guards stood around looking confused, Team Golota was nowhere to be found. Showtime eventually poked a camera around the corner into the Foul Pole's warm-up area. There was Golota, pacing furiously. Trainer Al Certo looked to be coaxing Golota out of the room. At one point the entire entourage prepared to leave, and started moving towards the exit, when Golota again turned his back and headed to the back of the dressing room. Golota's nerves have often been an issue, but never as overtly as this.
Eventually, Golota made the long slow walk to the ring. He was roundly booed by the crowd, and looked stoic as he finally stepped through the ropes. Tyson's entrance was not delayed, although if it had been Golota might have quit before the fight started. Instead, Tyson quickly entered the squared circle and before you could say "Michigan State Athletic Board of Control," the fight was on.
Tyson charged at Golota, bobbing and weaving like the Mike Tyson of old. Well, sort of. It was more a like a slo-mo replay of the Tyson of old, as his movement has diminished along with his suspect conditioning. Still, it was enough to befuddle Golota, who retreated with every charge. Tyson found early success by moving his head, throwing a quick but ineffective jab, then following his charge with a power shot. Twice he came in and landed a heavy shot to Golota's side. Each time Tyson's Everlast glove smacked Golota's arms or ribs, the slap of leather echoed through the ring.
Golota occasionally fired back at the charging Tyson, and found him incredibly easy to hit. Unfortunately, Golota's infrequent hooks were arm punches and his occasional right crosses were slaps. A few landed on Tyson, but none gave the former champion cause for concern. Golota effectively tied Tyson up a few times in the opening round, attempting to walk him backwards as Holyfield did four years ago. Miraculously, referee Frank Garza called for breaks, and the men broke. There was no punching on the break, and no rabbit punches in the clinches. Garza occasionally had to get between the men when his verbal commands were unheaded, but there was no wrestling going on between the combatants.
In fact, the first round was almost foul-free. At one point Golota did hit a charging Tyson below the belt, and Tyson immediately responded with a left hook that was 0% fist, 100% forearm. But for the most part this was a composed performance on the part of both men. Tyson was launching and landing a big overhand right, one of which opened a small cut over Golota's left eye. But Andrew seemed to take Tyson's power with ease... until the end of the round.
With 12 seconds on the clock, Tyson slipped under a weak Golota jab and followed with a big overhand right that landed on the button. It cracked against Golota's face, drew a gasp from the crowd, and buckled Golota's knees. Kneeling down and back, Golota touched his glove to the canvas to break a fall that would have put him on his seat. It was the first and only knockdown of the fight. Golota got up, shook out his legs, beat the count, and the round was over. 10-8 for Tyson.
Tyson knew that his best chance of victory was a early KO, and so he charged at Golota in the opening seconds of round two. Letting his hands go, Tyson threw his first sustained combinations, although almost none landed. Golota, who looked like a giant next to Tyson, was able to do some ducking himself, and Tyson's wild misses resulted in more tie-ups. After a minute, the pace slowed a bit, and Tyson now charged at Golota without leading with his jab. His forceful charges led to a spectacular banging of heads that put a shiny welt under Golota's cut left eye.
Golota tried to pick off Tyson as he charged in. He was able to put his hands on him a few times, but again with almost zero effect. Then, midway through the second, Tyson landed another big overhand right to Golota's face. Golota was now in full retreat, and backed away from Tyson by turning sideways and retreating with a look on his face that said "enough, already."
Golota was hurt and scared, and now began fighting like Laila Ali. Looking like a female fighter with only 2 pro bouts, Golota swung his arms in a pitiful display of offense. He looked like a man trying to brush an invisible fly away from his face. He didn't look like a pro boxer, but like a man unraveling... a man too confused to fight properly. Tyson obliged Golota's feeble swinging with more punishing blows. While Tyson was not particularly speedy, and not throwing short straight shots, he was still slipping effectively and grouping his wide power punches with ease. Another big right to Golota's head opened a third cut, on the bridge of the nose, and had Golota hugging not out of tactical advantage, but for dear life. Golota made it out of the second round shaken, but it wasn't the end of the world.
After all, Golota was on his feet and not wobbly. His face was marked up and cut, but not seriously. And Tyson, after a couple of wild combinations, could be seen breathing through his mouth at the end of the round. If Golota could sustain the incoming for another few minutes, Tyson might slow down even more and allow Golota an opportunity to win. After all, Tyson was available to be hit when Golota threw punches, er, slaps.
But Golota would have none of it. He briefly sat on his stool, but was soon on his feet telling his corner that he was quitting. His cutman was aghast, and trainer Al Certo was screaming his brains out. Golota pushed Certo aside, plodded out to center ring, and put his hands on the referee to tell him he was quitting. Golota couldn't form words, and when Garza told him he only had a few second before the third round began, Golota lightly shoved him back, too. Certo reigned Golota into the corner and, still screaming, tried to force Golota's mouthpiece back into his mouth. Like a kid who won't eat his vegetables, Golota turned his head and eventually spit out the mouthpiece when Certo worked it halfway in. Again, Golota shoved Certo away, and now paced the ring. It was over.
Tyson's corner celebrated while Tyson stood there with a neutral look on his face. Golota paced some more before letting himself out of the ring and beginning the long walk back to the dressing room. The crowd was stunned, too shocked to register a unified boo. Golota was pelted with all sorts of food and beverage as he searched for the tunnel. Tyson soon followed, leaving the ring without comment... without even an official announcement of the decision. The final decision was eventually announced as TKO3 for Tyson. This was a disaster.
So, once again, Mike Tyson's pay-per-view experience has been sabotaged. After trying in vain to build up Tyson's sagging popularity with "free" fights on Showtime, Team Tyson again finds itself with fans, perhaps as many as 1,000,000 homes worth, feeling ripped off after dropping serious change on a Tyson fight. If Shelley Finkel doesn't need more Zoloft than Tyson after this mess, it will be a miracle.
For Golota (now 36-5 with all five losses the result of choking), this is the end of the line. His career is over. Anyone who bought the bullshit excuse from the Grant fight that Golota didn't understand the ref's English is now red with embarrassment. Clearly Golota quit that night... tonight confirmed that quitting is in his blood. After the fight, he appeared distressed. Stuttering badly through an interview, he claimed that Tyson had unfairly been butting him without warning from the ref (Tyson did knock Golota's head in the second during a clinch, but it wasn't flagrant enough to absolutely be ruled intentional). Worse, Golota claimed that he was not knocked down in the first round... that he had merely slipped. Replays confirmed that Golota ate a flush Tyson overhand right in that round. In short, whether it was an anxiety attack or just plain fear, Golota destroyed what little was left of his reputation. No one will pay to see him fight again. When asked if he would retire, Golota stopped stuttering and offered only a chilly silence. After a long pause he simply said "I have heavy thoughts." Heavy, indeed.
For Mike Tyson (49-3-1nc/43), this was a great performance and an awful one. On one hand, Tyson showed that he's actually been listening to Tommy Brooks. Tyson moved his upper body more than in any fight since he first went to prison. He slipped Golota's punches and answered with devastating counters. Clearly, if any heavyweight eats one of these punches, it's going to be lights out.
But there was a downside to Mike's outing, as well. His head movement was often slow. He was easy to hit. After a round and a half of looking good, he reverted to coming inside without punching, and relying on his power. He looked winded after several flurries, and was slowing down when the bout ended. Worst of all, he looked like a midget next to Golota, who is a full size smaller than Lennox Lewis. As powerful as Tyson is, and he is probably still the most powerful man in the division, he still wouldn't be a challenge to Lewis. Even a disinterested Lewis would be able to touch Tyson at will. Since Tyson proved that he can abide by the rules, or at least break them subtly, the calls for Lewis-Tyson will increase. After this outing, Lennox might be even more eager to get it on.
Tyson-Golota was the capper to an absolutely excruciating undercard of uninteresting bouts. IBF 140 lb. champion Zab Judah looked completely mediocre for 8 rounds against hard-headed Hector Quiroz. Judah entered the ring 8.5 pounds over his official weigh-in weight, and it showed. After using handspeed and combinations for two rounds, Judah soon stood flat footed and countered Quiroz only when he had to. Quiroz's rugged determination earned him a couple of middle rounds, when Judah was content to clown with his hands down and eat unnecessary (but light) punches from the challenger. Judah was coasting, and in the sixth and seventh rounds the crowd openly booed. Because Judah hadn't come into the ring in top condition, and because Quiroz focused his mild attack on the body, Judah's handspeed advantage was not as drastic as it should have been. But it was still enough to pepper Quiroz consistently, and mold his face into a mess of swelling. By the eighth round, Quiroz' right eye had slammed shut, swollen above and below the socket. Referee Dale Grable called the doctor to the apron, who wisely advised the bout be ended. Boxing fans everywhere owe that doctor a thank you. Five more rounds of this snoozefest would have been too much.
Zab Judah had better get his act together. If he was half as good as he thinks he is, he'd be in the Hall of Fame right now. And while Judah's skills are extraordinary, and he justly deserves a top ten pound-for-pound ranking... it's time for him to step up. Enough tune-ups. Enough with the lackluster outings on major cards. Judah (25-0/19) had better get in the ring with Tszyu soon, because fans can't take much more clowning against sub-par competition. Pay-per-view is the venue to shine, not come in lazy and pick up a paycheck. Stardom awaits Zab Judah, but he has to grab it.
Before the Judah fight was an even worse contest. Laila Ali fought a 34 year-old woman with a 6-7 record. In the dressing room before the fight, her opponent, Kendra Lenhart, looked like Shane Mosley on the pads. Throwing speedy and compact combinations, she snapped her trainer's mitts with authority. Maybe now we'd see a real women's fight. But when she got into the ring, it was an embarrassing slapfest... from both women. Ali occasionally landed a normal-looking right hand, but mostly this was a slapfest of comical proportions. The bout almost didn't even take place. As Ali made her way to the ring, someone in her camp informed her that the Michigan State Athletic Board of Control had scheduled the bout for three-minute rounds. Ali heard this, turned her back on the ring, and returned to her dressing room. Her trainer/manager/husband told the commission that they would not fight unless the bout was made with two-minute rounds. The commission hemmed and hawed, and at first seemed to be sticking to their guns. But when Ali's opponent also insisted on two-minute rounds, they literally threw their hands up in the air and allowed the bout to continue.
It was a good thing they didn't insist on three-minute rounds, because both fighters might have suffered cardiac arrests. At the end of round one, both women were gasping for air. After three rounds, Lenhart (who appeared to be in good physical condition) could barely hold her torso upright. She turned bright red in the fifth, and looked like she might pass out in the sixth. Ali was in only slightly better shape. After a full round, Ali was also breathing extremely hard, and was unable to execute anything that resembled a textbook punch. Both women slapped and wrestled for six embarrassing rounds. In the second round, both ladies were wobbled by winging arm swings, but neither was in serious trouble. While Laila Ali may look like a world-beater in the gym, she was a major-league punchline in the ring. If any promoter thinks the public can be hoodwinked with a Laila Ali vs. Jacki Frazier match, they are wrong. No one will pay good money to see that garbage.
1996 Olympian Alex Trujillo won a unanimous decision in the opening bout of the pay-per-view card. The bout began spirited, as Trujillo threw ridiculously wild punches at durable Jose Juarez, who ate them all flush. Trujillo wowed what little crowd had arrived with his aggressive, yet unorthodox attack. Juarez' face was a mess after only a few rounds, but he made things interesting at the end of the fourth. After ducking a blow, Trujillo stood up right as Juarez launched a picture perfect left hook. The punch rocked Trujillo and sent him falling straight back. He landed stiffly, and appeared to catch his head on the bottom rope as he landed. Eyes open and looking vacant, Trujillo struggled to push himself up. Mostly, he lay there half-awake, and his attempts to rise were painful to watch. Many referees would have called the fight right then. But the ref continued his count. At eight, Trujillo had only barely made it to a sitting-up position. By nine he was on all fours and looked like he was still knocked out. But only a millisecond before the ref could utter "ten," Trujillo leapt to his feet and convinced the ref that he should continue. It was amazing. Trujillo was tentative for several rounds, but eventually regained his footing and his confidence. Once he did, he went back to reshaping Juarez' head, which boasted a fist-sized swelling on the forehead above his left eye by the time the scorecards were read. Trujillo improved to 19-0/14, but didn't look like a top-ten fighter.
All in all, it was a boring night of undercard malaise capped off with an interesting main-event that ended way too soon. Tyson fought clean enough that he avoids criticism, but still loses major points as a pay-per-view draw. Earlier in the week, Tyson claimed that this would "definitely be my last fight." No one believes him. But after he watches Lewis and Tua demonstrate how real world-class heavyweights perform, Iron Mike may have second thoughts.