Jay-Z and his sports management company Roc Nation Sports are being sued by former featherweight boxer and Roc Nation client Daniel “Twitch” Franco, who says that reckless scheduling and inadequate post-fight medical procedures led to catastrophic, career-ending head and brain injuries over the course of three fights scheduled over just 79 days in 2017.
Franco signed with Roc Nation Sports in 2015, and won five fights for the promotion, between June 2015 and November 2016. On March 23, 2017, Franco fought light punching veteran Christopher Martin in Los Angeles, in what the Los Angeles Times described as “a tuneup” for Franco, presumably ahead of more prominent and lucrative fights. This is where the management practices of Roc Nation Sports first come into question. According to Al Franco, Daniel’s father and trainer, Daniel had the flu ahead of the bout and had been “out of the gym for three weeks,” and as a result wanted to cancel or postpone the fight. The lawsuit says Roc Nation pressured Franco into keeping the fight, and instead of tuning up against a cupcake, Franco lost by TKO in the third round.
Just seven weeks after the knockout loss, Franco was back in the ring, in Mexico, reportedly at the urging of a Roc Nation Sports matchmaker, who wanted him to “keep busy.” On May 12 Franco beat a tomato can named Francisco Agustin Suarez, in Suarez’s second and final professional fight. This was apparently a sufficient warmup to put Franco back in the ring less than one month later, on June 10 in Iowa*, against Jose Haro. That’s the night that Franco’s career and life went to hell. From the Los Angeles Times report:
At the face-off, Haro whispered to Franco, “I hate this,” the interaction being Franco’s lone memory of his final fight week.
Plans to win by controlling the fight’s tempo, pace and range were undermined in the first round by a Haro punch that dazed Franco.
In the sixth round, Haro scored a knockdown. Haro’s fateful knockdown punch to the head in the eighth was delivered in response to Franco’s missing a hook.
“It looked dramatic because [Daniel] was turning. He didn’t catch himself going down,” his father said.
“When we tried to get him on the stool, he couldn’t lift himself with his right leg. … Then he started complaining about a headache, and his speech started slurring. I knew we needed to get him to the hospital. In the ambulance, he started convulsing.”
That night surgeons performed emergency brain surgery on Franco, where they reportedly discovered “two skull fractures and a separate brain bleed that the surgeon said likely occurred in fights before the loss to Haro.” Doctors removed a section of Franco’s skull and he spent two weeks in a coma. Now Franco is required to wear a protective helmet, and his speech is slow and slurred; a doctor reportedly told him he’d “have a very hard time” returning to school to complete his education, “due to memory deficiencies caused by the injury.”
Franco claims Roc Nation pushed him into an unsafe fight with Martin, and accuses them of negligence for failing in their duty to clear him medically for another fight so soon after the knockout. According to The Blast, Franco says Roc Nation initially offered to help with medical bills, but soon cut off communication. The Times report says Al Franco begged two Roc Nation executives to at least help promote a crowdfunding campaign to pay for Daniel’s medical bills, but was rebuffed. Franco is reportedly seeking unspecified damages in his lawsuit, which names all of Jay-Z, Roc Nation Sports, and Live Nation.