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 1991, he and his wife decided to move permanently to the city of Chicago, where she had lived on and off since the age of nine.
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. Then, he went into 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 back then.
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 at the Madison Square Garden, on an HBO Boxing event. Golota suffered his first loss when Bowe went to the floor in round seven, claiming he had been hit with a low blow and leading to Golota's disqualification. 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 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 hospital 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 was once again disqualified, in the ninth round. 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, but to no avail. Golota and Bowe dropped each other three times from legal punches, but after further study, it was determined that the punch that dropped Bowe the fourth time had correctly been called a low blow.
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 14, 1997, he received a shot at the world's Heavyweight championship against Lennox Lewis, once again on HBO's Pay Per View branch. Golota suffered a sudden panic attack before the fight, and was knocked out in the first round, requiring hospitalization after the bout to observe him because of his anxiety attack.
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 Rings 1999 fights of the year. Golota dropped Grant in the third round and was ahead on all scorecards when he was dropped in the tenth and then quit without giving any explanations.
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, losing by a knockout after quitting in the third round. Because it was the second time he had quit in a fight, the Michigan state athletic commission held his purse and launched an investigation, but nothing suspicious was found and he was paid for his fight with Tyson.
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. A few weeks later, he signed a promotional deal with Fight Academy, based in England, and announced he would pursue the European heavyweight championship. Golota then returned again, on November 15, knocking out Terrence Lewis in six rounds at Verona, New York.
His record stands at 38 wins and 5 losses, with 31 knockouts.