ATLANTIC CITY -- Dismissed as a "cheese champion" by critics who said he had never won a meaningful fight, England's Lennox Lewis proved himself worthy of the heavyweight crown last night with a devastating 95-second knockout of Poland's Andrew Golota at Convention Hall.
Referee Joe Cortez said Golota had suffered a seizure in his dressing room after being knocked out in the first round of the World Boxing Council heavyweight championship bout. He was removed from the Convention Hall on a stretcher and taken by ambulance to the Atlantic City Medical Center.
Fight promoter Dino Duva said Golota was in stable condition but would remain in the hospital overnight.
"My prayers go with him," Lewis said. "I realize we are in a tough business, and I hope everything is all right with him."
A 6-5 favorite, Lewis never allowed Golota to get started. He met the challenger in mid-ring at the opening bell and maintained constant pressure until the shocking ending.
A distraught Golota, who had made a reputation on the strength of turning two apparent victories into losses by repeatedly fouling Riddick Bowe, apologized for his quick demise.
"I was nervous coming in because of all the talk of disqualifications," he said. "There was too much pressure on me. I was nervous coming in. The first punch, I don't know what happened. It was an accident."
The only accident was that Golota was simply run over by an unusually intense Lewis (32-1, 26 knockouts), a man obviously on a mission.
"I wanted to make a statement early. I want to consolidate the title and prove I'm the best heavyweight in the world," Lewis said.
Most of the pre-fight hoopla had centered on Golota's penchant for fouling. But the usually sedate Lewis never allowed it to become an issue.
"I wanted to knock him out before he had a chance to commit any fouls," said the British citizen who grew up in Canada and won a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics representing Team Canada.
"I wasn't worried about what he was going to do. I just had to do my job and hit him."
With his first solid punch, he seemed to take the heart out of Golota. "I noticed from the beginning he was tentative with his punches," said the 32-year-old champion. "I was very intense and took my time."
Trainer Emanuel Steward had worked hard to rekindle Lewis' aggressive style after he had fought several sluggish fights.
His previous two bouts ended in bizarre fashion. He claimed the vacant WBC crown last February when Oliver McCall broke down in tears and refused to fight. Five months later, he won by a fifth-round disqualification over Henry Akinwande when his countryman refused to fight.
"I've got rid of all the misfits in my division now," Lewis said. "Now I want to unify the title."
He has been promised a match against the winner of the Nov. 8 Evander-Holyfield-Michael Moorer championship fight in Las Vegas.
Co-manager and trainer Lou Duva, who had hoped that Golota finally would put together a complete fight, said, "He got caught cold. He never had a chance to get unwound."
Both Lewis and Golota weighed 244 pounds, but the British boxer, an inch taller at 6 feet 5, looked more statuesque in the ring than the barrel-chested challenger.
As champion, Lewis had been guaranteed $4 million against $1.5 million for Golota, but both were expected to increase purses through pay-per-view receipts.
Earlier, junior lightweight champion Arturo Gatti (29-1, 24 KOs) showed the heart of a champion in stopping Mexico's Gabriel Ruelas in the fifth round of their brutal, nonstop battle for the International Boxing Federation title.
Staggered in the fourth and fifth rounds and fighting on shaky legs, Gatti ended the bout with a stunning left hook flush on Ruelas' chin.
The former champion regained his feet at the count of eight, but referee Benjy Esteves said Ruelas was unfit to continue, ending the bout officially at 2: 22 of the fifth round.
Ruelas (44-4) has not been the same boxer since his fight with Jimmy Garcia in March 1995. He knocked Garcia unconscious, and Garcia died two weeks later. In his next fight, a passive Ruelas lost his title to Azumah Nelson.
Jesus Chavez (22-1) won all but one round on the scorecards before stopping fellow Texan Troy Dorsey in the seventh round in defense of his North American Boxing Federation super-featherweight crown.
Pub Date: 10/05/97