DRIAN FRANCISCO’S MENTAL FIGHT
17 Nov 2012
This last seven weeks has been taxing for Drian Francisco. He fought just seven Saturdays ago in Mexico in his first fight out of Asia and today, he will once again climb the squared ring in his United States debut.
He won his fight in Mexico in stunning fashion, knocking out a hapless hometown warrior in just one round. His reputation as a "knockout artist" grew with his first venture in the western hemisphere.
And no, he did not go home to an adoring family and country after that. There is no courtesy call to the governor or mayor of his hometown after his victory. There is no mini parade for him.
Francisco settled in the city of Los Angeles after his victory in Mexico. But he is not there to do sightseeing tours. He has not even seen most of downtown L.A. nor walked the famous Hollywood Walk of Fame to this date.
The boxer from a province off the coast of Luzon went straight to a gym that his handlers endorsed him to, in a city that is foreign to him.
Francisco found a new trainer in Justine Fortune and a new training ground in Fortune's Gym in Hollywood. Initial plans were for him to fight for a tough IBF eliminator against an unbeaten fighter in Julio Ceja tomorrow, November 17th. A win over Ceja and his dreams of fighting for a title will be realized soon.
Francisco trained with Ceja on his mind but Ceja was just a name out of a box for him. The fight was never realized, not even in paper. Francisco later on learned that Ceja has an opponent already and it is not him.
And so the famous T.B.A. (To Be Announced) opponent lingered across his name in Boxrec. Francisco continued training against a faceless opponent. Something that has frustrated him and his trainer as it prevented them in forming strategies come fight night.
And then two weeks ago, a very tempting offer was made to Francisco. It was a very attractive offer, a great opportunity for a boxer like him. The idea of him fighting for a world title was mentioned, albeit in a higher class. And the name that was mentioned to him and his trainer was the WBA's 122 pound champ, Guillermo Rigondeaux.
Francisco, his team, fans and his trainer drool at that "big fight" for days. His team was informed that it is about eighty percent done. So, Francisco trained with Rigondeaux on his mind at that time. But eighty percent does not mean anything in boxing unless the contract is signed. And as fast as the news that Francisco vs. Rigondeaux is set for December 15th in Houston, it also took a whirlwind of internet reports to quell it down. Rigondeaux is fighting as planned but not against him.
And so, it is back to Mr. T.B.A. for Francisco, back to a nameless and faceless foe for him. And it is taking a toll on Francisco, both mentally and physically. Fortune halted his ward's training, anticipating the Rigondeaux fight so as not to over train Francisco. But December 15th reverted back to November 17th and the cramming to get back in training mode is frustrating both fighter and trainer.
Frustrated but facing the reality of not fighting at all, Francisco returned to training mode a week ago. He initially had hesitations of fighting because of the never ending changes that have occurred in the past few days, but Francisco decided against it after thinking it over.
And at last, he gets an opponent. It wasn't necessarily the caliber of opposition that was initially offered to him in the past and one that he has set his mind to. But it is a job and a reason for him not to waste the last six weeks of hard work that he has done.
Francisco's U.S. debut will not be similar to the boxing career of his famous countryman in Manny Pacquiao, something that is in the back of his supporters and fans' minds with the Rigondeaux bout. Pacquiao was a late replacement to then champion, Lehlohonolo Ledwaba in Pacquiao's initial fight here. The Filipino superstar knocked out the much favored Ledwaba in what has been the biggest break in his career in 2003. That won't be the same story line for Francisco.
After all the confusion of the last seven weeks, the boxer who just turned 30 last week away from the comforts of home is set to do tonight what he came in the United States for in the first place.
That is to fight and nothing else. He will fight, despite the mental anguish that a fighter like him endures with all the uncertainties in the fight game. Francisco is learning that boxing is not only a torture to the body but for the mind as well. But, it will not bring him down.
Not with Christmas just around the corner.
"Gusto kong manalo para naman maganda ang pasko ko at ng pamilya ko." (I want to win so that it will be a good Christmas for me and my family.) Francisco told me.
Tonight in a squared ring in Los Angeles, Drian Francisco will try to accomplish that for himself, his fans, his country and his family.
"Bukas, ibibigay natin lahat!" (Tomorrow, I will give it all!) was Francisco's parting words to me last night before he went to bed.
We know you will Gintong Kamao, we know you will!
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