Spotlight on | Boxing

Luis Franco to make best of title shot against Billy Dib


Coming up

•  Friday (9 p.m., ESPN2): Carlos Molina vs. Cory Spinks, 12, junior middleweights.

•  Saturday (midnight, Telefutura-Ch. 69): Jose Felix vs. Gerardo Robles, 10, lightweights.

Special to The Miami Herald

Luis Franco figured his disputed loss against Mauricio Muñoz in October set him back in the championship trail.

After all, the bout against Muñoz was a title eliminator, earning the winner a match against International Boxing Federation featherweight champion Billy Dib.

But boxing is known for interesting twists when it involves fight agreements. Instead of Muñoz fighting Dib next, Franco will have first dibs at the title.

A Miami resident since defecting from his native Cuba four years ago, Franco will challenge Dib on March 1 at the Foxwoods Resort in Mashantucket, Conn.

“For me, it was a very pleasant surprise that I get the chance to fight Dib,” Franco said Saturday. “Perhaps it proved that I deserved the fight because I felt I beat Muñoz.”

Muñoz sustained an undisclosed injury weeks after the fight against Franco. With Muñoz unavailable for the foreseeable future, the IBF determined that Franco, the next-highest-rated featherweight, would face Dib.

“It’s a great feeling knowing I’m getting this opportunity,” Franco said. “Although the result of my fight against Muñoz was upsetting, it was not going to put me down. As an athlete, I took it as an experience to learn from.”

Franco (11-1, 7 KOs) reserved his reactions when he shared a conference call with Dib last Thursday to officially announce the fight.

Dib, who is promoted by hip-hop performer 50Cent, talked about the importance of looking impressive against Franco and predicted a knockout win.

“My talking is done in the ring,” Franco said. “Before many of my fights, the opponents bragged about what they would do to me. After I beat them, I just reminded them that all the talk is not going to win you the fight — you’ve got to prove it in the ring.

“I know that he is doing it to get me to lose focus. But I have lengthy experience as an amateur back in Cuba and now these past four years in the professionals. Nothing is going to affect me in my quest to win a world title.”

The Dib-Franco bout will be televised by ESPN2 as part of its Friday Night Fights series.

A native of Australia, Dib (35-1, 21 KOs) will make his third title defense against Franco.

Smith vs. Castillo

Hollywood resident Antowne Smith will face former world lightweight champion Jose Luis Castillo on Friday night in Chicago.

The scheduled 10-round welterweight bout will be televised by ESPN2.

Although Castillo, 39, doesn’t resemble the fighter who twice lost distance-lasting bouts against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2002 and fought the memorable brawl with Diego Corrales three years later, he provides Smith with a high-profile opponent in his bid to crack the welterweight rankings.

Smith (22-4-1, 10 KOs) won a split decision over previously unbeaten prospect Ronald Cruz last September.

• Argentina’s Lucas Matthysse strengthened his claims for top fights in the 140-pound class with a first-round knockout win over Mike Dallas late Saturday in Las Vegas.

Matthysse (33-2, 31 KOs) knocked Dallas (19-2-1) out cold with a right to the head that ended the fight at 2:26 of the round.

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