Under normal circumstances, Joshua Franco and Vergil Ortiz Jr. will be in the same building along with the rest of their team.
That won’t be the case this weekend, as the training, managerial and promotional stablemates find themselves on shows in separate stops and on rival platforms. Ortiz will enjoy a hometown headliner in a welterweight crossroads bout with Egidijus ‘Mean Machine’ Kavaliauskas live on DAZN from Ford Center at The Star in Frisco, Texas. At approximately the same time, San Antonio’s Franco will be four hours north in Tulsa, Oklahoma for a third bout with Andrew Moloney which airs live on ESPN.
Both train out of the Robert Garcia Boxing Academy in Riverside, California, and with Garcia as the head trainer for both. Saturday night’s dilemma leaves a house divided, a first for Franco who will somehow enter his second career trilogy by the time he heads into a fight without his full team intact.
“It doesn’t bother me, but it will be weird that the team will be split up,” Franco admitted to BoxingScene.com. “I’ve never experienced it before. Vergil and I are both going to handle our own business on fight night.”
Franco will enjoy the benefit of having Garcia in his corner on fight night, while Jose Angel Contreras will serve as the chief second. Garcia’s father, Eduardo and son Robert Jr. will be in Texas to assist Vergil Ortiz Sr., who takes the lead in his son’s corner.
The entire team was on hand for each of Franco’s previous two meetings with Moloney (21-1, 14KOs; 1ND), including his career-best twelve-round unanimous decision win in their first fight last June at MGM Grand Conference Center in Las Vegas.
The feat came with Franco (17-1-2, 8KOs; 1ND) winning a secondary junior bantamweight title that will be at stake this weekend. He also retained the belt in their rematch at the same venue last November, ending in a No-Decision after two rounds when Franco was unable to continue due to his right eye being swollen shut. The wound was deemed to be caused by a headbutt, a ruling which was upheld after a 26-minute video review conducted ringside by Nevada commission officials.
Saturday’s fight could be argued as the biggest of Franco’s career to this point. Ortiz (17-0, 17KOs) is in a similar position with his fight, even if for different reasons as a win will thrust him into welterweight title contention. The ideal scenario would be to have everyone together in full support of one another. Instead, everyone remains well-prepared for the less-than-perfect scenario.
“It’s going to be a big night for both of us,” vows Franco. “This is a really good fight for Vergil. He’s in tough with Mean Machine but I truly believe that Vergil is going to beat him.
“We’ll be apart on August 14, but we can all meet up on August 15 when everyone is talking about our wins.”
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox