Daniel Franco 'was the kind of kid everyone wants for a friend,' distraught father says

Kevin Iole
Combat columnist
Daniel Franco (L), shown in a 2016 bout with Marcello Gallardo, is in a medically induced coma as a result of injuries he suffered Saturday. (Getty Images)

Boxer Daniel “Twitch” Franco lies in a hospital bed in Sioux City, Iowa, largely unresponsive, in a battle for his life.

Franco, who was injured in a bout Saturday with Jose Haro, is in a medically induced coma after undergoing two brain bleeds. Doctors are desperately trying to regulate the pressure on his brain, and so are doing all they can not to stimulate his brain.

They’ve thus asked the family not to speak to him. He’s been placed in a paralyzed state, to limit his movements. His room is dark, eerily quiet. The family is keeping a vigil, and his father, Al Franco, who also doubles as his boxing trainer, so very much wants to wrap his arms around his son and tell him how proud he is of him and how much he loves him.

But he can’t and, like everyone else who has come to know and admire this courageous and charismatic young man, he’s helpless, left to stand around and wait, lost in his thoughts.

“I want people to know how good of a person my son is,” Al Franco said. “He was a happy kid, a good kid, the kind of kid everyone wants for a friend. If you need help, ask him and he’s there for you. He’s a fun guy to be around. He loved people. He loved life. And he loved nothing more than doing things for people.

“We were trying to talk to him and let him know that we’re here for him, and that we’ll be with him throughout this thing for whatever he needs. But we can’t. They’re telling us it’s best not to talk to him, so we don’t even have that.”

Franco was knocked out in the eighth round by Haro, marking his second loss in three fights. He also fought a bout in Mexico in May that he won by first-round knockout.

The loss to Haro dropped his record to 16-2-3. He was 15-0-3 heading into his March 23 fight in Los Angeles against Christopher Martin.

His father, didn’t want him to go through with the bout He was sick and not ready, and Al Franco had concerns that he expressed to several different people.

But truth be told, Al Franco never wanted his son to box. He had a 4.3 GPA in high school, and studied neuropsychology at Chaffee College. He’d recently been accepted to Arizona State.

His father wanted him to study, to forget about boxing.

“I trained him to learn self defense, but in all honesty, that’s all I wanted for him; I never really wanted him to box,” Al Franco said. “He was a smart kid who did very well in school. I remember when he was in seventh grade and they wanted to bump him up to ninth grade [skipping eighth]. I said no, because I felt they needed to let him be a kid.

“I told him to play football, to do something else. But he loved boxing and wanted to try it. When we’re at home, I’m Dad, but in the gym, I’m the boss and I was hard on him. I would have much rather seen him just go to school and forget about boxing.”

But Daniel insisted, probably because he was good at it. He got off to a good start, fought on an Andre Ward undercard in Oakland and seemed to be moving up in the sport.

Daniel Franco was the kind of kid everyone wanted to be friends with, his father said. (Getty Images)

And then came the Christopher Martin fight which Al Franco should never have occurred.

“He was sick and I wanted to pull him out, but I know that the matchmakers don’t like it when you do that,” he said “Somebody told me if I pulled him out, they’d shelved him. So I didn’t do it, but I told a lot of people. I kept hoping someone would say, ‘Oh, then he can’t fight,’ but no one did. I didn’t want to overstep my bounds, because I believe in what they say about fighters fight, promoters promote, managers manage and the trainers should train.”

Franco struggled to make weight for that bout, which his father said is highly unusual. Al Franco served as his son’s nutritionist and cooked all his meals for him. Plus, Daniel loved the outdoors and enjoyed running.

He ran just about every day, his father said, and when he didn’t run, he took long hikes. But because of his illness, he missed three weeks of training camp. He dropped Martin in the first, but didn’t have the zip to jump on him and finish him.

So he backed off and boxed, and paid for it when Martin roared back in the third and knocked him out.

But for the Haro fight, Al Franco said things went sensationally in camp for his son. On fight night, though, something was different.

“I didn’t see that killer look in his eyes, that look of confidence, that I usually would see,” Al Franco said. ” … I don’t know what it was, if he was scared of getting knocked out or afraid to lose, I’m not sure. But I wasn’t seeing what I wanted to see from him.”

So now, all the family can do is wait. It’s a horrific feeling, and isn’t easy on any of them. They’ll face massive medical bills and have no idea how this will play out.

The anguish in his voice is evident. He’s been there for his son throughout his life, and now is only a bystander in Daniel’s hour of need.

“All we can do is hope and ask people for their prayers,” Al Franco said. “I didn’t push a religion on my kids; I allowed them to choose on their own. His mother is a devout Catholic and in the last few years, Daniel has gone that way and has been like his mother, in church a lot. I just hope that helps him. We need a lot of prayers.”

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