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Tyson, Golota, and Hamlet

October 24, 2000

Paying to see Mike Tyson fight is like dating O.J. Simpson. You have no right to complain later. In fact you’re lucky if you’re in any condition to complain.

When Tyson fights clean, the fight may last two rounds. At 50 bucks a pop, that’s about 25 bucks a round. And I’m talking about watching on TV. At one time you could see Joe Louis fight in person for a lot less.

But Tyson doesn’t always fight clean. Sometimes he bites an ear off; once he broke an opponent’s arm; once he knocked a guy out after the bell; and he even slugged a referee. All that remains for him is to punch the ref after the bell.

So I decided a long time ago that I would never pay to watch another Tyson fight.

Then, last week, I got a phone call. A seductive voice invited me to watch Tyson fight Andrew Golota. I said no thanks. She persisted. I said yes please.

It wasn’t just her dulcet tones. It was Golota. A fight between Tyson and Golota would be interesting, because Golota is, if anything, even dirtier than Tyson.

A few years ago Golota fought the former champ Riddick Bowe. He was beating the tar out of Bowe until late in the fight, when, on a sudden inspiration, he delivered a magnificent uppercut to the privates. Down went Bowe, groaning in agony. Golota lost on a disqualification. Talk about stupid.

[Breaker quote: To 
fight, or not to fight?]A few months later there was a rematch with a surprise ending. Again Golota was beating the tar out of Bowe late in the fight when, on a sudden inspiration, he delivered a magnificent uppercut to the privates. Down went Bowe, groaning in agony. Golota lost on a disqualification. Either I was watching a rerun, or Golota was not only the dirtiest but the dumbest fighter I’d ever seen.

So I hope you can understand the sudden fascination I felt at the prospect of a Tyson-Golota fight. It wasn’t that I hoped for twelve rounds of pugilistic finesse. It was more like being invited to watch a train wreck. Something wild was guaranteed to happen. And it did, but not the way I expected.

I bit. Me, a Shakespeare scholar. I took a night off from polishing my new book on Hamlet.

It was a long night. There were several preliminary bouts, including a fight between two women, one of them Muhammad Ali’s daughter. If you want to know what degradation feels like, watch a pair of women slugging each other in the face.

Finally, around midnight, the main event came. Golota took forever to come out of his dressing room. He looked twice as big as Tyson.

The fight began. Golota tried to stave Tyson off with soft jabs but at the end of the first round Tyson landed a right to the nose. Golota bounced on his butt but got up immediately. The bell rang.

In the second round Golota clinched as often as he could. Tyson couldn’t find room to land the big punch.

When the bell rang for the third round, Golota quit. His manager was screaming at him to get out there and fight, but he refused. He wanted no more of Tyson. The fight was over.

The crowd went ape, throwing drinks and debris at Golota as he walked back to his dressing room in instant disgrace. If you paid 50 bucks to watch this debacle on TV, imagine what it cost to watch at ringside. The one thing nobody expected from either of these thugs was sheer cowardice.

Now I don’t want to get hit by Mike Tyson either, but at least I don’t take two million dollars to fight him and climb into the ring with him before running away. I’m an honorable coward. I run away for free.

Golota later explained that Tyson had butted him and the referee hadn’t done anything about it, so he quit. Golota charging another boxer with dirty fighting? That took a lot more nerve than he’d shown in the ring.

Right now I’m trying to think of analogies between Golota and Hamlet. If I can work them into my book, maybe I can claim the 50 bucks as a business expense.

Joseph Sobran

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