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NEW YORK (AP) -- Byrd, fighting at his crafty best, kept a determined Golota off of him enough Saturday night to keep his IBF title in a fight that was up for grabs until the very end.

Golota was the aggressor the entire way, but Byrd landed well with counter shots to the head, fighting off the ropes at times and using all his boxing skills against a bigger and stronger challenger.

Judge Steve Weisfeld had Byrd winning 115-113, while Tony Paolillo had Golota ahead by the same margin. Melvina Latham had it 114-114, the same as The Associated Press.

When the decision was announced, Golota bolted from the ring in disgust, only to come back and express his disappointment.

"I'm glad you feel it was a great fight, but I thought I won the fight," Golota said.

Byrd seemed to tire in the final two rounds, but had built up enough points to escape with the draw.

"That's what we need in this division, two guys willing to fight," Byrd said. "I sat there and banged with a 230-pound guy."

The fight was one of two heavyweight title fights on the card. In the other, John Ruiz stopped Fres Oquendo late in the 11th round to retain the WBA title.

Golota, in his first fight at Madison Square Garden since his disqualification for low blows eight years ago against Riddick Bowe set off a riot, was frustrated but didn't snap. He did hit Byrd in the back of the head after the bell sounded to end the sixth round, but that merely drew a warning from referee Randy Neumann.

At the end of the eighth round, Golota threw a right hand that landed in Byrd's midsection, and Neumann said something, prompting a wink and grin from Golota. Mostly, though, Golota kept his punches up and his wits about him in a performance that might have put him squarely in the heavyweight mix.

Unlike the ugly fight that preceded it between Ruiz and Oquendo, the Byrd-Golota fight was both entertaining and a classic matchup of slugger versus slick boxer.

Byrd was the smaller fighter, outweighed at 210 1/2 pounds by 27 pounds, but the slick southpaw slipped many of Golota's punches and answered back with his own. Golota was urged on by man in the crowd eager for redemption for the fighter often scorned as the "Foul Pole."

"Don't underestimate him because he's now in the heavyweight division," Byrd said.

Byrd spent long stretches of the fight with his back against the ropes, daring Golota to punch and then hitting him back when he missed.

Helping work Byrd's corner was his mother, Rose Byrd, who was afraid her son was giving away rounds.

"You're toying," Rose Byrd told him after the sixth round.

"I'm not toying," her son replied.

Byrd (36-2-1) was making the second defense of the title he won against Evander Holyfield, while Golota was getting an early title shot on the comeback trail.




Enigmatic heavyweight Andrew Golota has got the call to face IBF heavyweight champion Chris Byrd on April 17 at Madison Square Garden. Golota (38-4, 31 KOs) recently signed an exclusive promotional agreement with Don King Productions after re-energizing his career with wins over Brian Nix and Terrance Lewis. The blockbuster card, which will be officially announced tomorrow by promoter Don King, will also include WBA heavyweight champion John Ruiz vs Fres Oquendo and WBA welterweight titlist Jose Rivera vs Ricardo Mayorga. In addition, two world cruiserweight title clashes are on tap. WBC champion Wayne Braithewaite is expected to face Luis Azille and WBA champion Jean Mark Mormeck will rematch with Virgil Hill.

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This site was last updated 04/18/04