Golota had 111 wins in a stellar amateur career that culminated in his winning a bronze medal at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Golota won other international amateur tournaments, but in 1990, he married a U.S. citizen and moved permanently from Poland to the city of Chicago. His wife had lived in Chicago since the age of eleven.
Golota's Olympic results were as follows:
In 1992, he turned professional, knocking out Roosevelt Shuler in three rounds. He had three more knockouts and then went the distance for the first time when Robert Smith took him six rounds. He then began a 16-fight knockout win streak, including wins over Bobby Crabtree and Jeff Lampkin. It was after the Crabtree win that Golota was featured on Ring Magazine's new faces section. Then, he faced tough contender Maron Wilson, winning by a decision in ten. Golota then went on another knockout streak that extended to five wins in a row, including defeats of Samson Po'hua and Darnell Nicholson, both of whom were considered fringe contenders at the time.
Perhaps trying to earn a little more general respect for their fighter, Golota's management put their fighter in against former world Heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe, who had defeated Evander Holyfield at Madison Square Garden, on an HBO Boxing event. Though far ahead on points, Golota suffered his first loss when Bowe went to the floor in round seven after being hit with the last of several low blows throughout the fight. Golota was disqualified. What ensued was a dramatic riot that left a large number of civilians and policemen injured, including Golota himself, who was hit by a Bowe entourage man's two-way radio and required 11 stitches to close a cut on his head. Golota's trainer, Lou Duva, who has a heart condition, was taken to a doctor as a precaution.
The fight made all the sports shows, including SportsCenter, and the public immediately wanted to see Bowe and Golota go at it again. The rematch was on Pay Per View and Golota once again dominated Bowe only to be disqualified in the ninth round, again for low blows. Despite not having another riot, this fight also proved to be controversial and a protest was filed by Golota's camp to try to overturn the fight's result. Michael Katz, a sportswriter, coined the term Foul Pole for Golota.
Despite two losses in a row, Golota's stock among the Heavyweights had risen so much that the WBC decided to make him their number one challenger, and so on October 4, 1997, he received a shot at the world's Heavyweight championship against Lennox Lewis, once again on HBO's Pay Per View branch. Two hours prior to the bout, Golota was injected with lidocaine due to an injured knee. Suffering allergic reaction to lidocaine, Golota was knocked out in the first round.
Golota went on with boxing, and he beat former 2-time world champion Tim Witherspoon by decision before losing to Michael Grant by a knockout in ten in one of The Ring's 1999 fights of the year. Golota had dropped Grant twice in the first round and was far ahead on all scorecards, but in the tenth he himself was knocked down. When asked by referee Randy Neuman whether he wanted to continue, he shook his head twice and then haltingly answered "No."
In 2000, Golota fought in China's first professional boxing event ever, beating Marcus Rhodes by a knockout in three, and then, he faced Mike Tyson. At the time many in boxing said this was Golota's last chance to attain any kind of respectability. Tyson dropped Golota in the first round of the bout, and Golota controversially refused to continue after the second round and walked off from the ring, claiming that the referee and his own trainer, Cero, ignored Tyson's dirty tactics which included intentional headbutts. Golota shoved his trainer Al Certo when Certo attempted to put his mouthpiece in. Following the bout, Golota was hospitalized with a head injury.
Following the Tyson fight, Golota was inactive for nearly three years before making his return to the ring on August 14, 2003. He scored a technical knockout of journeyman Brian Nix in the seventh round. Golota then returned again, on November 15, knocking out Terrence Lewis in six rounds at Verona, New York.
Golota then received a second world title shot, fighting IBF world Heavyweight champion Chris Byrd at the Madison Square Garden on April 17, 2004. Most viewers felt Golota won the fight, and he clearly was the aggressor, with Byrd against the ropes through most of the 12 rounds. Despite this, the judges rendered the fight a controversial draw.
With the vast majority of the boxing press proclaiming him the real victor of both his championship efforts since returning to boxing, Golota received his third world title try in a row on May 21, 2005 against WBO world champion Lamon Brewster. Though heavily favored to win, Golota once again blew his shot when Brewster knocked him down three times inside the first round, forcing the referee to stop the bout. The fight lasted for 53 seconds.
Golota fought Irishman Kevin McBride on October 6, 2007 in New York City's Madison Square Garden and won by TKO in the 6th Round, winning the IBF North American Heavyweight Title.
On January 19, 2008, Golota fought Mike Mollo and won after a unanimous decision after 12 rounds, winning WBA Fedelatin Heavyweight Title.