Imagine this scenario: at the end of a boxing match between two fighters— one white, the other, a visiting African black—the black boxer, clearly winning the fight, is disqualified on dubious technical grounds. Instead of protesting he walks peacefully over to a neutral corner, where he is suddenly set upon by the white corner crew, one of whom smashes open the black boxer’s skull with a walkie-talkie. The white members of the ringside crowd immediately begin to riot, violently assaulting anyone who has a black face. The black boxer’s 74-year-old trainer, a black man himself, and beloved in boxing circles, is struck, and collapses to the canvas in apparent seizure. Another elderly black man is spat upon and kicked by a violently cursing white woman while he lies squirming on the floor. One young black man, after unfurling a green and black African flag in support of his fighter, is kicked to the ground by several huge white men. A metal seat is wrenched from its moorings by a wildly gesticulating white who proceeds to throw it at some fallen blacks. The melee spreads outside, whites chasing after any blacks they see, intent on mayhem.

The aftermath of such a situation would, of course, be obvious to all right-thinking Americans: the Attorney General would arrive to investigate this outrageous “bias” crime, the President would give a televised lecture on the evils of racism and the shameful treatment of the foreign boxer and his supporters . . . what a disgrace it is that white Americans behave so abominably, steps must be taken to wipe out the scourge of discrimination, the brutal bigot who assaulted the visiting fighter will be dealt with severely, and so on.

The incident described above did, in fact, happen. It happened in New York last July 11, at Madison Square Garden, but I have altered the story in one detail—the color of the participants. The boxer whose thick skull managed to withstand the crushing blow from the walkie-talkie was white—Andrzej (Andrew) Golota, the undefeated Polish champion—and his fans—of whom I was one—were Polish. It is difficult to make out details of a riot when one is running for one’s life, but watching the good half-hour of postmatch violence on videotape was almost more shocking than the reality.

It had been a pleasant fight to watch; Golota’s opponent was Riddick Bowe, considered by many to be the best heavyweight in the division, and few gave the Polish pugilist much more than a puncher’s chance against Bowe, who had faced the wily and courageous Evander Holyfield and won two out of their three contests. Golota was said to have faced only cream-puffs, and he was reputed to be the possessor of a crystal jaw that would quickly shatter under the weight of a solid Bowe uppercut. Bowe’s ability to deliver heavy and punishing jabs would unnerve Golota in the opening rounds, and Bowe would have the fight sewn up within six rounds, either by knocking Golota out or by making steak tartar out of his physiognomy. Pleasant, therefore, for Polish fans, when the bout began and Golota shocked Bowe with several ramrod stiff jabs. Golota started to do to Bowe what Bowe was supposed to do to him.

By the end of the first round Bowe’s mouth was hanging open and he already looked like a beaten man; out of condition, puffing like a grampus, eyes swollen. For six more rounds Golota gave the Brooklyn bruiser a snappy boxing lesson straight out of the Warsaw Academy. The Pole was supposed to be slow and immobile, but instead his movement was slick, deftly moving from side to side, avoiding punches and countering with neat jabs and quick combinations. The small contingent of Polish fans roared their approval and waved their eagles and red-and-white flags. “Niech zyje Polska!” “Do gory! Do gory!” “Ale huragan!” Several times Bowe was staggered by Golota’s swinging right and left hooks, and when the Polish fighter accidentally caught him in the groin with a shot that went low, Bowe gladly sank to his knees and availed himself of the few minutes’ rest granted by the rules. Here was an escape hatch, one that would prove useful as the fight wore on and Bowe wore out.

Craftily, Golota began to attack Bowe’s rather rotund middle, raining blows on his opponent’s sides and stomach, a tactic guaranteed to sap any strength that might remain in the American’s stokehold, and one that would prevent a resurgence in the later rounds if the fight went that far. A good strategy, but it would prove to be Golota’s undoing. Twice his punches wandered low, once grazing Bowe’s buttocks and once his hip. Upon receiving the blow on the hip, Bowe showed what he was made of and gave the grimace that Beau Brummell gave when he discovered that his tie was crooked at the Prince Regent’s ball. In short, Bowe acted as if he had been severely hurt in the groinal region. The referee allowed him more time, and took another point from Golota for low punching. The Polish fans booed; Bowe’s constant holding of Golota’s head with one great paw and thumping it with the other—deliberate dirty fighting, unlike the Pole’s accidental low shots—had gone unpenalized by the referee.

A look at Bowe’s corner showed frantic action. Their man was losing and they knew it. The crowd, the larger half of which was made up of blacks from Brooklyn and Washington, D.C., was growing increasingly restless. They, too, knew in their hearts that Riddick Bowe was losing and losing badly. A few more rounds and he would be knocked out or be unable to continue. The man himself was looking around with uncomprehending eyes; in interviews the day before Bowe had talked only of Mike Tyson, his ultimate goal, and had ignored the actual fighter he was to face. Golota was a ten-to-one underdog, to Bowe he was invisible. Frustrated, at the end of one round, as the fighters were returning to their respective corners, Bowe even swatted angrily at Golota as if he were an annoying elephant fly that had got in his way. Naturally he did not lose a point for this unsportsmanlike conduct.

Certain of the citizens from D.C. and Brooklyn were beginning to shout foul imprecations at the Polish fans. It seemed that the Polish contingent were unaware that it was racist to applaud a Polish boxer with an oppressively white skin who was beating a black fighter. I myself, an exhibitionist who had thought nothing of roaring on the performance of a Polish pitcher for my beloved White Sox when they beat the Yankees in the Bronx a few years ago— not an action likely to endear me to diehard Yankee fans, especially as I roared in an English accent—even I found my throat drying and my enthusiasm shorting out at the looks and threats that were being directed at the Polish section. After a comment about Riddick Bowe’s tattoos of his five children being an aide memoire, I dried up. But it certainly seemed odd to have pictures of one’s offspring tattooed on one’s back and chest—Mike Tyson managed to content himself with Arthur Ashe and Chairman Mao stamped on his forearms, but Bowe, goodness knows, looked like a tattooed lady at the circus.

When the seventh round began, Bowe got up with difficulty; perhaps the tattoos were starting to weigh him down. Golota, looking more and more like the unbeatable Ivan Drago in Rocky IV, immediately went to work, punishing Bowe with shots to the head and body. Bowe was wobbling, he would go in this round or the next. Golota smote him hip and thigh, and then Bowe pulled out the oldest trick in the book—when Golota’s hand went low and brushed Bowe’s thigh, Bowe fell to his knees and clutched himself as if he had received a karate kick in the groin, an acting performance that surely ought to win Bowe an Oscar for best actress of 1996. “Big fat cry baby!” came a shout in Polish, “Co beczysz?” But by then it was too late. The referee stopped the fight and disqualified the Polish champion, who went over to a neutral corner in the most gentlemanly fashion—indeed Golota had conducted himself throughout the fight with absolute decorum, not whining when Bowe held his head, and accepting the docking of points with a smart nod like a cavalryman taking his orders.

Golota had obviously beaten Bowe in the moral sense; the crowd knew it, Bowe’s corner knew it, and Bowe’s manager Rock Newman knew it to the depths of his rotten little soul. Sore losers all, and even sorer winners. A second after the fight was over I watched Rock Newman run onto the canvas gesticulating and screaming. He may have thrown a punch, I do not know. But he was followed by a crowd of Bowe’s fans, and then the riot broke out. Golota went down under a pile of yelling black thugs, and his trainer, 74-year-old Lou Duva, collapsed. Perhaps the most appalling sight of all was when a walkie-talkie was smashed into the back of Golota’s head, causing a gush of blood. It was the best hit he had taken during the entire fight.

The riot continued for half an hour at least, and only a liar or a news reporter would describe it as anything other than a chance for blacks to chase and beat up anyone they could see with white skin. I saw an elderly white man lying huddled on the ground, a behemoth of a black woman kicking him and spitting on his prostrate form. One young black picked up a microphone stand and hurled it like a javelin. Another brought a chair crashing down on a pile of wrestling bodies. Everywhere there were sucker-punches and cheap shots, the favorite method of fighting of street punks from D.C. and New York and Cabrini Green. A white figure sidling out would be felled by a blow from behind or from the side, and then four or five blacks would leap in and stomp the white devil.

The news media of course reported the whole thing as it if were merely sports hooligans at their usual tricks. But 1 have seen English football hooligans in action; their gangs are multicultural and they fight for pleasure and for their team colors. Here the hooligans were looking solely for white faces. Not Polish colors, not obvious Golota supporters, but white faces. New York 1, the news channel whose reporting is so biased as to be almost risible, showed videotape of a black youth being held in a headlock by a black security guard, and followed this by a still picture of one of their female (naturally) boxing reporters spouting inanities. WFAN sports radio spent time on a caller who claimed that the riot was started by (get this) Polish skinheads! And most sick-making of all, Rock Newman, whom many think started the riot by rushing the ring in a frenzy, went on television to claim that he did it to protect his fighter! From what, one asks? Golota was in a neutral corner, Bowe was resting and had won, and the ring was empty.

Luckily there is a videotape of the riot. Whether it will be of any use is another matter. When, last year at the Meadowlands, disgruntled Giants fans (mostly white) were caught on film throwing snowballs because the game was delayed, police and stadium authorities combed carefully through the footage and went after those who were guilty of the egregious snowball crime. Now, one wonders, will the same care be taken with the Madison Square Gardens tape? Will hundreds of black boxing fans be arrested for felonious assault, or even “bias” crimes? And will President Clinton apologize on behalf of the American people to the Polish visitors caught in this racial melee? Will even the bloodthirsty scoundrel with the walkie-talkie do any actual time in gaol? I counsel my readers not to hold their breath. After all, one reporter on ESPN described the violent behavior of the rioters as “inappropriate.” I wish he had been caught in it.


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POSTSCRIPT: Several weeks after the riot, my attempts to contact the relevant authorities yielded the following information: there had been 22 arrests. Most of those arrested were issued desk appearance tickets (or “disappearance tickets” as they are known in police circles). New York’s athletic commission has. however, imposed a one-million dollar fine on Riddick Bowe because of his handlers’ actions during the post-fight brawl. The commission said that Bowe’s manager. Rock Newman, and his men had “initiated, contributed to and exacerbated” the riot. Newman’s license and that of Golota’s manager have also been temporarily suspended.

Curiously, the relevant pages of the arrest book for the night of the 11th had themselves disappeared, perhaps torn out. Asked about the possibility of any of the fans being charged with “bias crimes” (an absurd concept in any case), the spokesman laughed and told me that those rare instances where blacks were charged with “bias” were unfailingly thrown out by prosecutors. Even the vicious brute with the walkie-talkie was unlikely to be prosecuted. And no, the police would not be studying videotapes of the event. As a sports journalist explained it to me, many of the whites who had been set upon were not even proper Americans, but Polacks.

Three fans were said to be suing Rock Newman and perhaps Madison Square Garden, too. Lou Duva, the 74-year-old trainer, was released from the hospital after a night. There were reports that Duva would be suing Newman as well, and in an interview Duva affirmed that “Rock Newman does not belong in boxing.” It is interesting that Golota’s entire camp was given ten “credentials”—identity passes—including the fighter himself, the four cornermen, and Duva’s daughters and son; Bowe’s entourage had more than 200! (I wonder how many of them had prison records.) Duva, at the press conference, staged a demonstration of the strength of the protective steel cup which boxers wear; a young man was hit in the cup with a baseball bat and did not flinch—obviously Bowe’s acting had been even better than I had imagined. Lastly, a glance at the New York State Boxing Commission rules shows that a boxer cannot win a fight through having taken enough low blows. What is obvious is that if the fight had proceeded to its climax, and Golota had won, the crowd would have reacted even more violently. Perhaps the referee stopped the fight because Golota could not have been allowed to win. Ah well, once you have paid him the Danegeld, you never get rid of the Dane.