Chris Byrd vs. Andrew Golota

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Chris Byrd vs. Andrew Golota, John Ruiz vs. Fres Oquendo (poster).jpg

2004-04-17 : Chris Byrd 210½ lbs drew with Andrew Golota 237½ lbs by PTS in round 12 of 12


Golota proves he's worthy of a title shot
By Thomas Gerbasi, Maxboxing.com, April 18, 2004

NEW YORK --­ Andrew Golota may not have earned his IBF title shot, but once he got into the Madison Square Garden ring tonight to challenge Chris Byrd, he proved that he belonged in the heavyweight picture, putting up a valiant effort en route to a 12-round draw before a crowd of 15,195.

Scores were 115-113 Golota, 115-113 Byrd, and 114-114, in an evenly matched bout that was difficult to score.

Golota, whose last appearance in the Garden, against Riddick Bowe in 1996, sparked a riot, was focused throughout the bout (despite a few questionable tactics) and showed flashes of the promise he once had (and may still have) in the heavyweight division.

"Don't take Andrew Golota for granted," said Byrd. "He can fight."

Golota, though, had other ideas: "There is no question in my mind whether I won the fight. I thought I won it."

The Byrd-Golota fight followed on the heels of an ugly match between WBA champion John Ruiz and Fres Oquendo, and looked even better than it was because of it. Ruiz won a surprising TKO at 2:33 of the 11th round when the fight was stopped after a Ruiz flurry that momentarily stunned the challenger.

After a long night of fighting, Byrd said, "That's what we need in this division, two guys willing to fight. I sat there and banged with a 230-pound guy.

Byrd was the smaller fighter, outweighed at 210½ pounds by 27 pounds, but the slick southpaw slipped many of Golota's punches and answered back with his own. Golota was urged on by a man in the crowd eager for redemption for the fighter often scorned as the "Foul Pole."

Golota stalked Byrd throughout the first, even drawing a warning from referee Randy Neumann for stepping on Byrd's feet, but when he cornered the elusive champion and threw a right hand that was partially blocked, the crowd erupted.

Byrd again got pinned, this time against the ropes in the second, and Golota unleashed his fury, which Byrd quickly defused.

Late in the third, Byrd finally responded offensively, and a stiff left sent Golota sprawling into the ropes. Golota quickly recovered and flurried on Byrd, including two blatant shots after the bell.

Apparently conserving his offensive output while using his defensive prowess to tire Golota out, Byrd picked his shots, taunted Golota, and basically landed whenever he chose to. But Golota was getting his licks in too, and he scored with some heavy power shots as he pinned Byrd on the ropes late in the third.

Showing more urgency in his face in round four, Byrd peppered Golota with stiff lefts that froze the challenger. But by allowing Golota to pound away on the ropes, coupled with the crowd's reaction to anything Golota, the champion may have been giving away rounds on the scorecards.

The southpaw jab was Byrd's weapon of choice in the fifth, while Golota used shots behind the head to counter. Yet once again, the round ended with Golota aggressively pounding Byrd on the ropes.

Golota finally started to show signs of frustration in the sixth as he missed Byrd and got popped in the face in response. That frustration was never more evident than when Golota hit Byrd twice after the bell to end the sixth.

Helping work Byrd's corner was his mother, Rose Byrd, who was afraid her son was giving away rounds.

"You're playing with him," Rose Byrd told him between rounds.

"I'm not playing," her son replied.

Warned for a low blow in the seventh, Golota was undeterred as he continued to stalk Byrd and let his hands go when within punching range. It was Byrd, though, who landed the best punch of the round when he spun Golota and landed a stiff left to the face.

Byrd stood in the pocket effectively in the eighth and ninth, dodging blows while firing back with shots of his own that landed cleanly. But with Golota's aggression still playing an active role in the fight, scoring rounds became a chore.

In the tenth, Golota's walk around the ring got a little slower, and Byrd's get a little quicker, as did his fists. Even pinned into a corner, Byrd was able to win exchanges, once stunning his foe briefly with a right to the head just before the bell.

Turning the tables, Golota started boxing in the first half of the 11th round as Byrd followed. But soon the combatants were back on the ropes, with both men taking turns hitting the other as the partisan crowd chanted for Golota.

In the 12th, both fighters opened up as if the fight was on the line, and the exchanges befitted a heavyweight championship bout. With his back to the ropes, Byrd fired shots down the middle to the face of Golota, while the challenger tossed back clubbing blows of his own, ending a bout that screams for a rematch in a well-deserved clinch.

Byrd (36-2-1) was making the second defense of the title he won against Evander Holyfield, while Golota was getting an early title shot on the comeback trail.

Golota (38-4-1) had fought only twice since retiring after being beaten by Mike Tyson in October 2000. He wasn't ranked, but got the fight with Byrd and a payday of $150,000 after signing with Don King, who promotes both boxers. [1]


Preceded by:
Byrd vs. Oquendo
IBF Heavyweight Title Fight
# 42
Succeeded by:
Byrd vs. McCline