It’s the motto that all champions and championship hopefuls live by. Super Flyweight and Bantamweight contender Joshua Franco (16-1-2, 8 KOs) is no different.
Even after the nation–and the world–effectively shut down in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Franco has been staying busy.
“I’m always running, or staying active,” said Franco in a recent interview with Round By Round Boxing. “Even if it’s pushups and crunches at home.”
He’s stir-crazy like the rest of us, but coming off of a dominant performance on DAZN in January, it’s easy to look forward optimistically. Prior to his last bout, Franco definitively made the leap from “prospect” to “contender” with a thrilling trilogy against Oscar Negrete.
The trio of 10-rounders between October 2018 and August 2019 were each “Fight of the Year” candidates on their own. Together, however, they made a statement that Joshua Franco is one of the most exciting fighters to watch in the sport.
The reason for this growing reputation is due in no small part to his punch output. It’s unusually high, even for the lighter weights–per Compubox as well as DAZN and Golden Boy fight footage, Franco averaged 92 punches thrown per round over the course of the 30 rounds he shared with Negrete (2,746 in 30 rounds.)
For perspective, 70 is considered a high output at any weight. At 90-plus punches per round, you can’t take your eyes off of what you’re watching, even for a second.
The fights with Negrete were everything that a matchmaker or promoter would want for a young prospect. Regardless of the judges’ verdicts–split draws in the first and third fights, and a split decision win for Franco in the middle installment–they served their purpose. Negrete had previously challenged for a world title at 122 pounds–two divisions above Franco’s best weight.
However, there was no noticeable size or power differential between the two and Franco himself did not feel like he was at any disadvantage.
“Yeah, I never really felt his power,” said Franco. “The size wasn’t an issue for me at all, from round one on, I knew I could just go at him.”
The fans thank you for that, champ.
Franco has been with trainer Robert Garcia from the beginning, which could in part explain his fighting style. The Robert Garcia Boxing Academy has a penchant for churning out pressure fighters with high punch outputs–think Antonio Margarito, Marcos Maidana, Kelly Pavlik and the list goes on.
All known for delivering beatings whether they won or lost, and wearing their opponents down. Josh Franco is no different and, as his nickname “El Profesor,” would denote, there is a definite intelligence behind his aggression.
For the uninitiated, there is a distinction between pressure fighters and pressure boxers. Franco is the latter of the two. A pressure fighter may not last long in the sport. He or she wades into the storm of their opponents onslaught with no other plan than to defend with their own offense.
It’s entertaining, but those fighters, sadly enough, end up paying the price with a shortened career and medical complications in their middle and old age. You find these guys in club shows. Their fights are worth the price of admission and more, but are not for the faint of heart.
Pressure boxers, on the other hand, go forward with a plan in mind. Chin tucked, walking forward behind a jab, and constantly calculating while looking for openings.
Their mental makeup may be characterized as similar to that of a counterpuncher, except they respond to openings with four, five or six punches instead of one or two. One need only watch a single round of Josh Franco’s recent fights to see this mentality at work.
The aforementioned setup to his offense – the jab – is impressive enough. However, anyone who has practical, in-ring, experience, can tell you the difficulty of throwing an uppercut properly.
Distance and timing are the last two attributes which any fighter is able to nail down, and they are the primary two needed when throwing uppercuts. Franco is able to work uppercuts into his combinations seamlessly. It is an element to his game that speaks to his innate ability as well as his experience with Robert Garcia.
“Of course, I’ve always wanted the best possible sparring,” said Franco. His presence in Robert Garcia’s gym from early on in his boxing development has given him access to that, but the fact that he has actively gone after it says all that any fan or critic would need to know about this fighter.
It displays the mindset of a man who knows that it’s not enough to “make it.” You need to continue proving that you deserve to be there after you make it. This is perhaps no more true anywhere else than it is in boxing.
Franco was only just beginning to consider his next opponent when the country and sporting world were abruptly put on hold. That hasn’t done anything to lower his championship level aspirations. He wants any and all of the belt holders at both 115 and 118 pounds.
Per Boxing Scene’s rankings, Franco is currently ranked 11th by the WBA, seventh by the IBF, and fourth by the WBO at 118. The WBA and IBF belts are held by “The Monster” Naoya Inoue. The WBO is held by Inoue’s prospective next opponent, John Riel Casimero.
In those same rankings, Franco also places 12th in the WBA and WBC at 115 pounds. The WBA belt was won by the resurgent Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez in a stunning ninth-round TKO of Khalid Yafai in February. The WBC belt is currently held by Juan Francisco “El Gallo” Estrada.
When asked about who he wants next, Franco cut right to the chase.
“Oh yeah, I definitely want “El Gallo” and “Chocolatito,” said Franco.
He made it clear that he’d fight anyone, but these selections make a good amount of sense. They are the biggest names in his weight neighborhood, and they both happen to be champions at the moment. Franco would make great fights with both, no matter the outcome.
In talking to this young contender, it’s obvious that he knows what it takes to reach champion status, and has always done the work necessary to get there.
At the end of our call, Franco was gracious enough to entertain one final question for the fans–one which every fighter can readily call up an answer to. Past or present, who would you want to step into the ring with? An ultimate fantasy fight?
“That’s easy, ‘Finito’ Lopez,” said Franco. “Even though he was a bit smaller than me, I grew up idolizing him, and that’s who I’d most like to fight.”
It would be a hell of a fight.
Joshua Franco is one of the division’s rising stars and one of Golden Boy Promotions‘ hottest prospects. You can look for him to begin a far more rapid ascent of the ladder once the current pandemic abates.
He is poised to make a lot of noise at the very least, and could very well be next big name and champion at Super Flyweight or Bantamweight. You’ll want to tune in whenever he fights.
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