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 Holifield'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 bad!
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 Garza.