Originally created 04/15/04

Golota promises clean fight against Byrd



NEW YORK -- Don King unfurled a Polish flag and chanted "Andrew Golota! Andrew Golota!" as the heavyweight fighter made his way to the podium for a photo with Chris Byrd.

Golota and Byrd square off for the IBF championship Saturday at Madison Square Garden, where everything started going south for Golota - literally.

In 1996, Golota was a top contender. But his fight against Riddick Bowe at the Garden changed everything. Golota looked as though he would upset Bowe but was disqualified for too many low blows.

A crush of fans stormed the ring, and Golota was attacked by members of Bowe's entourage. But Golota did not learn his lesson. In the rematch five months later, he was disqualified again for another low blow.

When asked about his memories of his last trip to the Garden, Golota refused to talk about the hits below the belt.

"It's exciting," he said Wednesday. "My pro career started here. I'm here again."

He also isn't worried about having the crowd erupt again.

"People come here to watch boxing, not to tear the place down," said Golota, whose fans often wave flags from his native Poland during his fights. "The main event is boxing."

King has made sure of that. He got Golota (38-4, 31 KOs) to fight Byrd (37-2, 20 KOs), who won his first title defense with a 12-round decision over Fres Oquendo on Sept. 20, 2003.

Golota, after all, had taken nearly three years off and fought twice last year to get perhaps his final shot at winning a title.

"He has now come back and asks to be forgiven," King said. "I think it's only proper we do so and welcome him back to Madison Square Garden. He will not fight it under the belt. How do you prevent that from happening? You talk to Andrew, give him a little TLC.

"There will be no low blows. All the fears and apprehension - it ain't going to happen that way. It's going to be a great fight."

Even Golota said, "I'm looking for a clean, tough fight."

As for Byrd, he is not worried about being hit below the belt. He plans on using his smaller size and quickness to elude Golota's big punches.

Byrd has wanted to fight Golota since 1997, when Golota was still an up and comer. The reason: Golota was a top contender.

"This is a real dream come true," Byrd said. "I get to fight against a guy I always wanted to fight. It might be a little late, but still."

In the other heavyweight bout Saturday, John Ruiz (39-5-1, 27 KOs) defends his WBA title against Oquendo (24-2, 15 KOs).

It is the first time two Hispanic fighters will face off for a heavyweight title.

Former heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield has plenty of interest in the two bouts. Holyfield wants to fight the winner with the hopes of becoming a champ again.

He was at the prefight news conference and plans to be at the Garden on Saturday.

"I don't want to just fight for a pay day, just for revenge or anything like that," he said. "My goal is to be heavyweight champion of the world. Hopefully whoever wins I can get an opportunity."

King was outspoken as usual, showing up in a denim-sequined jacket featuring the American flag and a map of the United States. He wore pins supporting President Bush and did his own campaigning, waving flags and screaming, "Re-elect George Walker Bush!"

Lamon Brewster also was there. Brewster beat Wladimir Klitschko last week for the fringe WBO title, putting himself in the heavyweight picture.