99 Problems But A Brain Ain’t One



99 Problems But A Brain Ain’t One

Youngins ice grilllin me/ Oh? / You not feelin me? Fine / It costs you nothin/ Pay me no mind

–Jay-Z, “Heart of the City”


The glare being cast on ROC Nation right now is hot enough to melt anything in Antarctica. If it ‘Ain't No Love' for the now seemingly black hearted enterprise that forayed into the sweet science, it is because the fledgling company seems to be full of what urban society refers to as “haters.” Or, just full of something else.

A series of questionable events tied to the embattled promotional outfit preceded the recent tragedy as it pertains to pro boxer Daniel “Twitch” Franco, whose situation can now be likened to a pot of boiling water on boxing's stove left unattended to. As Jay-Z himself said way back, when he was still the ‘Mike Jordan of recordin' in Fade to Black, let's go back to the beginning… The beginning of the end.

I remember a brief article by Julie Marsh with the New York Post in July 2015. Because I was a huge fan of Jay-Z, it surprised me to learn of what happened to Demetrius Andrade under his watch. Adrien Broner rejected “Da ROC!”, citing uneasy feelings and a lack of trust, given Jay-Z never appealed to Broner himself but was indirectly reached under the specter of Hov. Myriad chatter in boxing's back alley circles, paint RocNation as being in possession of a sinister integrity. Suddenly, a picture emerged of Jigga as a most curious de facto opportunist of celebrity usury.

But why?

On June 9, at the WinnaVegas Casino and Resort in the small town of Sloan, Iowa, Franco (16-2-3, 11KOs) faced Jose Haro in a match all too common that typically receives no fanfare. Events of this variety constitute the majority of shows in existence, for they serve as a means to give boxers of greater notoriety someone worthy enough to challenge them. Franco, a 25 year-old featherweight prospect, was on the cusp of becoming just that until 2017 got dicey with a 3rd round KO loss to Christopher Martin on March 23.

Here's where things get a little tricky.

Franco was allowed by RocNation to return on May 12, where he scored an early KO, but then came a massive right hand fired by Haro which brutally stopped Franco in the 8th round. “Twitch” was carried out on a stretcher and hospitalized, where he was then medically slipped into a deep coma. He had emergency brain surgery and hung in the balance, where he's been hanging ever since.

At major issue in all of this, in relation to looking at RocNation with two raised eyebrows and an open mouth, is wondering just why Franco was allowed to fight less than 90 days after being stopped via 3rd round KO by Christopher Martin. Twice. There are rules in place to prevent such accidents from happening, as boxing's version of a concussion protocol. This was ignored.

In effect, RocNation should've err'd on the side of caution and saved the fighter from himself. Now, he can't earn a living as a fighter at all. Supposition is clearly in play, but it should be noted, that for all those who condemned New York for its infamous $1 million dollar insurance policy to stage boxing events big or small– this is the reason why.

In a subsequent statement released by Franco’s promoter, RocNation Sports, manager Ray Chaparro said from a local hospital, “At this point, the doctors have told us the next 48 hours will be critical in regards to making a complete recovery.” Then came this obligatory and cliché ridden statement that fell from an empty brown bag before being crumbled up: “We ask for prayers from the entire boxing community at this time.”

Can you feel the sincerity?

The following Sunday afternoon a spokeswoman for RocNation stated that Franco is “under intensive care and critical watch.” After which, RocNation Sports president Michael Yormark described Franco as “a tenacious talent and champion.” And with that, according to Daniel Franco and his entire family, Twitch ceased to exist for RocNation and their entire team.

The following week in Las Vegas, RocNation was the lead promoter for Andre Ward V Sergey Kovalev II at Mandalay Bay. On the undercard, was the great Guillermo Rigondeaux. With all of this in the backdrop, not enough mainstream media made an issue out of Franco's condition or asked any questions of RocNation concerning its support of Franco.

All too often, when push comes to shove and all is said and done, a lot more is usually said than done. On the podium in Nassau Coliseum on Nov 11 with Luis “Cuba” Arias, who'd just lost to Daniel Jacobs, was RocNation vice president/managing director Dino Duva. Oddly vexed and equal parts perplexed, Duva presented a stoically bewildered man in front of a microphone his demeanor all but muted. I wondered if he was thinking about the Daniel Francos of the world.

In the months that have followed, enraged family and friends of Franco have since taken to Twitter and social media to shed light on the fallen fighter's plight. You'd think that this would present a perfect opportunity for Duva to actually embody a statement on the company's website which reads, “During the Holiday season, RocNation clients like to give back to their communities.”

Really? What about their executives?

If Arias, as a fighter — who eloquently addressed hurricane ravaged Puerto Rico and the shooting victims in Las Vegas while promoting his bout with Jacobs — was able to call for support surrounding senseless tragedy and natural disaster, why would the onus not fall on someone like Duva to express financial concern for Franco on behalf of RocNation? Is it because he's an expendable pawn who has never served as a bishop for profit? It makes you wonder.

How can Jay-Z serve in a humanitarian capacity with the United Nations for the dispersal of water in third world regions, but fail to address a medical drought facing Franco? Jay-Z can actually go to Cuba as an ambassador of goodwill, a country illegal for most Americans to visit, but he can't get “Cuba” Arias to serve as a proxy to assist Daniel Franco? There's no way Arias wouldn't help Franco if he could afford to.

Is RocNation the reason why Andre Ward, the “Son of God”, essentially sent them to hell by deciding to retire? Did they grow horns and show evidence of a pitchfork behind the scenes that lead him to steer rising star Shakur Stevenson away from their grasp? Just as Ward was instrumental in Stevenson not signing with Mayweather Promotions, Ward also approved of Stevenson's decision to sign with Top Rank, despite overtures from RocNation, a company he was still affiliated with at the time of the signing.

I was present for virtually all of the media affairs surrounding the rematch with Sergey Kovalev, and I've never known Main Events CEO Kathy Duva to be dark, but I'll be damned if the dark side of the force wasn't clouding everything pertaining to that event. I don't know if either Michael Yormark or Dino Duva know Darth Vader, but it certainly felt like magnetic waves from the Emperor's Death Star accompanied every press setting. The negative energy was unlike any I've ever consistently experienced at a boxing event.

RocNation needs to step up.

Either that, or this is the part where someone prominent in boxing can just step up and be a pound-for-pound champion. If “TBE” can sharpen his blades recently on a heavy bag, then that also means he can sharpen his pen and write a check. Perhaps his good friend, Oscar De La Hoya, can do the same. In this season of giving how much will it take? If for no other reason, this unfortunate result can yield positive action by way of reform. While there's no way to guarantee 100% prevention, given the risk associated with boxing, there has to be a way that a fighter can have 100% trust that a promoter will have his back in principle.

I can confirm that ESPN's Dan Rafael and our own NY Fights publisher/editor Michael Woods attempted to reach RocNation for clarity, or simply the opportunity to provide their version of events. Woods is also the host of Talkbox, where a veritable who's who in boxing has made appearances on the podcast. Might be a good idea for a rep to clear the air. As of this writing, there's been absolutely no response, leading me to believe there's a better chance of a Jay-Z “99 Problems” remix in honor of Daniel Franco.

RocNation should be ashamed of themselves.

Senior correspondent for NY Fights and author of upcoming book, "The Fist Club." Conscious indie recording artist "T@z" and humanist advocate for the Green Party.