DETROIT -- When Frank Garza steps into the ring for Saturday night's HBO televised, junior welterweight (140 pounds) title clash between southpaw WBC king Devon Alexander and WBO counter part Tim Bradley, the 58-year-old referee said that he will treat the situation as if it is the fighters' first professional bout.
"That's the way that I treat every fight," said Garza, a resident of Lincoln Park, Mich. "Because to that first-time fighter, you had better believe it will be like he's on the biggest stage of the biggest fight of his professional career."
There certainly is a lot at stake for the winner between the 23-year-old Alexander (21-0, 13 knockouts), of St. Louis, Mo., and the 27-year-old Bradley (26-0, 11 KOs), of Palm Springs Calif., to be contested at the Pontiac Silverdome in Pontia, Mich.
The victor could emerge as a mega star and a potential rival for WBO welterweight (147 pounds) and WBC junior middleweight (154 pounds) king Manny Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KOs), or, perhaps, even six-time titlist Floyd Mayweather (41-0, 25 KOs).
But it is important, as well, that the fight come off smoothly, without a hitch, and, ultimately, without controversy.
"It's a nationally-televised event, and so, it's vital and important that we have the credibility and integrity of the state not being called into question," said Wolfgang Mueller, vice president of the Michigan Boxing Commission. "We feel that having Frank Garza and the judges in place is a big step."
The ringside judges will be Nevada's Duane Ford, Mexico's Omar Mintun and Ohio's Tim Miller.
"We feel that the judges, the referee, they're all world class," said Mueller. "And so the fans are going to get their money's worth in the ring and from a judging and refereeing standpoint."
They certainly didn't back in October of 2000, when Garza worked the Mike Tyson-Andrew Golota fight at The Palace at Auburn Hills.
The fight's bizarre ending had Golota spitting out his mouthpiece prior to the third round and quitting in his corner, even as his trainer, Al Certo, implored the Polish-born fighter to continue.
Tyson's second-round knockout was later changed to a no-contest by the Michigan Commission when it was determined that the former world champion had tested positive for marijuana after the fight.
Garza was also associated with the past two Showtime televised fights of Germany's Arthur Abraham (pictured below, at right), being the referee in his unanimous decision loss to WBC super middleweight (168 pounds) titlist Carl Froch, and, being a judge during Abraham's 11th-round, disqualification loss to Flint, Michigan native, Andre Dirrell (pictured below, at left).
Dirrell-Abraham, contested at Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, ended with Abraham hitting Dirrell after he had gone down from a ruled slip.
"Most recently there has been some very poor judging during some shows on the West Side of the state. ESPN's Teddy Atlas said that he wouldn't even talk to us and wouldn't even think about coming back to Michigan," said Al Lowe, whose eight-year run as Michigan State Athletic Commission chairman began the year after Tyson-Golota.
"So we've had some adversities that we've had to overcome, but we've changed all of that around," said Lowe. "We've worked eight years for this very kind of situation. I mean, with these two great fighters, this is what we've been working for."
Lowe credits promoters, Gary Shaw, and, Don King -- who respectively, handle Bradley and Alexander -- for bringing the fight to economically depressed Detroit.
The fight-night set up of the refurbished Silverdome has been scaled down from its 70,000-seat capacity to "somewhere between 10,000, and, 15,000," according to Shaw, who is not concerned about early reports of slow ticket sales.
"I put on the greatest fight of the decade, [Diego Corrales] against [Jose Luis] Castillo, and we didn't even sell 2,000 tickets. I never heard anyone say that it wasn't a fight that was extraordinary. The Silverdome was well-prepared and did a great job," said Shaw.
"There should be compliments to the new owner of the stadium who wants to do more boxing and is willing to take the risk to bring big-time boxing back to the Detroit area," said Shaw. "I think that it's a terrific place to do the fight. We are doing something for that economy -- we are bringing HBO, which is going to shine a big spotlight on that economy."
"This is a great boost to them. This fight will be seen by millions of people world-wide, and that's what it is really about," said King.
"The ticket sales will not determine the greatness of this fight," said King. "We can spotlight this hard-hit economy with the Big Three -- the GM's, the Fords, the Chrysler's and all of the suffering. We are going to the people who need us."
The sport of boxing also needs Bradley and Alexander, whose workouts, respectively, on Tuesday and Wednesday, were hosted by the famed Kronk Gym on Detroit's West Side.
Although not the original venue that was run by Manny Steward, and which spawned such world champion fighters as Thomas Hearns, Hilmer Kenty (pictured below, at right), and, Milton McCrory (pictured below, at left), the Kronk is part of the lore that Detroit hopes to recapture on Saturday night.
"Detroit is a great boxing town, so we're nobody's charity case. Be we certainly are grateful and appreciate Don King and Gary Shaw bringing this fight here, because there are a lot of other venues that they could draw from," said Mueller.
"But I think that the promoters recognized how good of a boxing town this is," said Mueller. "Being that we've had some tough, economic times, I think that this is a good match for the fighters at this time at this place."
A critical part of the fight, however, will be the officiating, which Steward believes will be in capable hands with Garza, whom Mueller calls, "a class act."
"It's so hard to find quality referees," said Steward, who trains WBO, IBF and IBO heavyweight champion, Wladimir Klitschko, and, WBA junior middleweight (154 pounds) belt-holder Miguel Cotto. "But I would consider Garza to be a good referee and I give him a good rating. He will do a good job on Saturday night."
Garza has worked a unanimous decision by then-WBC super bantamweight (122 pounds) king Erik Morales over Wayne McCullough in October of 1999, as well as a November, 2003, seventh-round knockout by then-WBC lightweight (135 pounds) belt-holder Mayweather over Phil N'dou.
Garza was also the third man in the ring for a Febuary, 2009, ninth-round knockout by then-WBC and WBO middleweight (160 pounds) titlist Kelly Pavlik over Marco Antonio Rubio, and a March, third-round knockout by welterweight (147 pounds) Saul Alvarez over Brian Camechis.
Garza does not like to use the word, "controversy," in association with the Dirrell-Abraham fight, which was officiated by Laurence Cole, of Texas.
"I thought that the referee did an excellent job in ruling that the fight ended in a foul, and my card was in line with those of the other two judges," said Garza, who, like Guido Cavalleri, had Dirrell ahead, 97-92, while Anek Hongtonkam had Dirrell in front, 98-91.
"I think that being that Gary Shaw was one of the promoters that night of Dirrell, I think that he realized that the commission did its job," said Garza. "I think that that's one of the reasons why he felt that Michigan was deserving of another fight of this magnitude, which speaks highly of our newly-formed commission."
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