Alright champ, you know the routine from my previous write-ups. How did it all start?
Boxing actually started for me when I was a child, about 6 years old in Mexico. When I came to the United States my family settled in Bloomington, Illinois. The reason I ended up in boxing was because I used to get in trouble in school. I got into a lot of street fights. The school principle's secretary said "If he likes boxing just send him to my husband." From that point on he became my boxing coach.
Did he see potential in your ability?
Yeah. The irony in his boxing career as a coach was that I was his last fighter and the one that became a world champion. He trained kids from the 1950's to the late 1980's.
I noticed that your amateur record is 213 wins and 16 losses. That's unheard of today! Explain that.
In tournaments back then you could fight more than once in one day. You could fight six or seven fights in a week. Now you're only allowed to fight once every 24 hours. Boxing was a popular sport... football and basketball wasn't popular and soccer wasn't around so there used to be a lot more kids involved in boxing than today.
Your amateur career spanned from 1977 to 1985?
yeah, and I turned professional in 1986. When I retired it wasn't meant to retire permanently it was just to take some time out from boxing because I was doing it since I was very young. Honestly, I was just burnt out. When I fought Marquez which was ridiculous for me to have lost to him, I just said "that's it I need a little rest." I like to fight again at my age.
In 1998 you retired, how old were you?
I was 32. The thing of it was that I was finishing college and I was under a lot of stress and it was getting to me. Boxing paid for my college education.
What do you remember about your pro-debut? What was your pay day?
It was a couple of thousand for a 4 rounder, and it was brutal too. The gloves were different from the amateurs... they use 8 ounces and in Europe they use 6 ounces. I fought Loris Stecca with 6 ounce gloves in his hometown of Italy.
What was it like getting hit with 6 ounce gloves?
Man, that was the first time I've gotten hit so hard. I always use this quote..."I didn't know where I was, who I was and why was this guy hittin' me." It felt like bricks every time he hit me. He was the former WBA Super Bantamweight Champion and even though I got a draw, I beat him. For me to get a draw in his hometown you know I beat him. That fight was a crucial point for me because it put me in a higher level of competition. My stocks went up after that fight.
You fought Loris Stecca's brother, right?
Yeah, I fought them back to back. Maurizio Stecca was a Gold Medalist in the 1984 Olympics. I won that fight but they gave him the decision and it was the first lost of my career. I lived in Italy for a while because they were impressed with my skills. When I got back to the States I came to Florida and stayed for the rest of my career.
How did you feel when you first saw your profile in 'The Ring Magazine'?
It was amazing! The Ring Magazine was like 'The Bible'. For you to be in that magazine was like WOW! When they put you there they knew that in some point in time you were going to be a world champion.
Any other fights in your career that were important?
After my lose to Maurizio Stecca I was undefeated in 10 years, and Jerome Coffee was important because I fought him for the world title. Back then everything used to be so organized. I won the state title, a junior world tile, and then a world title. I went through all levels of competition to get to the top. So no one can't say I earned my way through, you know. A lot of guys can't say that, you know what I mean? Now, things are different you can have 12 fights and get a world title without taking the steps to earn a title shot. I worked my way through.
What was your preparation for a fight?
My preparation for a bout was always refer back to my beginnings... no money... hungry. You always want to stay hungry and humble. The thing that made me successful was I knew I was the best conditioned athlete around in my weight class. Every morning I would do my roadwork and that would be about 4-10 miles a day, 'religiously'. Then I would go home, take a shower and have a small breakfast and take a little nap. I would do weight training and come home again and relax, then go to the boxing gym. Like I said, conditioning was never a problem for me and still not. Even today I can go on the bag and hit it for 10 rounds. About a week before each bout I would spar one time as oppose to two or three times a week during regular training days. I would do a lot of bag work and pads just to stay sharp.
After a fight I would take a week off. One thing I never did was splurge as far as pigging out on food. I was never a big eater and I always watched what I ate. I remember one time I ate a chicken wing and I felt so guilty. I wanted to get that thing out of my system. A reward for me was eating french fries and drinking a coke. That was like the ultimate! I would only eat that after a fight because I allowed myself to do that. The boxing life becomes your religion. You do everything possible to be a world champion. You don't know when that opportunity will come and you need to take advantage of it.
When you see a guy fight for a world title, you don't know the years of sacrifice that it took him to get there. Think about that... he's fighting for a world title. How many guys get that chance?
Did you study your opponent's films?
You know, you get an idea of what their style is like and you try to train accordingly. But you know what? You do your homework when the fighter is right in front of you. You have to figure out what it's going to take to beat him? The honest truth about the heart of a champion... a true champion may be behind in a fight and come out with a victory. I remember being behind on fights and thinking "I gotta get this guy out!" and I would get him out. "You just do what you gotta do!"
Stay tune for part 2 coming up next sunday. Francisco is not done punchin' yet...