June 10, 2017, in Iowa, it was supposed to be a continuation on an upward trajectory, after a deviation off the path.
Daniel Franco, a 16-1-3 featherweight stepping to the line against 12-1 Jose Haro.
Franco, promoted by Roc Nation, had fought and lost three months prior, knocked out in round three by Christopher Martin. He’d regrouped, decided but of course to soldier on, quitting not in his DNA.
He’d shore up a hole or two, re-dedicate, re-start, and fight on.
Franco, trainer by his father Al Franco, got a W against an 0-1 guy in May, and then stepped up against Haro, no pushover. He’d been in tough, and it showed in Iowa. They traded. Both received punishment, but the night ended for Franco in round eight. At 2:43 of the eighth, Franco had been to the canvas twice, the count was waived off. And then the evening took a darker turn. Punishment absorbed by Franco went beyond a momentary short circuit. His brain had been rattled, badly.
That second knockdown, off a right hand that landed ultra clean, sent the California boxer to the mat immediately. He crumpled, the ref didn’t bother counting, he knew this fighter was finished. His limbs went limp, he fell face first and rolled to his back. He was conscious, but so dazed. Ordinarily, that lifts. People come to, synapses get unscrambled, neurons start firing adequately. Daniel didn’t snap out of it. He was on a stool, then on his back, on the canvas, as gathered personnel looked more worried.
They had reason to be…
Franco was sent to Mercy Medical in Sioux City, Iowa, for surgery to attend to brain bleeds. He was placed in a coma, to better allow for the potential for optimal healing. And the fighter made it out of those critical 48 hours. Two weeks later, he was breathing on his own, and it felt like the prayer flurry the family had asked for succeeded. But, one unfortunate element to all this was that the Franco couldn’t fully concentrate on staying positive and working fully on his recovery.
The medical bills were piling up, unfathomable, really, unless you are in such a situation and you see them with your own eyes. By mid-July, Daniel was up, out of bed, walking, talking. Miracle-level stuff. So much to be thankful for, for the Franco family, being that so many others similarly stricken hadn’t been so fortunate.
But those bills. They hang over the Francos, dark clouds which add a level of stress that, really, in a “fair” world, shouldn’t be present. In this nation, so wealthy, with about 550 billionaires enjoying vaults worth of money, in a world that sees eight men owning as much wealth as half the world’s population, we’d hope that a family undergoing such trauma wouldn’t have to be saddled with crushing debts.
“He’s doing remarkably well, it is a miracle,” the father told us. “There’s no other way to put it, you see what happens to all these other fighters, I’ve seen it myself, I’ve been there, watching, other fighters, and if they survive, some of them can’t walk, can’t talk, and you look at Daniel, he can run, he can speak.
“He’s studying right now, he had three years of neuropsychology, twice a week now, he doesn’t have his brain flap in, but he’s actually studying to get his Master’s.”
That brain flap, a portion of the skull, on his left side, is gone. Skin only covers it, so he wears a helmet. Today, Friday,Daniel will start the process to get a prosthetic flap put in. Al, the father, hopes it will be Daniel’s final surgery, and it looks promising, as no bacteria or viruses present in the brain are there to gum up the works.
I told the father that I admired his strength and perseverance in this fight, and oh what a fight it is, asking for heroic measures of courage. I asked him how he was doing, and he paused. Al Franco broke up, because before the interview started on air, I asked him how he was, and he said, “Good.” And we discussed, briefly, how he feels like he needs to answer “good” because he wants to project an image of strength for the family.
We heard Al on the other end, sniffling, breaking down. He was crying. “When people ask me how I’m doing, I keep smiling,” he said. “I know I need to answer well, always answer positive, because what I don’t want is my family to see me or hear me like this.”
I told him I so admired him and how he’s handling it.
The bills are an element of the stress, he admitted. They just got a bill for $125,000, and that’s what he owes after insurance paid their share. He said that the caregiver had billed the insurance company $425,000 for a procedure, and he said that insurance covers about 20%, because the Francos chose an “out of network” facility for Daniel.
OK, so the bills are outlandish. Have the Francos been receiving help? I know people have given to a Go Fund Me page. More than $55,000 of a $100,000 goal has been raised.
Promoter Roc Nation, have they stepped up, I wondered? I knew that Al had been publicly asking the promoter to call him, and discuss his plight. He’d maintained that Roc hadn’t been front and center and alongside the Francos in this battle. Where does that relationship stand?
“No, Roc Nation has not called once,” he told me. “Actually, no, let me take that back. Last Friday, we posted a a picture of Daniel saying I fought for you, I did the things you asked me to do, why can’t you call me.” Al said a Roc exec called that night, after the pic went viral. The father said that he was asked to take down the pic and Roc would call back shortly.
Al said he took down the posts, by Sunday, and was hopeful he’d get a subsequent call. It didn’t happen, he said. He just wanted, he shared, for Jay Z and/or Beyonce to share a Daniel post on their Twitter. He wants to man up and take care of the bills himself, but he’s burned thru the 401K. He wants Roc to promote the Go Fund Me page and he’s miffed that Roc hasn’t been a partner in the recovery effort.
I reached out to Roc, through a media relations person, last week, and then through a back channel communication on Wednesday. It is clear they aren’t wanting to at this time comment publicly, for whatever reasons.
Al Franco said the IBF and the WBC have been helpful. “Roc Nation…a call, a text, or something, really would have helped,” he said.
I told him I’m hopeful that Roc and the Francos can get right, get together and fight this together. The burden on the Franco is immense, and if a Jay Z can help, it can only help his standing on the planet.