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Post-fight Melee Gives Boxing Black Eye at Madison Square Garden

July 12, 1996

NEW YORK (AP) _ A wild post-fight brawl broadcast live on national television dealt a bruising blow to boxing’s reputation not long after its return to its onetime mecca: Madison Square Garden.

The Thursday night melee started in the ring and quickly spread into the stands, resulting in 16 arrests and 22 injuries.

There were some terrifying tableaus amid the waves of violence: A man in his wheelchair getting knocked to the ground. Angry men lifting and tossing chairs across the Garden. Lou Duva, the 74-year-old trainer of heavyweight fighter Andrew Golota, flat on his back with chest pains, getting kicked by an unidentified attacker.

``I was half-screaming and half-saying, `Get him out of there!‴ Duva’s daughter, Denise, said Friday. Duva was released from a hospital on Friday.

The brawl raged for more than 30 minutes before more than 250 police officers and Garden security personnel managed to restore order.

``It was a very ugly night,″ said Rock Newman, manager for Golota’s opponent, Riddick Bowe. ``I apologize ... for the pain, grief, anguish and embarrassment it has caused all of us.″

Two suspects in custody and a third at large were members of Bowe’s entourage, said police commissioner Howard Safir. The trio, including a man who sprinted across the ring to club Golota with a walkie-talkie, were identified from a videotape of the fight, he said.

Newman himself could face criminal charges, Safir said. Newman entered the ring shouting and pointing at Golota _ a gesture that some took as a call for others to follow. Newman said Friday that was not true.

``I did not participate in it or encourage in any way people to conduct themselves the way they did last night,″ he said.

Madison Square Garden president Dave Checketts vowed that anyone convicted in connection with the brawl, including Newman and his fighters, would be banned from the Garden for life.

But Checketts said boxing will continue at the Garden, which re-entered the fight business last year after staging fights only sporadically since 1982. The next card at the arena, famous as the site of the 1971 Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier bout, is scheduled for Aug. 13.

On Thursday night, Bowe was being battered by the unheralded Golota, a Polish fighter who appeared on the way to a major upset. The brawl started after Golota was disqualified in the seventh round for repeatedly landing low blows.

A group of 20 people affiliated with the Bowe camp _ some in his corner, others seated behind it _ then flooded the ring, witnesses said.

``There was a wave of humanity,″ said ring announcer Michael Buffer. ``I didn’t even try to get in the ring. There was no security ringside.″

Fighting then spread into the crowd, with scores of Golota supporters waving Polish flags and squaring off with Bowe backers. Safir said there was no indication that the fight was racially motivated.

As a national television audience watched, HBO announcer Jim Lampley scrambled from ringside to safety, wondering on the air if his 16-year-old daughter, Brooke, was safe. The teen, and the rest of HBO’s crew, escaped injury, HBO spokesman Ray Stallone said.

It was not Newman’s first post-fight brawl. When Bowe fought Elijah Tillery in 1991, Newman grabbed the other fighter around the neck and yanked him over the ropes. Tillery landed on the head of a boxing commissioner seated ringside.

Newman and another man attacked Associated Press photographer Doug Pizac after the Bowe-Evander Holyfield fight in 1992. Pizac needed a dozen stitches to close a gash on his face.

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