It remains one of the wildest aftermaths in Heavyweight boxing the history and it happened nearly 25 years ago Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.
July 11th, 1996, former Undisputed champion, Riddick “Big Daddy” Bowe, was on the comeback trail and trying to get a potential heavyweight title shot, again. He stepped through the ropes to meet unbeaten, but largely unknown, bruising Polish heavyweight fighter, Andrew Golota.
What would unfold over the course of seven rounds and then, even bigger and scarier, the crazy post fight brawl, is still being talked about decades later.
First a bit of background.
After a thrilling upset of champ Evander Holyfield, Bowe had lost his heavyweight titles back to him in a 1993 rematch. However, “Big Daddy” had defeated Holyfield in the third of their series of fights by knockout in November of the previous year.
Bowe, 37-1, was slated for the opportunity at either the WBA or IBF versions of the title, but he signed a lucrative deal with HBO Premium Cable to essentially have a semi-final fight with Golota to face the winner of former Undisputed champ Lennox Lewis and Ray Mercer.
Lewis did his part by dispatching Mercer by decision the previous month in ’96.
Enter Bowe’s opponent Golota, who had a 28-0 record, but had not fought any noteworthy opponents before being given the opportunity at the Garden. Oddsmakers thought the fight was a joke and had the Brooklyn-born former champ a 12-1 favorite.
Bowe was so overconfident, that he admittedly had not trained very much for the fight and came in at 252 lbs. That was the heaviest he had ever been in his professional career.
And, as the fight began, it was obvious that Golota had better reflexes and was in better shape than the former champ.
In the first round, Golota repeatedly peppered Bowe with jabs, hard right hands and left hooks, landing 29 punches on the former champ, who could do little to get out of the way.
Golota was continuing to score with punches in round two, but that’s when the first sign of trouble began. He landed a low blow on Bowe and was warned by referee Wayne Kelly.
Golota, again, landed a low blow in round three and the referee took point away from him.
The fight settled down and Golota began to score again with right hands and left hooks with Bowe tiring and landing little in return. Golota was clearly taking back control of the fight and making an upset seemingly inevitable.
However in the 6th round, he once again hammered Bowe with a left hand to the groin and Bowe crumbled to the ground. Kelly gave the former title holder several minutes to recover and deducted another point from Golota, warning him, if he did it again, he would be disqualified.
That would be foreshadowing for the 7th round.
Golota again was scoring on Bowe, but late in the round, he once more hammered Bowe below the belt. Kelly immediately disqualified Golota and the real and scary chaos was about to ignite.
Immediately, members of Bowe’s entourage, led by his manager/spokeman Rock Newman, stormed the ring and with one of them shoving Golata in the back to engage in to fight.
Golota instinctively turned and began to swing back at those individuals. Another of them, later identified as Jason Harris, a Bowe friend and entourage member, hit Golota with a walkie-talkie opening an 11 inch gash on his head.
In a matter of seconds the ring filled with several dozen people who began shoving and fighting with each other.
In the mayhem, the late Lou Duva, the Hall of Fame legendary trainer of Golota, was knocked to the ground and began to experience chest pains and shortness of breath.
As the meele’ continued, HBO announcers Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and the former heavyweight champion of the world George Foreman, were right in the middle, as bodies began pouring past and over them to get in the ring. Foreman could be heard on his headset mic at one point, while protecting the HBO crew, telling one of those trying to enter the ring still live on TV, “don’t do it, son. It’s not worth it. Don’t do it.”
The HBO broadcast table and set were destroyed.
Fights in the surrounding ringside seats broke out between fans of both fighters and continued for some 10 minutes without much police or security presence being seen.
Eventually, order was restored, 14 arrests, including Harris, were either made that night or in the days after. And, more than a dozen people had to be hospitalized.
Bowe and Golota agreed to fight again just five months later in Atlantic City, NJ, and another wild battle ensued. That fight saw Golota knock Bowe down for only the second time in his career, early on in the fight. The former champ was in better shape this time would respond by flooring Golota with a big right hand which was the first time the Pole had ever been down as a pro.
Later Golota scored a second knock down with a barrage of punches and Bowe was clearly on the verge of being beaten. However, just like back in July, Golota had already fouled Bowe a couple of times, again, with a head butt and later, another, you guessed it, low blow.
Then, when he landed yet another right left combo low at the end of the 9th round, Bowe went down grimacing, referee Eddie Cotton stopped the fight and disqualified the Polish contender for a second straight time.
After the second “DQ” Bowe “retired” at age 29. He stayed out of boxing for eight years before returning and winning two fights in 2004 and ’05.
Bowe fought once more in 2008, winning and retiring with 43-1 record.
Golota eventually got a title shot against the now, WBC champ Lewis, who destroyed him in less than two minutes of the first round. He was also later kayoed by Mike Tyson and lost several other fights. He retired at 41-9-1.
And he’s best known for having disgraced himself, twice, in fights he was winning with the obvious insane riot at the Garden at the conclusion of their first fight being the most memorable moment of his career.