‘Foul pole’ has fair chance of heavy title

May 17, 2005 4:49 AM

Before I anointed him "Foul Pole," (yes, I take credit for the nickname), I was seated in a limo between Andrew Golota and his then wife. We were going over to the Polish

Consulate in New York City as part of the pre-fight building up for Golota’s match with Riddick Bowe at Madison Square Garden.

I bring all of this up because this Saturday, ready or not, the Foul Pole has a great chance to become a heavyweight champion of the world, of sorts.

Anyway, there I am, squeezed against this giant. This is before all the low blows and the post-fight riot and the Bowe rematch with more low blows, but already we had a line on Golota. I had seen him purposely butt Dannell Nicholson in the head and had been ringside when, badly dazed in the middle of the fight, he took a bite out of Samson Pou’ha.

So I said to Andrew something like "I want you to take this in the spirit with which it is asked, but can you tell me what goes better with Pou’ha, red wine or white?" To my delight, Golota neither bit me or hit me. He went, "Ho-ho-ho," as if he were a rented Santa. Right away, I liked him. He does have a sense of humor, he makes jokes about his penchant for striking below the belt, when you catch him in the mood.

Of course, he also has a dark side — the ability to react violently, as when he got in a barroom brawl in his native Poland and stuffed his opponent in a garbage can, after removing the man’s pants.

He could box. For a big man, 6-foot-4, 240 pounds, he was light on his feet. He could jab, throw combinations, defend, and any man that big who throws correct punches obviously can punch a bit.

But the force wasn’t with him. Self-doubt pockmarked his career as if he were on steroids.

”¡ The way he snatched defeat out of the jaws of victory in his two disqualifications against Bowe.

”¡ The way he virtually quit while ahead against Michael Grant.

”¡ The way he virtually quit before getting in the ring with Lennox Lewis.

”¡ The way he ran away from Mike Tyson after two rounds, his trainer chasing him around the ring trying to put in the mouthpiece for the third round of a winnable fight.

That fight was later ruled a "no contest" because Tyson failed the pot test. But it was a cowardly display that, in light of his previous crimes against the game, should have landed him a lifetime ban. It didn’t, but he took off almost three years, beat a couple of stiffs, and suddenly — with Don King in his corner — landed an outrageous title shot against the IBF belt holder, Chris Byrd.

Even more outrageously, he fought well, fairly clean (okay, pushing Byrd’s head down is against the rules, but what fighter doesn’t break a rule or two?), and was unlucky to get only a draw. This got him a shot at the WBA title John Ruiz can’t seem to lose. He knocked down Ruiz, but Ruiz got a close and disputed decision.

Which leads us to Chicago, Golota’s adopted home town with its fervent Polish fans, and a shot at the WBO belt holder, Lamon Brewster, rated No. 4 of the four heavyweight "champions."

Brewster is as nice a guy, in and out of the ring, as Golota often is not. Yes, I will be rooting for a man who is Chris Byrd’s cousin once or twice removed (I never understood family trees) and the legacy of the late Bill Slayton, one of my favorite trainers. But I believe the reason I have already placed a couple of bets on Brewster has nothing to do with his being a good guy.

We know he can take a punch. Relentless Lamon upset Wladimir Klitschko (and I had money on Brewster then), taking everything before the big Eastern European fell apart. He too can punch. He hired Jesse Reid, one of the best, to take over his training for this fight. My feeling is that he is a terrific overlay.

Art Manteris of Station Casinos listed Golota as 13-10 in Boxing Update, one of the industry’s key periodicals. But I’ve already gotten more than 2-1 on Brewster at a couple of places and I’m waiting to see if the line moves up even more. I mean, few people I know seem to give him much of a chance. He looked terrible while eking out a victory in his first defense against the untalented Kali Meehan. But Meehan was a former sparring partner, who became a friend, and Brewster is too nice a guy to be able to fight friends. There is no record of any prior partnerships with Golota.

I am not basing my opinion on the belief that somehow Golota will self-destruct again. I am going to grant him his apparent maturity. But maturity is a two-edged sword. Golota is now 37 and he’s coming off two very tough fights with Byrd and Ruiz. I am betting that if Brewster makes this one tough, that old body — Brewster, at 31, should be at his physical peak— may give out. In other words, Brewster may owe his cousin for the victory I expect to see on HBO. You have the right to cry "Foul!"