FEAR? WHAT FEAR?
Lee Gormley catches up with Daniel Franco, five months after he almost lost his life to boxing
Guillermo Rigondeaux tells us that he is not intimidated by Vasyl Lomachenko
ON JUNE 10, 2017, American fighter Daniel Franco was knocked out in the eighth round of his 21st professional outing by compatriot Jose Haro. What transpired at the Winnavegas Casino & Resort in Sloan was another worrying story within the sport involving the young Californian.
At 25 years of age, featherweight prospect Franco was stopped by a walloping overhand right which instantly ended the USBA 126lbs title bout, only his second defeat.
“Twitch” was able to gather himself enough to return to his stool in the aftermath, but had to lay back down as the official result was read aloud, leading him to be stretchered out of the squaredcircle and straight to the hospital.
“I remember nothing of that night in June,” explained Franco to Boxing News.
“I remember waking up in the hospital and thought I had a dream about meeting the fighter I was going to fight. He told me ‘I always think a face-off is weird because you’re about to fight the other guy.’
“I told my dad this when I awoke from my coma and he told me that that happened at the weigh-ins. I had no idea. I still have no recollection of the fight or that the fight even happened.”
Upon reaching the hospital that night, Franco was medically placed into a coma and underwent surgery for two brain bleeds. In an intensive care unit he required tubes to breathe. A section of his skull was also later removed. He will never fight again.
“I feel that God has kept me here for a reason, that reason I am still yet to know,” said the upbeat California native.
“The recovery is going pretty decent. Personally, I feel like I’m stuck in one place all of the time, though. It’s terrible that my career is over and I am in a place in my life where I am working in between obstacles.”
As is the danger in light of his near-fatal injury, Franco is now forced to don a protective helmet every time he’s on his feet. This is to safeguard his brain from further damage, with a substantial piece of skull, which usually acts as protection, now missing. A sad souvenir of that life-altering night in June.
With medical bills to pay and a life without professional boxing ahead of him after a seven-year career, he has set up a Gofundme page in the hope of helping him along this difficult path. There will no more lacing of the gloves in Franco’s future, something he admits will be a huge absence from his everyday life, but his attention has reverted back towards a more educational route since battling back from his horrific ordeal.
“I’ll definitely miss it! I tweeted about this before,” he continued “‘Truth is, I miss the ring. I miss the gym. The sweat, the dedication, the never ending workouts. I wish this never happened. But, I’m alive!
“I feel that I accomplished one of my main goals in life, to be a professional athlete. Truth is, I’m going to try to pursue my education now and fulfil my first dream when I was growing up. To be a neurologist or a neuropsychologist.”
Boxing News tried to reach his promoters Roc Nation for comment but had no joy - it is a problem Franco also claims to have encountered since the accident. He did have people he wanted to thank, though.
“[Thanks to] the Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, Mercy Hospital, and Casa Colina Rehab in Pomona. I’d like to give a huge thank you to Dr. Laverso who was the main director at Casa Colina, he made sure I was well taken care of.
“Also, thank you to my family for always being by my side through it all. My girlfriend even stayed by my side through all of my recovery. She’s been one of the greatest to support me. Her and my mum. Thank you to all the fans that reached out and kept on pushing me through my rehabilitation and recovery.”
Franco has now got a second chance at life. A chance he’s eternally grateful to have: “I’m happy that I boxed, but I’m even happier that I’m alive and get a second chance.”
‘I REMEMBER WAKING UP IN HOSPITAL AND HAVING A DREAM ABOUT THE FIGHTER I WAS GOING TO FIGHT’
To help, visit www.gofundme.com/Danieltwitchfranco
THE FIGHTER: Franco accepts his fighting days are over but admits he still yearns to box
FATEFUL NIGHT: Franco [left] and Haro exchange before the horrible ending