More than any other boxing match of the 21st century, this Saturday’s fight between
Tomasz Adamek vs. Andrew Golota represents how far a single country has come.
For Poland it will be the World Cup and Super Bowl all rolled into one this weekend inside the Atlas Arena when the rising cruiserweight Adamek will try to defeat an aging Andrew Golota. Millions of Poles will be glued to their television watching the action live from Łódź, Poland.
Andrew Golota is best known in most of the boxing world as being the “Foul Pole” for his notorious dirty tactics in the ring. Golota in his prime was not against foul tactics, most notable his in two encounters with Riddick Bowe in the mid-1990s. In both fights Golota was ahead on the cards before he engaged in repeated low-blows against his opponent resulting in disqualification losses. The first loss also sparked a near-race riot in Madison Square Garden as both corners engaged in an all out brawl with each other and the fans.
This history has not at all dampened enthusiasm for this fighter in his native Poland. Older Poles will support Andrew Golota in this fight. While younger fans will support Tomasz Adame.
Adamek’s trainer, Andrew Gmitruk commented on the hype surrounding this fight, “In Poland this is going to be a very great event. I think it may be the best fight in Poland in the last 100 years. There is incredible interest. These two fighters are stars there. I remember in 1974 the Polish soccer team played a championship game and the amount of people that watched that game was tremendous. I think this fight will be even greater than that. Even if people aren’t interested in boxing they will still watch because they know the names Adamek and Golota” he said.
The fight is additionally significant because it follows the 20th anniversary of the end of communist rule in Poland. In September 1989, after a peaceful revolution the first non-communist government was sworn into power in Poland. The fight symbolizes not just a meeting between two of Poland’s most famous boxers but, how far the country has come in just a short amount of time.
That Saturday’s fight would be sold out would have been inconceivable just a few years ago when Łódź faced 20% unemployment and many Poles left Poland to seek work abroad particularly in England. Just ten years ago that something like the 13,000 capacity Atlas Arena itself could be built in poverty stricken Łódź seemed unbelievable. The 80 million euro arena was completed in 2006 and symbolizes a town which has turned an important corner in terms of economic development.
Łódź has scoped itself off the canvas by welcoming foreign direct investment with low corporate income tax. As a result the jobs have come flooding back, many Poles have now returned home fleeing the discrimination they face abroad in places like England.
By December, 2008 unemployment had fallen under 7%. Poland is the only country in the EU zone to avoid a recession due to the recent financial crisis. Today, Polish fight fans in Łódź have the economic pull to see their two greatest champions in action live not merely on thier television screens.
A decade ago a fight like Adamek-Golota would of taken place in Chicago. The economics of holding a fight in Poland made little sense. Andrew Golota despite winning Bronze for Poland in the Olympics only turned professional in 1992 in the United States and only fought three times in Poland as a professional. By comparison Andrew Golota has also fought twice in China, including his most recent fight a loss to Ray Austin.
That loss raises serious questions about Golota's durability at age 41. Adamek is 32, and adamant that he can defeat Golota despite the weight difference. Golota is his own worst enemy in the ring and often becomes discouraged against fighters who are fast-starters. Adamek is younger, quicker, determined and also the 5-1 favorite
Still Andrew Golota has a punchers chance, a fact that will surely be known to the thousands of Polish workers who will flood the Atlas Arena and millions more who will be glued to their television sets. Perhaps they will stop to ponder how in peaceful revolution twenty years ago ushered in an era where the only heavy-handed rule in Poland is to be found in the world of sport, not politics.