Former world title challenger Oscar Negrete (18-1, 7 KOs) and Bantamweight prospect Joshua Franco (14-1, 7 KOs) will meet in a scheduled 10-round bout tonight at The Hangar At The OC Fair & Event Center in Costa Mesa, California.
The Golden Boy Promotions bout will be televised live on ESPN 2 and ESPN Deportes.
In what is billed as a crossroads fight, both fighters are one fight removed from each suffering their first professional defeats and the stakes are as high tonight as a loss for either man will set them back several years.
Negrete has fought his entire career as a Bantamweight, but moved up to Junior Featherweight to challenge for his first world title against Rey Vargas on the undercard of Miguel Cotto vs. Sadam Ali in New York City late last year. The Colombian-born Negrete gave a valiant effort, but was overmatched by Vargas losing a unanimous decision by a very wide margin.
“Fighting Vargas was a great experience for me,” said Negrete this week. “It showed me that I can be a world champion. Everyone thought it was going to be an easy fight for Vargas but it was a very difficult fight for him.”
Following the loss to Vargas, Negrete went back to 118 pounds and defeated Diuhl Olguin in July.
“I’m very comfortable at my natural weight which is 118 pounds,” said Negrete. “I’m as motivated as I’ve ever been for a fight and most importantly I feel good.”
Meanwhile the 22-year-old Franco, from San Antonio, suffered his lone defeat at the hands of Lucas Fernandez back in March. Franco actually knocked Fernandez down with in the first round and was ahead on two of the three official scorecards when his night ended in the ninth round when Fernandez landed a right hand that Franco couldn’t recover from.
“He caught me with a clean shot and wobbled me,” said Franco. “I think the referee stopped it early. It happened very fast. It was a learning experience for me.”
Now in each other Negrete and Franco are hours away from a 50-50 fight with huge paydays and tons of television appearances hanging in the balance. A win for Negrete can solidify a second title shot while a loss will undoubtedly set his career back much further than the loss to Vargas did.
“He might be looking past me because he already had big fights and wants a title shot,” said Franco. “That will be a huge mistake for him to make.”
Franco said his biggest takeaway from the loss to Fernandez was getting overconfident when he found early success.
“In this fight I want to see what Oscar wants to bring then I’ll make adjustments,” added Franco. “I want to show fans I’m an intelligent fighter who can do different things in there.”
Franco was nicknamed “The Professor” by one of Robert Garcia’s assistants in Oxnard.
“They saw the way I dressed and my glasses and thought I looked like a teacher instead of a fighter,” said Franco with a laugh.
Franco adamantly said his style differs so much from that of Vargas’ that Negrete will struggle if he comes out against Franco the same way. Negrete on the other hand believes Franco will be just another victory on the resume that will lead to a bigger fight in 2019.
“I’ve watched Franco for a while now because we shared the card before,” added Negrete. “He’s a good puncher but he hasn’t been in there with someone like me before.”
Header photo by Tom Hogan/Golden Boy Promotions