American super flyweight contender Joshua “El Profesor” Franco (16-1-2, 8 KO) will get his first crack at a major world title on June 23, as he challenges WBA “regular” champion Andrew Moloney of Australia. The fight will be one of the first title bouts to take place since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, and will headline a ESPN+ Top Rank boxing card in Las Vegas
Before the pandemic temporarily shut boxing down, Franco managed to pick up a win back in January, stopping opponent Jose Alejandro Burgos in the ninth round in his hometown of San Antonio, Texas. Before picking up the win over Burgos, Franco was coming off of a three-fight series with former world title challenger Oscar Negrete.
Both Franco and Negrete met in the ring for the first time in October of 2018, as they fought to a split-draw after ten rounds. In an April 2019 rematch, Franco won a narrow split-decision, handing Negrete the second defeat of his professional career. However, the pair fought to another draw in a rubber match in August of 2019.
“[The fights with Negrete] helped me a lot, I gained a lot of experience in those fights,” Franco said in an interview with ESBR. “I’m grateful for all of those fights that we had because I learned a lot and it made me grow as a fighter. I got more experience and I’m a lot more comfortable in the ring now.”
“El Profesor” is now getting ready for the biggest fight of his career to date. While the current training circumstances may not have been ideal, Franco didn’t seem to have any issues with them.
“It was just like a normal camp,” Franco said. “I’ve been in [training camp] for about a month already. But I was staying active back home, running and hitting the heavy bag so I wasn't losing too much of my conditioning. I had to stay in shape and do something so I wouldn’t get lazy.”
For years, Franco has been training and fighting under the tutelage of world-renown trainer and former world champion Robert Garcia. After June 23, he hopes to be added to the long list of champions who have trained under the multiple-time Trainer of the Year winner.
“He’s made over 12 world champions and he has all the experience [necessary] for a trainer, he was a world champion himself,” Franco said. “His dad [Eduardo] has experience training Fernando Vargas, Mikey [Garica] and Robert, and made all of them world champions. It just runs in the blood, it’s in the family already. To be training with Robert is a blessing because of all the knowledge, all the sparring, all the training… he knows what it takes to be a world champion.”
Franco’s upcoming opponent, Andrew Moloney (21-0, 14 KO), won the WBA interim title in November of 2019 by stopping Elton Dharry after eight rounds. The fight against Franco will be his first defense after being promoted to WBA “regular” champion.
For the winner of the June 23 fight, a possible WBA title unification with Nicaraguan boxing legend and four-division champion Roman “Chocolatito” Gonzalez (49-2, 41 KO)—who currently holds the WBA “super” title at 115 pounds—could be next. Franco likes the possibility of the matchup, but makes it clear that his focus is on Moloney until fight night.
“I have Andrew Moloney in front of me, of course I’m not looking past him, but I do have other goals,” Franco said. “I want to fight against Chocolatito and [Juan Francisco] ‘Gallo’ Estrada, those are the two top guys in the division. After doing this [fight], I’d want to face the best and continue to grow.”
After suffering two back-to-back defeats in 2017 to Srisaket Sor Rungvisai—the latter of which being a devastating knockout loss—Chocolatito Gonzalez has won his last 3 fights over the course of three years, including his title winning effort against Kal Yafai earlier this year. Though the former “pound-for-pound” king has relatively inactive and seen better days, Franco believes he still has plenty of fight left in him.
“I think the time off helped him because in his last fight he looked pretty good against Kal Yafai. I think he proved to everybody that he’s still the same fighter. He might be a little old, but that doesn’t mean anything. He still has the experience, he still has the fight in him. And I’m sure after winning that belt he wants to do more,” Franco said.
Unification fights with Gonzalez and Estrada could be huge matchups for Franco in the near future, but he would have to beat Moloney to secure either of those fights next. The Australian pugilist may be the fighter with the unbeaten record going into their fight, but Franco is determined to have a world title wrapped around his waist, and believes his skills will pave the way to victory come fight time.
“He’s an undefeated fighter, he has the belt, he’s tough and he’s not gonna back down, so it’s gonna be a good and fun fight for the fans but I’m not leaving that ring without the belt.”