So the 24-year-old rising star from Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., fighting on the East Coast for the first time in his career, wanted to be patient and make sure he did everything right.
Franco, nicknamed “Twitch,” did just that, following the game plan his father and trainer Al Franco, and brother Michael, a former boxer, drew up.
The result: A devastating fifth-round knockout of Derrick Murray, the first loss of his career.
Franco (15-0, 10 KOs) cautiously sized up his undefeated opponent for two rounds. When it seemed like Murray would not be able to hurt him, and began leaving himself open, Franco went to work. He got Murray on the ropes and landed a flurry, the last of which was a powerful right hook that dropped Murray for the 10-count.
At 2:51 of the fifth round, referee Kenny Chevalier counted Murray out and Franco leaped on the ropes to celebrate, cigar smoke and all.
“It’s amazing,” an elated Franco said of the IBF USBA featherweight title belt around his waist. “I just want to thank everyone who’s been supporting me, including my sponsors, my home gym, the War Zone Boxing Club, they’re very supportive of me and everybody knows what my dream is, to be champion,especially a world champion. But today is a small step in that direction.”
Murray was moving around the ring through the first two rounds, slipping punches and landing a few of his own.
“I saw that he was pretty good. He was able to slip very well, he had great movement but I wanted to break his body down, and I did do that,” Franco said.
“That’s when he started to slow down. I knew when I broke his body down he wasn’t going to be able to move as much. He sat there on the ropes and gave me a clear shot, and thankfully I was able to land a devastating shot. It was a right hook to the head.
“I knew he had his chin up a lot and he kept his left arm low. It’s exactly everything we planned for in this fight. We studied videotape and just progressing every day and training, and everything fell into place.”
Franco, who fights under the Roc Nation banner, will move up in the IBF rankings with the victory and hopes to get a shot in the near future on ShoBox: The New Generation or another TV slot. First things first, though: A little sightseeing in the Nation’s Capital to celebrate.