A Gainsborough bare-knuckle boxer says his camp is “the best he’s ever had” as he prepares for a world title fight at the O2 Indigo in London on Saturday.
Rico Franco, 27, won a prize fighter tournament earlier this year to set up the title bout against bare-knuckle boxing legend Jimmy Sweeney.
Bare-knuckle boxing (BKB) has never been illegal in the UK but it is not regulated officially by any form of governing body, such as the British Boxing Board of Control.
The Gainsborough lightweight fighter, whose background consists mainly of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) training and fighting, says that it was his coach that introduced him into the bare-knuckle fighting scene just over 18 months ago.
He said: “My coach, who was in the UFC, was offered a fight in a bare-knuckle show at London 02 but he had a few too many head injuries.
“I’ve always wanted to fight bare-knuckle because every fighter does. So he took my name forward and said ‘I can’t do it but, I know a guy that will’.”
Franco’s first professional bare-knuckle fight was a victory at the Echo Arena in Liverpool last May, which he followed up later that year with a third round knockout in his second ever BKB fight at the O2.
Earlier this year the fighter, who gained the nickname “Bonbon” for his love for the sweets, won an eight-man prize fighter competition. He said: “I had three fights and won them all, I knocked the first two out and the last one went seven rounds, which was a big fight.
“The winner of the prize fight got to fight the world champion, which is what I wanted. It’s been a mad journey really.”
Franco’s opponent on Saturday is the “king” of BKB, Jimmy Sweeney, who holds three world title belts at three different weight divisions. Throughout the course of his bare-knuckle career, Sweeney has had 24 fights and lost just once.
However, the record of the world champion does not faze Franco, who said: “I’ve been visualising stopping him. I’m either going to finish him early or it’s going to be later on when the cardio comes in. I know my fitness is a lot better.
“He’s just got a really good style for the sport,” he added. “He’s really good at countering shots, so I’ve got to be smart. As long as my head’s on and I’m mentally ready I’ll definitely finish him.”