In this corner, Mike Tyson wants to eat your children. In that
corner, Andrew Golota wants to keep you from having children. In
the middle, 5'8", 172-pound referee Frank Garza Jr. stands in his
little black bow tie.
Next to Joan Rivers's makeup man or Bob Knight's career
counselor, Garza has the worst job in America. He's the poor
bastard who this Friday night will be trapped inside the ring
with these two animals for as many as 12 rounds of malice at The
Palace of Auburn Hills. The fight is scheduled for 11 p.m. EST,
the riot for 11:45.
"I'm actually looking forward to it," says Garza, 48. Sir, may we
suggest you consult the videotape?
The last time Tyson fought, against Lou Savarese on June 24, he
kept swinging after the bell and clobbered referee John Coyle. Of
course, there was the time Tyson mistook Evander Holyfield's ears
for onion rings. Then he tried to break Francois Botha's arm, and
the ref couldn't persuade him to let go. Recently Tyson mentioned
that he would like to put a bullet in the back of Lennox Lewis's
skull, though it was uncertain if that was before or after eating
his heart. He says he's on serious tranquilizers, but in my view,
they're not nearly enough.
And he's the sane one in Friday night's cotillion.
The real nut bag is the 250-pound, Warsaw-born Golota, the Foul
Pole, who also enjoys the occasional in-fight snack, having taken
a bite out of Samson Po'uha's neck during one bout. He viciously
head-butted Danell Nicholson, cocking his noggin about a foot
before delivering a Three Stooges-style blow. He hit Riddick Bowe
four times below the belt in their July 1996 fight. (By below the
belt we mean just south of Guadalajara, the kind of punch that
makes eunuchs turn away in horror.) After that fight, Golota and
his people helped throw a little riot that broke Madison Square
Garden records for bloodshed. In the rematch, Golota ended the
bout with a three-punch combination to Bowe's testes, which, for
some reason, took Bowe by surprise.
Golota-Tyson is a fight that promises flying stools, spat-out
thumbs and Jerry Springer on fast-forward. And that's just at the
weigh-in. If I were reffing, these would be my prefight
instructions: O.K., boys, equipment check. Earmuffs? Check.
Muzzles? Check. Steel briefs? Got 'em. Now, there are Zoloft
dispensers on all four posts if you're feeling a little antsy.
Please help yourself to the free ringside buffet. I want you nice
and full and sleepy for this. I've got the stun gun in case
there's any funny business. Oops, did I just zap you fellas? My
Then I would stop the bout just before the national anthem.
"Yeah, this fight's a tight spot," says Garza, "but I've been in
tight spots my whole life." Garza goes to work every day in
steel-toed boots, blue jeans and a hard hat in Lincoln Park,
Mich., where he's a senior operator at the Buckeye Pipeline oil
refinery. You want high pressure? If Garza screws up and plugs a
pipe through which oil is flowing at 3,000 pounds a minute,
you'll get explosive action.
Reared in Delphos, Ohio, where, Frank says, the Garzas were the
only Hispanic family, he often had to fight with his fists to get
through the day at school. He and his parents worked a farm,
picking beets and tomatoes, which means he has been in pro boxing
longer than anybody. "My father hated fighting of any kind," says
So he would hide The Ring under his pillow and sneak a radio to
listen to the big fights. He fought briefly as an amateur,
switched to training other fighters and then judged some bouts.
He's been a referee for 16 years. His biggest fight before
Tyson-Golota involved Leyla Ali. Despite his size, he once picked
up a disobedient 245-pound heavyweight and carried him to a
neutral corner. "Frank oughta get out of the refereein'
business," Tyson's old trainer, Teddy Atlas, has said, "and get a
job playin' offensive line for the Detroit Lions."
Garza knows exactly what he's going to tell the fighters in their
dressing rooms before the bout. "I'm going to go in like Knute
Rockne," he says. "I want to leave these guys crying. I'm going
to say, 'Look, I know the importance of this fight to you. If you
fight dirty and cheap, your career is over. You're extremely
skilled. Go out there and deliver the fight of the century.'" For
their work, Tyson will get about $10 million, Golota $1.5 million
and Garza $100 to $350, depending on the gate.
Hey, at least that should cover the ambulance.