By Jake Donovan
The selection of officials for Saturday’s featherweight title fight between unbeaten Miguel Angel ‘Mikey’ Garcia and former champ Juan Manuel ‘Juanma’ Lopez in Dallas offers a strong local presence, though a fresh perception in the careers of the two fighters.
None of the four officials for this weekend’s HBO headliner have yet worked a fight involving either Garcia or Lopez. All four come with vast experience, though whether or not yet another Texas-sized mess remains to be seen.
The referee for the scheduled 12-round title fight will be Rafael Ramos, originally from Puerto Rico but who now resides in San Antonio. Levi Martinez is the lone out-of-state judge, hailing from New Mexico.
The other two judges – Oren Shellenberger and Javier Alvarez – are both from Texas and have worked several fights together.
Experience is of concern to some degree. Ramos has a rich history of officiating at the championship level, having served as third man for title fights dating back to 1992. Martinez is also a veteran of the sport who has worked his share of major events.
The two to keep an eye on are the local judges.
On the surface, both appear to be competent. However, a minor red flag pops up on Shellenberger’s resume, turning in a wider-than-expected scorecard in favor of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez in his hard-fought victory over Austin Trout this past April. The rest of his ledger reads like a near-20 year veteran who is capable of producing a solid night’s work.
Alvarez is a rising young judge, but also lacking big fight experience. His lone major title fight worked thus far was Nonito Donaire’s 3rd round knockout over Jorge Arce last December.
Neither fighter has a vested interest in the Dallas region, nor is there a particular edge to be gained by Top Rank for the fight ending one way or another.
Garcia (31-0, 26KO) is considered on the sport’s most promising young stars, dominating competition even as the bar is raised. His technical decision win over Orlando Salido was a stunningly one-sided performance, even if marred by an anti-climactic ending.
Most notable of the win was that it came against the man who handed his opponent his only two losses to date. Lopez (33-2, 30KO) was a two-division champ whose popularity was long ago established and star continually on the rise before running into Salido – and then into trouble following derogatory comments made about the officials in the wake of his rematch loss last year.
The Puerto Rican southpaw comes in having won two straight, including a stay busy win in Mexico this past April.
Garcia has not fought since his title win over Salido. The trip to Dallas marks his first fight in Texas in nearly three years, an August 2010 11th round knockout of veteran spoiler Cornelius Lock.
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board, Yahoo Boxing Ratings Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox