Wednesday 17 January 2018

Boxing: Heavyweight Andrew Golota prepares to make comeback at 45 years of age

Andrew Golota
Andrew Golota

Mark Staniforth

Just when you thought it was safe to step back in the boxing ring without a protective cup, the wholly unpredictable Andrew Golota is preparing to make his comeback at the age of 45.

Golota, the so-called 'Crazy Pole' most notorious for twice clattering Riddick Bowe down low as well as folding spectacularly against Lennox Lewis and Mike Tyson, will face his equally ancient compatriot Przemyslaw Saleta in Gdansk next week.

Saleta, 45 next month, last stepped in a boxing ring the small matter of seven years ago, going on to dabble a little in MMA, before the two men - both big names in Poland - came up with the ruse of a "retirement" fight in their homeland.

The bout has received enormous publicity in Poland, which has probably not pleased the grumpy Golota, who remained almost monosyllabic with the media in the brief era when he toyed with being top of the world.

Golota's sparse quotes to Polish media outlets are hardly conducive to the belief that we are going to see a new, sprightly fighter capable of emulating George Foreman's example of winning back a world heavy crown at the same not-so-tender age.

"It is very hard to get back into the training regime - harder than I thought, and much harder than a few years ago," said Golota. "However, I was a one-armed boxer for many years, but now I can box.

"I am 20 years more experienced. Now I get in the ring with a more extensive knowledge of boxing. In my youth I had problems with my left hand, but not now. I am ready for this fight, and maybe something will come of it."

Golota's so-called left-hand problems are well known to the millions who tuned in to watch him throw away an imminent victory over Riddick Bowe in March 1996 for repeatedly letting it stray below Bowe's belt.

Incredibly, Golota repeated the offence in a rematch five months later, but showed enough fighting skill in the process to earn a shot at Lennox Lewis. Expected to give Lewis one of his toughest (and most painful) tests, he instead folded to defeat in less than two minutes.

Golota stuck around at the top level, but his frail psychological state reared its head again in a 1999 fight with Michael Grant.

Golota dropped Grant twice in round one but failed to finish it, and quit himself after being decked by Grant in the 10th, despite a massive lead on all three scorecards.

Golota also quit in the third round of his fight with Mike Tyson the following year, but continued to served up a succession of world title opportunities, the last of which came when he was decked three times and stopped in the first round by Lamon Brewster in 2005.

Meanwhile, Saleta is not exactly the most reticent of opponents. In an interview last month with the regional Polish newspaper Dziennik Polski in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, Saleta suggested drugs should be legalised for elite athletes.

Saleta said: "I would say that in sports like cycling, doping is healthier. The body regenerates faster and is able to bear the strain better than a diet based only on natural products, which simply cannot handle it."

What ever happens on February 23, when the two Polish behemoths meet in a city of rusting shipyards, it is unlikely to pass without incident. But purists and those of a sensitive disposition are probably best advised to look away now.

Press Association

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