Former WBA Boxing World Champion Drian “Gintong Kamao” Francisco is a seasoned professional who heads the world-class boxing program in Singapore at Evolve MMA. But before taking up his post as an instructor, Francisco amassed over 14 years of professional boxing experience.
Throughout his career, Francisco has competed in his native Philippines, as well as overseas in Thailand, Mexico, and the United States. At the peak of his game, Francisco was an offensive dynamo, fast and explosive with a boxer-puncher style.
After discovering the sport of boxing in his teens, Francisco began training in the sweet science. He emulated his favorite boxers, studied their unique fighting styles, and took bits and pieces of knowledge which he applied to his own training.
One of his most favorite boxers to study is his own countryman, the legendary Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao, in addition to many others. Francisco says it’s important to study different styles of fighting, in order to understand how they work in the ring.
“Studying both offensive and defensive styles will help you in case you encounter them,” Francisco said, placing emphasis on the importance of exploring every aspect of pugilism. “Take the time to study all kinds of techniques. It will make you a better fighter.”
That said, Francisco has taken the time to share some of the fighters he thinks are great to learn from. Today, Evolve Daily shares coach Drian Francisco’s top five boxers to emulate in the ring.
1) Manny Pacquiao
One of the most influential fighters in modern-day boxing, Filipino icon Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao is Francisco’s hero and role model. Francisco has trained alongside Pacquiao on many occasions, learning from the legend himself. In fact, Francisco once fought under Pacquiao’s promotional banner, MP Promotions.
Pacquiao is hands down among the most well-loved fighters of his generation. In his prime, Pacquiao’s combination of blistering hand speed and explosive power in both fists was unrivalled. He overwhelmed and outworked his opponents in the ring, battering them from pillar to post until they succumbed to his relentless pressure.
Francisco was a huge fan of Pacquiao’s whirling dervish movement and unorthodox punching.
“The way Manny moves in the ring, it’s unique. It’s hard to read him. His footwork is unpredictable. One moment he’s out of range, and the next, you’re getting hit with the left,” Francisco said.
“To sustain that sort of activity from the first round to the last, it requires an insane amount of conditioning. Manny works harder than anyone else in training, and that’s what truly sets him apart from the competition.”
2) Roy Jones Jr.
Francisco is known for his unorthodox punching combinations. The Filipino was always favored to unleash a “no-look” punch here and there, catching his opponents off guard. His creative punching led to several highlight-reel knockouts.
But you can’t talk about creative punching without mentioning the legendary Roy Jones Jr. “Captain Hook” was one of the most amazing punchers in his prime. The American superstar and former pound-for-pound king would rail off three punches in a row with the same hand, before cracking his foes with the opposite hand.
Jones’ rapid-fire combinations and incredible technique were a sight to behold.
“What I love most about Roy Jones Jr. is his knack for showmanship. He wanted to make the fans happy with his performances,” Francisco said.
“I was the same way and that’s what made me go. To hear the roar of the crowd, it really energized me and I just wanted to give the fans a good show. Roy was one of the best at entertaining whoever came to watch him.”
3) Vasyl Lomachenko
Francisco loves stylish boxers with great technical skills and undeniable flair. While Jones was representative of that in the previous era, in the modern-day, there’s no one more impressive than Ukraine’s Vasyl Lomachenko, a multiple-division boxing world champion and currently one of the best fighters in the world.
Lomachenko’s movement and footwork are unparalleled. Nicknamed “The Matrix” because of the way he’s able to glide through the ring with ease, and move his head and body like he’s dodging bullets, Lomachenko is virtually untouchable.
While Francisco wasn’t particularly known for flawless technique, he does know the importance of execution.
“He is just poetry in motion. When I watch him fight, it’s like I’m witnessing something perfect. The way he moves, everything has a purpose,” Francisco said.
“Lomechenko is definitely one of the best boxers to emulate. If you practice moving like him, even if you can’t get it a hundred percent, you’ll still get better every day. No one moves like Lomachenko. But you can definitely try.”
4) Miguel Cotto
The Boricua Bomber Miguel Cotto is another fighter Francisco has admired throughout his career. The former multiple-time world champion from Puerto Rico is revered by many for his tactical aggression and never-back-down spirit.
Cotto was an in-your-face type of fighter, but he was hardly a brawler. Cotto moved with precision and purpose, while still being able to unleash explosive combinations from any position. He was also one of the toughest and most durable fighters of his time.
“I admire how much of a warrior Miguel Cotto was. He never backed down from any fight. It didn’t matter who was in front of him,” Francisco said.
“Cotto faced every challenge in the ring. He was willing to put it all on the line. That kind of heart is what wins fights. It’s that kind of determination that inspired me to push myself to the limit.”
With a left hook that hits like a baseball bat, a chin made of granite, and a fire that burned inside him which allowed him to take on all comers, Cotto was a model boxer, one that future generations of fighters would be well served to emulate.
5) Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Last but not least is the often imitated but never duplicated Floyd “Money” Mayweather Jr.
Some may find it odd that a Filipino boxer, especially one that has very close ties to Manny Pacquiao, would ever consider Mayweather a boxer to emulate. But Francisco appreciates the pound-for-pound legend’s supreme technical skills and his penchant for showmanship.
Mayweather knew how to talk his way to millions of dollars, drumming up mass interest for any fight — whether he’s in the ring with a legitimate threat that could beat him, or a hype job that had absolutely no chance at victory.
“I appreciate skill for what it is. In terms of pure skill and talent, you can’t dispute that Floyd Mayweather Jr. is a fantastic fighter,” Francisco said.
“His defense is second to none. He is extremely hard to hit, and his defensive style is an enigma. It takes incredible intelligence, power, stamina, speed, and technique to beat him, and there aren’t many who have that complete package.”
“I still wish he would rematch Manny though. I really want to see that fight again,” Francisco added.
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