In what is the last title fight of the year, a super flyweight unification bout takes place at the Ota City General Gymnasium in Japan between WBA titlist, Joshua Franco, and WBO champion, Kazuto Ioka, on New Years night.
For Franco, this will be his first outing since August of 2021, when he retained this belt by defeating Andrew Moloney, to complete their three fight series that spanned over 14 months. These fights took place under the Top Rank banner.
Since that bout, Franco -- who was promoted by Golden Boy Promotions -- has sat idle, and eventually left the company.
"I was just waiting for them to give me a fight," Franco explained to SNAC.com. "The whole time I was waiting, I was supposed to have a fight in-between that time I was waiting but they were never able to give me one. So I was just waiting for nothing."
c/o Robert Garcia Jr
For a boxer like Franco, winning a title means being able to parlay that into significant paydays. But for him, it was a year-plus filled with angst.
He admits, "It was very frustrating because they would tell me I was going to fight here, and fight on a certain date, I'd get ready and they wouldn't follow through with it. So it was very frustrating because I would stay in the gym getting ready for my next fight."
Meanwhile his younger brother, Jesse 'Bam' Rodriguez, had a banner 2022, as he performed three times and became a world champion, defeating the likes of Carlos Caudras and Srisaket Sor Rungvisai. While his career moved forward, Franco's stalled.
''It made me more motivated, just seeing him those three fights motivated e to get back," said Franco(18-1-2, 8 KOs) who when giving the opportunity dove right back into the deep end of the pool. His team bypassed on a tune-up bout to face the accomplished Ioka, a multi-division champion on his home turf.
"This offer came up, I talked to Robert (Garcia) and he said it was a good fight that I should take," recalled the 27-year old Franco. "There's not a lot of chances to unify against other champions that come along. He said the best thing for me to do was probably to take it. So I did, my whole team agreed. Now, we're here."
c/o Robert Garcia Jr
Garcia, a veteran trainer who has worked with a multitude of world-class boxers explained that the way his gym(the RGBA in Riverside) his run, ring rust is mitigated. "A lot of other gyms, they have sparring where you're just getting beatings, over here, we have 'real' fights. We have real competition, here. Our guys are always in with good guys and it prepares them for tough fights. So there might be a round or two where Josh has to get into it but he'll get back in the groove quickly."
Facing a skilled boxer-puncher such as Ioka on a 16 month layoff seems like a daunting task, but Franco is a battle-tested young veteran who is in his physical prime.
"I'm not too concerned because I've been doing a lot of sparring in the period I was waiting," stated Franco. "I felt like also the time off gave my body a chance to rest. I did the three fights with Moloney back-to-back. So I feel that time off definitely did good for my body. It rejuvenated me. Now, I feel better than I have before."
Franco is a solid workman inside the ring, one that puts his nose to the grindstone and puts in an honest days work. The best way to describe him as a fighter is persistent and consistent.
For Franco this is a huge opportunity, one that will pay him well, and certainly lift his stature within the sport should he come out victorious. He's just looking at what's ahead with no ill feelings over how the last year or so has gone in his career. In fact, he's still grateful to Golden Boy.
"It was just business, no bitterness. They got me to where I'm at today. They built me up they got the right fights, and they gave me the opportunity to fight against Moloney, who's with Top Rank, and it's just all business. There's no bitterness towards them," said Franco.
"He's a great kid,'' said Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions, ''but things happen, he wanted to explore other opportunities and you have to respect that. We have nothing bad to say about the kid. He's a good fighter, a world-class fighter.
"We wish him all the best."
I'm sure you've heard by now that Gervonta 'Tank' Davis was arrested for domestic violence in South Florida. The news broke on late Tuesday night, and he was released by Wednesday afternoon.
Davis who is no stranger to legal issues, is scheduled to headline a pay-per-view card on January 7 versus Hector Luis Garcia. As this is being written, no announcement on the status of that fight, or event, has been announced by Showtime Sports, which is distributing this broadcast. This card will slated for the Capital One Arena in Washington DC.
What's interesting is that last year as Rolando Romero faced accusations of sexual abuse without any arrest or criminal charges, he was pulled from his December date against Davis, who would then face Isaac Cruz last December in Los Angeles. Eventually, Romero did take on Davis this past May.
Will Davis be held to the same standard, or does that not apply to A-sides of the promotion?
The 28-year old native of Baltimore, Maryland did put out this statement on his Instagram account on Wednesday:
PBC announced that Rey Vargas-O'Shaquie Foster will take place on Feb. 11 at the Alamodome in San Antonio on Showtime....There is a chance that Golden Boy could be staging a card on January 28 that will be headlined by welterweight, Alexis Rocha.....Word is that Seniesa Estrada will be the co-feature on the March 25 card in Fresno that is being headlined by Jose Ramirez and Richard Commey on ESPN....Hope everyone has a happy New Years... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org......