Prospects Joshua Franco and Jousce Gonzalez look to shine on ESPN2
Thursday night is the unofficial kick-off of a busy month in October and, if inclined to watch that ESPN2 card (10:30 p.m. ET/7:30 p.m. PT) – the first of 18 events scheduled to be either televised or streamed this month – there’s a real fight and a prospect worth a gander.
In the main event, Oscar “El Jaguar” Negrete and Joshua “The Professor” Franco will square off in a 10-round bantamweight bout for a WBC regional title.
“I always thought that eventually we would be facing each other,” Franco told UCNLive.com, regarding his opponent at a media workout last week. “I’ve always had tough fights. Maybe Golden Boy (Promotions) was building me to fight Negrete – it was going to happen eventually. I know what I can do. I have confidence in my skills. It’s going to be another tough fight.”
Franco, 14-1 (7), is ready to pass the next test after suffering his first defeat nearly seven months ago. The loss – a ninth round technical knockout to Argentina’s Lucas Fernandez – was somewhat controversial in how it was stopped but there was plenty to learn from that night in Puerto Rico, which was also part of a Golden Boy Promotions card on ESPN.
“I was confused after the stoppage. I was a little buzzed but I could’ve continued.” Franco said about getting stopped on his feet. “I turned my head and made a mistake doing so. It’s a lesson learned. That fight is in the past. I don’t think about it anymore. It’s not a big deal.”
Forgotten about that night was how thrilling the contest was until its abrupt ending. Not to mention Franco was up wide on two of the three official scorecards, built from a hot start when he dropped Fernandez in the opening round. It was a fine display of Franco’s skill set and should feature in the types of fights he can help conjure.
From San Antonio, Texas, Franco, 22, has been trained by Robert Garcia in Southern California for his entire pro career and, since his debut in 2015, he’s progressively grown into a solid prospect who’s knocking on the door of contention. Out of the orthodox stance, Franco’s emphasis has been the creative and authoritative combination punching highlighted by a great uppercut with either hand.
“Not one specifically but when me and Abner (Mares) get in the ring, we always go at it,” Franco answered, in reference to his favorite sparring partner during the progression. When asked who’s taught him the most, he replied, “I think Carlos Cuadras has taught me a lot of stuff. He has a lot of tricks up his sleeve.”
Last June, Franco returned to the ring with a rousing sixth round stoppage of the oft-beaten Isao Carranza but that kind of opponent pales in comparison to whom he will face Thursday night at The Hangar in Costa Mesa, California.
“It’s great to come back to defend my NABF title for the first time,” Negrete said at the same workout, where they shared a friendly face-off. “It’s the first title I have won as a professional, so I have to defend it. Franco is a tough opponent. I’ve seen him fight and have followed him through his career. However I have the experience to beat him, especially after fighting some of the best in the world, including Rey Vargas. I like to give great shows and I like to win, so this fight will not be an exception.”
Negrete, 18-1 (7), went up to 122 pounds for his first and only title shot last December against Vargas, who outboxed him to earn a wide unanimous decision in the second defense of his WBC title. Negrete, 31, was towered over by the freakishly tall Vargas and, even though he couldn’t get inside to offer any sort of threat, there was some positive in him lasting all 12 rounds in a weight class in which he had no business. Also promoted by Golden Boy, Negrete, Tierralta, Colombia, has been a constant face in the various gyms of So Cal and although they’re familiar with each other, he and Franco have never sparred.
“Negrete has experience facing Rey Vargas and going the distance with him,” said Franco about that fight, a forgetful feature on HBO, “but I have a different style and different styles make different fights.”
Slated for the ESPN2 co-feature, Jousce “Tito” Gonzalez will make his return to the ring under some remarkable circumstances and he talked about them with UCNLive.com at the Westside Boxing Club in Mid-City, Los Angeles.
“It healed fast. Faster than expected. They told me I wasn’t supposed to back until November,” said Gonzalez about the torn meniscus on which he had surgery on July 19. “I walked out of surgery. It was my mindset. The body does what the mind tells it to do. The doctor told me I’m not going to be back until November and I said give me a month. I was riding my bike the week after surgery, 10 miles a day. I was staying in shape because I’m hungry. I wanted to get back in the ring.”
Gonzalez, 8-0 (8), a 23-year-old junior lightweight prospect from Glendora, California, sustained the injury in the first round of his most recent fight in late-May.
“I tore it in the first round. Nobody believed me,” Gonzalez recalled. “He came in at weird angle, bumped my knee and I felt it buckle. It didn’t feel right. Then I lost my balance and I guess, when I lost my balance, that’s what did it. But when he hit my knee, that’s when it felt funny.”
It will forever be a memorable first round for Gonzalez, who entered the fight riding a perfect record of seven straight first round knockouts to start his career. Juan Sandoval, Gonzalez’s opponent that night in Santa Monica at an untelevised Sugar Ray Leonard benefit, was the first to ever take him past the first but wasn’t able to last with the big 130-pounder – retiring in his corner after four rounds and giving Gonzalez’s injured left knee a break.
“I’m not even worried about it. I feel like I got a new knee,” proclaimed Gonzalez, who says he hasn’t felt pain at all, post-surgery. According to him, it was his longest layoff from boxing, since he was eight years old but he was hitting the pads with his father/trainer Jose five weeks after walking out of the hospital.
“I’m running fine, training fine. I feel great, I’m in great shape and I’m just ready to go.”
Ivan “Striker” Delgado, 12-1-1 (5), will be Gonzalez’s opponent on Thursday night, in the ESPN2 opener. The 28-year-old is almost 16 months removed from suffering a brutal knockout loss to Charles Huerta and his subsequent fallout with Golden Boy. In his only fight since, the Los Angeles native went down to Tijuana last June to knock out a no-hoper in the second round and although his boxing skills were somewhat exposed in his sole defeat, the tough guy spirit surely hasn’t left this former gang member-turned-fighter.
“I can adjust to any type of style – whatever he brings – if he wants to box or smother me, I’m ready for anything. I had great sparring and I’m just ready,” Gonzalez said about Delgado. “I feel like he thinks this is an opportunity. It’s just gonna be another fight for me. I’m going to do what I do best: Take him out and see what goes on from there. He’s on the outside looking in for a reason and it’s going to stay that way.”