NEW YORK (Jan. 24, 2011) – Undefeated featherweight prospect and former Cuban Olympian Luis Franco will look to take another giant step towards challenging for a world title in 2011 when he takes on veteran Leonilo Miranda in a 10-round bout to kick off an impressive run of boxing on SHOWTIME on Friday, Feb. 4 LIVE on SHOWTIME (11 p.m. ET/PT, delayed on the West coast).
In a co-feature worthy of main event billing, crowd-pleasing and Freddie Roach-trained Lateef Kayode will be looking for his 15th consecutive knockout as he squares off against Tampa native Nicholas Iannuzzi in a 10-round cruiserweight bout.
Undefeated lightweight prospect Archie Ray Marquez and hard-hitting southpaw Marvin Quintero will kickoff the tripleheader with an eight-round scrap.
Promoted by Gary Shaw Productions, the event will originate from Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez, Calif.
One of boxing’s fastest rising prospects, Franco (8-0, 5 KOs) is on the inside track to challenge for a world title in 2011. The No. 9 rated World Boxing Organization (WBO) prospect, Franco is aiming to continue to step up his level of opposition in the coming year.
“I’d like to fight all the top guns in my weight class,” Franco, 28, said. “Line them up one by one, I’m waiting for the call. If any of them have what it takes to call out my name and challenge me, I’ll be ready. I want the top guns in this division.”
“I’m looking to get a world title victory in 2011. We’re on the right path right now – we just need to keep on winning.”
Though he only has eight professional fights under his belt compared to Miranda’s 34, Franco had more than 400 amateur fights and was 2-2 against former teammate and current World Boxing Association (WBA) featherweight champ Yuriorkis Gamboa.
“The experience this guy has is pretty much against Mexican fighters,” Franco said. “I have all kinds of international experience. Even in my eight fights, I’ve seen and learned enough to top what this guy has been doing in 34 fights.
“I heard some comments from Miranda. It stimulates me to hear my opponent say that he’ll knock me out. That gets me fired up. I’ll turn the tables on him.”
Franco, who defected from Cuba in 2009 and lives in Miami, is coming off a disqualification (low blows) win over Eric Hunter on Dec. 3, also at Chumash Casino Resort.
Fighting in the main event of a national telecast after just eight professional fights is a huge accomplishment but Franco believes that he is right on track. “I’m a marquee fighter and this is where I belong,” said Franco.
Franco is managed by Henry Foster, who also manages SHOWTIME Super Six World Boxing Classic semifinalist Glen Johnson.
Miranda (32-2, 30 KOS), who holds an 88 percent KO ratio, will be fighting in the U.S., where he holds a 1-1 record, for just the third time. The hard-hitting southpaw scored a fifth round knockout in his last fight in August 2010 against Carlos Medellin in Sonora, Mexico.
In a division controlled by Europeans, Lateef Kayode is America’s No. 1 cruiserweight prospect and on the USA Today and ESPN.com 2010 top prospects lists. Ranked No. 6 by the World Boxing Classic (WBC) and No. 4 by the WBA, Kayode is coming off a sixth-round knockout of Ed Perry in the Dec. 3 ShoBox main event. Kayode took just one week off following the victory and then returned to the gym to train for his next bout.
The 6-foot-2, 27-year-old Kayode, who lives in Hollywood by way of Lagos, Nigeria, is training at the famed Wild Card Gym under Roach, who will work his corner on Feb. 4.
According to Kayode’s manager, Steven Feder, the biggest difference in this camp has been the length and the frequency of the rounds.
“His stamina has never been an issue, but we’re going much deeper a lot earlier,” Feder said. “He’s training as a 12-round fighter and he’s doing it with ease.”
Kayode admits that he thinks about the knockout streak, but he claims he doesn’t let it affect his game plan or preparation.
“There’s no doubt it’s in the back of my mind,” Kayode said. “I know the fans love it and I know SHOWTIME loves it. But I’m not going to let that affect what I do in the ring.”
Feder agrees, but takes it one step further.
“Anyone who is willing to stay close and engage with Lateef, chances are they won’t be standing at the end of the fight,” Feder said. “They may be standing if they can run around and avoid him. I don’t like to make predictions, but if they’re taking body shots all night long they’ll be on the canvas.”
With his world rankings rising with each win, Kayode’s camp knows 2011 has the chance to be a banner year for the unbeaten prospect.
“We’d like to clean out the cruiserweight division here in the U.S. before we leave the country to fight,” Feder said. “There are some talented unbeaten and once-beaten American cruiserweights out there that’d we’d love to face. We’ll just have to see who steps up to the plate.”
Iannuzzi (16-1, 9 KOs) isn’t concerned with Kayode’s impressive knockout streak or by the fact that he’s trained by arguably boxing’s most respected and successful trainer.
“A lot has been made about the fact that Kayode is trained by Freddie Roach but I don’t get caught up in all that,” Iannuzzi said. “It’s just going to be me and Kayode in there when the bell rings, not Freddie.
“As far as the knockouts go, he’s a solid fighter. I’m not underestimating him. I underestimated an opponent once and lost. I’m not going to make that mistake again.”
Albuquerque’s Marquez, ranked No. 13 by the WBA, is considered the most talented prospect from New Mexico since Johnny Tapia. Marquez is coming off of a third-round TKO of Juan Santiago last Oct. 1 on ShoBox in which the unbeaten prospect suffered a hand injury that kept him sidelined for the past few months.
“In my last fight against Santiago, I hurt my left knuckle,” Marquez said. “It put me in a cast for six weeks, but now it’s all healed and ready to go.”
Marquez, who has dealt with nagging injuries to both his hands that have forced him to have surgery and pull out of fights, said he is slightly frustrated with his lack of activity in the ring due to injuries.
“It is a little frustrating but I’d rather be 110 percent in any fight than have the injury hold me back,” Marquez said. “It’s frustrating that I hurt my hand but it’s a part of the game that I have to deal with.”
The 22-year-old Marquez will be facing his toughest opponent to date in the more experienced Quintero, who owns victories over former prospects Wes Ferguson and Nick Casal.
“I just need to outbox him and do what I do,” Marquez said. “I need to use my power because he’s been dropped a few times. I know he’ll be a tougher opponent, but I look at every guy as being tough. All it takes is one punch. I train for every opponent the same. I never take anyone lightly.”
Marquez and his camp believe a win over Quintero and a few other quality opponents in 2011 can set him up for a shot at a world title by the end of the year.
“There isn’t anyone specific that I’d like to face, but my goal is to get some more fights and get a world title,” Marquez said. “A couple of big wins and hopefully by the end of the year we’ll be fighting for a belt.”