United States Boxing Association (USBA) featherweight champion Jose “Pepito” Haro (14-1-1, 8 KOs) is suffering from unfair blowback for the accidental role he played this past summer, in which his opponent, Daniel Franco, nearly died from injuries resulting from their nationally televised fight in Idaho.
The 3-2 underdog Haro, fighting out of West Jordan, Utah, dropped Franco with a chopping right in the eighth round, soon followed by a crisp combination of devastating punches, which resulted in a knockout victory and the USBA title for Haro.
Sadly, Franco (16-2-3, 11 KOs) was sent to Mercy Medical Hospital, where he underwent two brain surgeries to relieve pressure caused by brain bleeds. He came out of a medically induced coma and, fortunately, Franco continues to recover at home in California from what his father/trainer, Al Franco, has described as a miracle.
“I can’t forget it,” Haro said about his last fight. “It’s been traumatic. I’m very happy Franco is recovering but, every time something comes up about him on social media, a lot of people tag me. I don’t answer, I just need to deal with it. My victory was taken away, I couldn’t enjoy it. I fought a clean fight, but some people blame me for what happened.”
Haro hasn’t fought since that fateful night in Iowa last June. Whitfield Haydon, who serves as Haro’s agent, is a veteran Southern California matchmaker, perhaps, best known for discovering under-the-radar boxing talent such as Haro.
It appeared that Haro was finally going to catch a big break in late October, when Haydon was contacted about a non-mandatory title fight for Haro with International World Boxing (IBF) Featherweight World Champion “Lightning” Lee Selby (26-1, 9 KOs). The Selby vs. Haro world title fight contract was reportedly being drawn up and Team Haro had agreed to promotional options in the event of him winning. Suddenly, though, communications with Team Selby went dark.
Team Haro later learned that Selby had gone in another direction, Eduardo Ramirez, who Selby defeated by way of a 12-round unanimous decision December 9 in London.
“We were going to London for short money because the world title shot was worth it,” Haydon explained.
“Haro would have been one helluva live dog in that fight. I must not have been the only one thinking that way. I’ve been hearing that, within the boxing industry, Haro has become a hot potato after his Franco fight. How ridiculous is this? Last time I checked, Haro’s a featherweight who’s also capable of fighting at junior lightweight or super lightweight. My phone has been silent, though, other than for a late notice fight or a fight at lightweight. Boxing sometimes eats its own. This is a joke.”
Haro, who was a member of the USA Junior Olympic Boxing Team during his amateur days, isn’t 100-percent sure why he’s not being offered good fights, but he does blame most of it on boxing politics.
“After the Franco fight,” Haro remarked, “I feel like I’ve been benched. I think I’m not getting good fights is because I’m a high risk, no reward fighter. I’m depressed right now about it. I love boxing but, I’m 30 with a wife and five kids. Boxing politics is the reason!”
Boxing is the most unforgiving sport, boxers risk their lives every time they walk up the three steps into the ring. The aftereffects of a boxing tragedy like this is traumatic for all parties involved. Nobody knows that better than the 30-year-old Haro.
Ranked No. 15 in the world by the IBF, Haro works fulltime for Pepsi, putting product on shelves at supermarkets in Utah. The father of three girls and two boys, the hard-working Mexican-American starts at 3 a.m. and works until 12 noon, then goes home to watch his children because his wife, Yesenia, also needs to work to make ends meet.
Haro has overcome so many obstacles during his career that some refer to him as, “Hard Luck Haro.” In addition to repercussions from the Franco fight, back in 2015, he was shot in both feet (see accompanying picture) in a parking lot after shopping by a stranger for no apparent reason. Haro noted, “I was tainted by that because only bad guys get shot, right?”
Losing the opportunity to fight in his world title fight against Shelby was another example of what Haro’s been facing the past six months. “I’m not much of a talker,” he admitted, “but I won’t be used for leverage. I won’t’ be used as piece of meat. I’m not taking a fight just for the money, I’m going in the ring to give it my all to win for me, my family and team.
“I’m riding this out (boxing career) for my wife and children. I’m teaching my kids to never give up and to continue working hard no matter what life may throw you. It’s been rough. We’ve had our ups and downs, but I have to continue working until, hopefully, I get a big payday.”
For Haro and Haydon, they’re both due for a big break in 2018.