Daniel Franco, a once aspiring featherweight boxer who suffered a traumatic brain injury in a knockout loss that ended his career and nearly his life in 2017, filed a lawsuit this week against former promoter Roc Nation Sports and its founder, music mogul Jay-Z, claiming negligence.
Franco filed suit Tuesday in the Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles, seeking unspecified damages, claiming that Roc Nation Sports was negligent for booking him in three fights in 79 days despite knowing he was not physically fit to compete in that many bouts in such a short period.
"The actions of Defendants were an extreme departure from what a reasonably careful person or corporation would do in the same situation to prevent harm to its boxers," said the lawsuit, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN. "Roc Nation and other Defendants recklessly disregarded the health and safety of Franco."
In the third of those bouts, Franco faced Jose Haro on June 10, 2017, at the WinnaVegas Casino in Sloan, Iowa, in a nationally televised fight. Haro landed many hard right hands and knocked Franco down twice in the eighth round. The second knockdown, from a right hand near the temple, resulted in a brutal knockout.
Franco was taken from the ring to a waiting ambulance within minutes, and about a half hour later he was in surgery to relieve pressure on his swelling brain, which was bleeding in two spots. He was placed in a medically induced coma for more than two weeks and had various complications but ultimately survived, although he's still dealing with a variety of issues stemming from the injury.
In the suit, Franco, 27, claimed that before a March 23, 2017, fight against Christopher Martin, in which Franco suffered a third-round knockout loss, he was ill with the flu, out of the gym for three weeks and unable to train properly.
According to the suit, Franco, his father/trainer Al Franco and manager Ray Chaparro told Roc Nation that the fight needed to be canceled or postponed.
"Representatives from Roc Nation stated that Franco must go forward with the fight and stated that if Franco pulled out of the fight, Franco would have difficulty securing future fights," the lawsuit said.
Franco was scheduled for another fight 50 days later, and on May 12, 2017, in Ensenada, Mexico, he knocked out Francisco Suarez in the first round.
"Less than one month later on June 10, 2017, Roc Nation demanded that Franco fight hard-punching boxer Jose Haro in Sloan, Iowa. ... Roc Nation knew, or should have known, that Franco was not in any condition to fight Haro given that this would be the third fight in 79 days," the lawsuit said. "Roc Nation knew, or should have known, that fighting Haro on June 10, 2017 put Franco at a high risk of harm and danger given the Martin knockout and the high number of fights. Defendants acted wrongfully and negligently when they scheduled and promoted the June 10, 2017 fight so soon after the other two fights, including the Martin knockout. Defendants also did not adequately ensure that Franco received appropriate medical clearance prior to scheduling the June 10, 2017 fight."
The suit alleges that Franco's two skull fractures and brain bleed "likely occurred in the two fights before the June 10, 2017 fight. Had an MRI or brain imaging been performed, the fractures and hemorrhage would have been discovered prior to the June 10, 2017 fight, necessitating a cancellation of the June 17, 2017 fight."
The suit continued, "As a result of the traumatic brain injury, Franco still suffers from devastating neurological and cognitive deficits, including difficulty with speech, motor function, ambulation and balance problems, numbness and weakness throughout the entire right side of Franco's body, and inability to perform activities of daily living."
The suit said that Franco (16-2-3, 11 KOs) has had three additional brain surgeries, taken medication because of seizures and is still missing a piece of his skull that is covered by a thin piece of skin over the left side of his brain, making it necessary for him to wear a protective helmet.
The medical issues have also left Franco with significant medical expenses, the suit said. Franco has previously said that Roc Nation Sports and Jay-Z have done nothing to assist with his medical expenses and have essentially ignored him since the injury.
Attorney Dan Hodes, who is representing Franco, told ESPN that he would let a jury decide the damages at trial.
"Daniel's life as he knew it has been taken from him. Is that life valued at $10 million? Or $50 million? We'll let our jury decide that," Hodes said.
Roc Nation Sports declined to comment through a spokesman.