October 11, 2007
Who would know more about Andrew Golota than his wife Mariola? Now, after Andrew has captured the International Boxing Federation North American Heavyweight title by defeating Kevin McBride his past Saturday night, Mrs. G reveals the story from her perspective of one of this modern era’s most fascinating, most talented, and most beloved heavyweight prizefighters. If you want to learn Mariola’s unique perspective, as well as her best and worst night’s of Andrew’s boxing journey, and much more, just keep on reading.
Question: Andrew has come a long way in 16 years hasn’t be?
Mariola: “Whoever is crazy enough to keep doing something for 16 years when it’s not working out [smiles]? Andrew never really quit or retired, maybe he took off a leave for two years but he always bounced back to boxing.”
Question: But he did retire in 1988 after the Olympics, right? (Golota won bronze in Seoul, Korea for Poland, then was married and moved to Chicago.)
Mariola: “What happened was, before we got married, we decided – no more boxing. It’s too dangerous. We were gonna have family. Then he came to the U.S. and he didn’t like it much. And he couldn’t, he didn’t know how to do anything else. His friend said, Why don’t you try to be a truck driver? So he went and took the written exam and passed. But he never took the other exam. I figured boxing is better than truck driving, because truck drivers leave, I thought, for several weeks at a time and I figured his training camp is only for a few weeks, so be better go back to boxing [laughs]. I didn’t know anything about boxing.”
Question: What happened when he went to the gym for the first time?
Mariola: “I called around trying to find a boxing gym, because I didn’t know any boxers that know how things are done. I think I spoke with Sam (Colonna at Windy City Gym). I said, My husband is bronze Olympic winner and he wants to box. I think it was Sam who picked up the phone (yes, it was, Sam confirmed). He said, Well, bring him over. Andrew just went there and he had a training session and everybody just sat there staring at him, like, where did this guy come from?”
Question: His first fight was in 1992, his pro debut? Four years later?
Mariola: “He was never out of shape, he was always biking, running, he’s so athletic that all he needed was polish up his skills. With him it was never gaining 30-40 pounds, just a few pounds here and there.”
Question: What was Andrew’s idea when he went to the gym first time in Chicago? Was he thinking of going pro or trying it out again?
Mariola: “It’s kind of like, he was sitting at home with our daughter babysitting, he would go take the stroller out and walk with her. And how long can someone as athletic as Andrew sit on his butt? He couldn’t take it anymore. I need to do something or I will go crazy. I can’t sit at home, feed the baby, watch the baby, it’s crazy. I can’t do that. So, he just went into it.”
Question: Was there any expectation he would become as good as he did, a world class heavyweight boxer?
Mariola: “You know what? I don’t know anything about boxing. I didn’t know they had (championship) belts. I’d never seen a boxing match before. I never expected Andrew would go as far as he did. At that time it was only just to give him something to do so he doesn’t go crazy. Then the people around him told me he how good he was. Bob O’Donnell, his first manager, said Andrew’s a blue chip. I said, What’s a blue chip [laughs]. We were kids.”
Question: Then the rest is history. Andrew brought so much excitement to so many people…
Mariola: “That’s what brings people to see Andrew. It’s like, the adventure, the excitement, not knowing what’s gonna happen, which Andrew’s gonna show up. Andrew’s gonna low blow or gonna fight like that’s all he knows how to do.”
Question: The boxing fans love him. Just tonight out on the street on the way back to hotel, people just go crazy, they call come running up to him, so excited and happy. I’ve seen many top boxers gravitate over to him too, like Oliver McCall (in mid-interview at the hotel three years ago, he spotted Golota across the lobby and had to immediately go over and shake hands and say hello), Kali Meehan, Jameel McCline, even Holyfield. They all respect him.
Mariola: “And all it takes after two years of not being around, Oh Andrew, where were you? Like tonight, when the reporters came up to me after and said, God, first round we almost had a heart attack. It seems like, Wow, Andrew has some people out there who really want to see him win. I mean, I never had that from reporters. Because he had a little trouble in the first round.”
Question: Many people revere him sort of like he’s their champion, a “People’s Champion.”
Mariola: “You know what? People identify with him. He was up and he was down. When he was down he picked himself up and kept on walking. That’s the life story of most of us. The people who don’t quit, just keep going, so. And when you hear about people like Holyfield, who won the title and made all this money, he’s a star, he’s out there. With Andrew, he’s like, he’s one of us, I think. And people know that side of Andrew that nobody knows too well [laughs]. The one that comes and low blows.”
Question: What has been for you, the best and worst nights of the adventure?
Mariola: “The worst – the Lewis fight. That was the worst. And the best…today, it was today (defeating McBride for IBF North American title). I wanted Andrew – if I could buy one, I’d buy him a championship belt. But unfortunately you can’t buy one. And I figure any belt. And Andrew said, This is title fight but there is no championship belt. And the kids asked me, If daddy wins will be bring home a belt? Daddy said it’s a title fight but there is no belt. And when they came in the ring with a belt I said, Look! They got the belt! THE BELT! So that was the moment.
“Andrew’s a late bloomer. It took him a while to grow up [smiles]. It took him a while to see what this life is all about. And I think it took him a while to mature in boxing too. To mature enough to win at boxing. I’m so proud of him.”