Saginaw, Michigan’s Ernesto Garza III enters the ring Friday night upbeat about his future at Super Bantamweight.

The last time Ernesto Garza III (9-2, 5 KOs) appeared on ShoBox: The New Generation, a little less than a year ago, his experience couldn’t have gone any worst. In against a bigger and stronger fighter, Garza was stopped at 1:39 in the third round by then 10-win Spaniard Jon Fernandez.

Garza walked away with his second loss as he exited the ring that night at the Buffalo Run Casino in Miami, Oklahoma. But he learned a great deal in those three rounds. Perhaps the most important was, that despite his ambition that convinced him to take on such a tough assignment, his career would be better served campaigning at a lower weight division. He closed out 2017, fighting in Michigan and going 2-0 at Super Bantamweight – with a pair of convincing performances.

This Friday he returns to action on ShoBox: The New Generation live from Verona, New York, taking on another taller, longer fighter in Fort Worth, Texas’ Jesse Angel Hernandez (10-1, 7 KOs). Hernandez wrapped up 2017 picking up a pair of solid wins over two undefeated opponents in the second half of the year. Ironically, recently signed Salita Promotions’ Super Middleweight Franchon Crews-Dezurn, the wife of Hernandez’s November opponent Glenn Dezurn, faces Tiffany Woodard on the untelevised portion of the card.

Fellow Michigander Claressa Shields (4-0, 2 KOs) will defend her WBC/IBF Super Middleweight titles against mandatory challenger Tori Nelson (17-0-3, 2 KOs) in the evening’s main event. And a pair of undefeated Super Lightweights kick off the action from Turning Stone Resort & Casino (at 10PM EST), as top-ranked Sonny Fredrickson (18-0, 12 KOs) looks to end Shohjahon Ergashev’s remarkable 10-fight knockout streak to start the 26-year old Uzbek’s career.

In addition to settling in a better weight division for him to compete in, 5 foot 4 inch Garza’s also studied the Fernandez tape to improve his approach to applying his signature pressure style to taller fighters. The Michigan-based southpaw – a former National Golden Gloves Gold Medalist – spoke with Round By Round Boxing to discuss his mixed success in 2017, as well as his matchup Friday night versus the 5 foot 8 inch Hernandez.

Round By Round Boxing: What did you learn from the loss to Jon Fernandez that you can use to progress as a fighter?

Ernest Garza III: Well, we took the fight, we just knew that it would get me a lot of exposure, people got to see me. We took a big chance at it, for one, it not being my weight. I know that I had to make a lot of adjustments and everything with the way that I fight. With that fight I was pretty much, basically, straight on in front of him. I didn’t really do too much moving around as much, and then slipping and pivoting to the side and what not.

So, I just know for this next fight I’m going to be doing a lot more different stuff than what I didn’t do the first fight, when I fought Jon Fernandez. Like as far as moving, moving my head, and bobbing and weaving. And, well, with him he was pretty tall, so I had to try to at least kind of stay on him, but I’m kind of in the same predicament with this other fighter too because he’s pretty tall as well.  But with this one, I think it’s just more mainly about bobbing and weaving, and sliding and slipping to the side, still applying the pressure, but getting my shots out that I need to throw. And then, just moving out of the way instead of just standing there and taking his punches like a brawl.

RBRBoxing: You’ve rebounded with two nice wins, what have these two bouts told you about yourself as a fighter?

EGIII: Well, I know it just goes to show that I got heart, that I’m still gonna keep going, I’m still gonna keep fighting through whatever it is that I got. And trying to do whatever I can that it takes to win each fight and each round.

RBRBoxing: Did you have to regain some confidence after the Fernandez fight, or did it take convincing yourself of anything? Or did you just move on with these next two fights?

EGIII: I guess mainly, yeah, I watched over the Jon Fernandez fight and basically tried to figure out what I really needed to work on to really improve myself to better myself as a fighter in the ring.

I noticed it was moving, moving my head a lot, and bobbing and weaving instead of just standing in front of them and basically taking their punches as well.

RBRBoxing: As you just mentioned Hernandez is a taller fighter. He has a 4 inch height advantage and 2 1/2 inch edge in reach. What’s your analysis of what he does in the ring?

EGIII: I’ve been studying Hernandez a lot. I’ve been watching his recent fight against Tikhonov when he fought at the MGM in Detroit. Mainly I just see he’s a pressure fighter too, just as well as me. So we’re gonna find out for sure who’s gonna be the one backing up, and who’s gonna be the one pressuring. But as far as the way he fights, to me I only see him as a one type fighter where he just keeps coming, and he likes to throw a lot of heavy body shots. He likes to go to the body, and he likes to shorten up his hooks to the body. He leaves quite a big opening for me.

RBRBoxing: I saw that he switches a lot, and the commentators even mentioned during the Tikhonov fight that he does so because as he’s throwing his shots he gets off balance. Will that be a habit that you look to exploit?

EGIII: Yeah, I would think that would kind of help me out too, and I noticed that too. The reason why he switches is because he does throw his left and it causes him to go off-balance to where he brings up his back leg, so that’s why he switches. I also watched his fight, and I know that if that does go to happen and I know he’s gonna throw his left hand, or eventually he’s gonna switch, if he’s off-balance, for me my main thing is to at least hit him one good time trying to come in with his left. But then also, again, try to get him at the same time where he’s gonna be off-balance.

RBRBoxing: Both of you guys switch, will that be a tactic where you switch as he switches, to offset any advantage he’s looking to gain or anything?

RBRBoxing: Mainly with me, yeah, I do tend to switch, but I don’t switch all the time. The only time I will switch is only if I kind of confuse them a little, or if I see an opening that might work with me switching to orthodox style.

I have worked with that a lot, sparring right-handed, but it’s where sometimes I don’t want to take that chance switching, and just like what Hernandez does. Where me, I don’t want to switch and then end up making myself off-balance because I can get hit or whatnot. I mainly switch if I see an opening, or if I try to confuse them for a little bit while I switch, and then I’ll end up switching back either when we’re tied up, or getting ready to break off.

RBRBoxing: What part of your game do you plan to bring to Hernandez that he hasn’t seen in his previous 11 opponents?

EGIII: I’ve also been watching his fight with Ray Ximenez. I noticed that he got really frustrated with that fight because that guy was boxing him basically, and he was not getting hit. He was landing his punches on Hernandez, and Hernandez was trying to come back, but that Ray guy wasn’t there when he would throw his punches. So it’d be like he’d hitting nothing but air.

So basically what we plan on doing is kinda doing the same thing where I’m gonna get my punches off and land, but then also applying the pressure at the same time. I don’t know what stance he’ll be in, but I’ll just pivot to the opposite side of his strong hand in which style he’s in.

RBRBoxing: What would a victory Friday do for your career?

EGIII: After winning this fight it would open quite a few doors for me. After this fight I could be fighting for a world title, or a belt that’s not necessarily a world title. It just gets me closer to where I get to fight for either a belt or a world title. That’s been my dream since I was a little kid, and I’ve been working for it. So hopefully it’ll pay off in the end.

RBRBoxing: After the Fernandez fight, and now looking at Hernandez, have you gained some experience in dealing with and/or overcoming height and reach?

EGIII: I know all the guys that I’ve been sparring with have been pretty tall, either the same height as Hernandez or a little bit taller. That’s so I can work on what I need to work on as far as with the arms being a lot longer, and trying to work my way in instead of getting hit while I’m coming in taking his hits, and then getting off my punches. That’s kind of the way we’ve been working on it to where I can slip and everything, and apply the pressure to get in and then just work the body. Instead of, just going straight in and letting him hit me while I’m still going in and then eventually getting to the body on him.

RBRBoxing: Is that your philosophy in getting in, because you are a pressure guy, is it getting there more by slipping punches or is it working in behind a jab?

EGIII: Well, actually both. After he throws his jab it’s trying to be quick, and to hurry up and go in and land either one or two punches. Or if he throws his jab I can slip it, and then hopefully I can step in and throw either a body shot or the hook shot to the head or whatnot.

RBRBoxing: Any concern with being back on the road again? You’ve won your last two fight in Michigan, and now this bout is taking you to New York.

EGIII: No, I actually like it, I like it a lot. I get to travel, I get to see different places, meet new people. It doesn’t bother me if I’m fighting out of town or out of state or whatnot. I just like it because I get to see new people and other fighters. If I’m just here in my state, normally most of the fighters here are just local fighters here in the state.

RBRBoxing: What’s the winning formula for you in this fight ?

EGIII: Well the thing for me is just applying the pressure, not getting hit and moving around. And then hopefully landing those pretty good body shots to where he drops his guard, and then eventually landing either a nice good left or straight left, or right hook to the chin.

RBRBoxing: If you’re able to execute your game plan, how do you see the fight playing out?

EGIII: If everything comes out smooth and the way that we plan and everything like that, I think eventually I can get him out anywhere from the sixth to the seventh round.

RBRBoxing: Hey, thanks for taking out some of your time to answer some questions. I wish you the best of luck out there Friday night.

EGIII: Thank you and I appreciate you taking your time to call me and interview me.

Garza mentioned that he and his wife are planning to get married at the Justice of Peace sometime soon after he returns from Verona, New York. Hopefully he can execute the game plan, get a good win, take a step forward in his weight class, and return in good enough shape to say ‘I do’ before the end of January. Hernandez is focused, he’s on a good run and at 27-years old he’s making up for lost time from the game, so before there can be any groom talk, these two have to sort out who’s the best man.

All photos by Stephanie Trapp/Showtime