In yet another example of life imitating bad art, last Saturday's rematch between Riddick Bowe and Andrew Golota at the Atlantic City Convention Center shamelessly ransacked Rocky IV. Like Rocky Balboa, Bowe is a lovable lug and a former heavyweight champion who was out to avenge a shellacking. And like Eastern bloc-head Ivan Drago, the Polish-born Golota is a scowling cuss. The main difference between fight fact and fight fiction on Saturday was the ending: Fact turned out to be far more improbable than anything Sylvester Stallone ever cooked up.
Just as in their first bout on July 11, Golota was handling Bowe easily in the scheduled 10-rounder: After eight rounds he was ahead on the cards of all three judges (75-71, 75-73 and 74-72). And just as in July, the 6'5" Bowe was awarded the victory after Golota was disqualified for repeated low blows. This time the final foul—a right-left-right combination to Bowe's groin—came with only two seconds left in the ninth round. "Golota had the fight won, he had it won!" moaned his co-trainer, Lou Duva. "I pleaded with him: 'You're way ahead. Just throw straight jabs and straight rights. Straight. Straight. Straight. Don't go to the body.' What made him go low, I don't know. I can't explain it. And neither can he. Maybe next time I'll have him fight a midget."
Golota has a voice that issues from a mouth seemingly full of marbles. Sometimes the results are comical. In Atlantic City, Golota called room service and ordered a pitcher of orange juice and a pitcher of cranberry juice. A waiter soon arrived with the two pitchers, a bucket of ice, a bottle of Absolut vodka and a bill for $183. It turns out Golota had said, "Absolutely no ice."
Inside the ring, the 6'4", 239-pound Golota is a huge, unruly talent who delivers more cheap shots than David Letterman. His repertoire last Saturday included rabbit punches, a head butt and low blows. "I'm called dirty fighter, but I don't agree," said Golota in the week before the bout. "A fight is a fight, not day care."
For weeks Duva had worked on altering the trajectory of Golota's punches by outfitting a heavy bag with a pair of outsized trunks. And in Round 2 last Saturday, Golota aimed high with left-right combinations and flurries of jabs that sent Bowe crashing to the canvas. Bowe rose, wobbling, and was promptly head-butted by Golota. That shot cost Golota a point and delayed the round 20 seconds, during which Bowe was able to recuperate. It also opened a gash over Golota's left eye: Blood began to gush down his cheek.
Though Bowe's legs quickly lost their spring, his punches retained their sting. Fifty-six seconds into the fourth round, a Bowe right sent Golota down for an eight-count. An enraged Golota arose to nail Bowe twice with flurries below the belt. The second, a three-punch combo, cost Golota another point. It cost Bowe momentum. "That last punch was hard," Bowe said later, wincing slightly at the unhappy memory. "When you get hit in the cup, it drains you." For the rest of the fight Bowe's face carried an expression of seminarcotic wooziness: He staggered around the ring as if he had been shot with a tranquilizer dart.
While Golota fans waved a POLE-AX 'EM ANDREW! banner and Bowe offered only token resistance, Duva urged Golota to pounce. "Jab straight up," he told him before the seventh round. "You're winning."
Early in that round, Golota landed a right to Bowe's face. Bowe's head sagged.
"Pick up the pace, pick up the pace," Duva shouted from beyond the ring apron.
Golota backed Bowe into the ropes with a sharp left. Bowe's hands groped for Golota.