Franjic ready for Contender

By Dave Spencer
Photo Dani Graham

If light-heavyweight Steve Franjic (8-0-1 5KO) is going to establish himself as a contender, he is going to have to go through a Contender. Franjic faces Donny McCrary (24-10-2 13KO) of the original Contender series as a late substitute for Akinyemi Laleye, a semi-finalist of the last Contender series, as boxing returns to Edmonton this Friday night.

FightNews caught up with the Orangeville Ontario fighter as he touched down in the Alberta Capital in advance of this Friday’s Sudden Impact card to be held at the Shaw Convention Centre and asked him what it would be like headlining for the first time and facing off against a fighter from the original Contender.

“I was a big fan of the show and I remember when it came out. All the guys like (Peter) Manfredo and Sergio Mora and all those guys became big names so it’s definitely cool so I’m looking forward to it.”

The memory of McCrary on the show is slightly hazier than some of the others for Franjic as the Midwest fighter was eliminated in his first fight on the series that aired on NBC. “It was a while ago and I think I remember him, the name seems familiar. I’ve watched some tapes of him since and it definitely rings a bell having seen him.”

It’s actually been a while since anybody in boxing has seen McCrary who has had more than his fare share of Canadian opponents in the past. Friday’s fight marks a return after more than three years for the fighter who has battled against the likes of Lucian Bute, Walid Smichet, Sebastien Demers and David Lemieux in the past.

"We lost our main event last week with AK Laleye and Donny decided he wanted to fight again and was ready to step in on short notice,” Melanie Lubovac of KO Promotions told FightNews earlier this week. “We have Steve signed on a promotional deal and wanted to give him this chance to headline so we’ll see how he does.”

If Franjic performs anything close to what he did at this years Shaw Festival in Toronto, promoters and fans should have nothing to worry about. In a huge step up in competition, Franjic sealed the deal with a final round TKO victory in his first eight round fight against Anthony Russell. “That was a definite step up against a solid opponent with a great record. It was eight rounds so a lot of things were new to me but we made the adjustments and were ready for the fight and it paid off. I thought it was pretty cool that after eight rounds of a tough fight I was still feeling fresh and ready to go so I’m looking forward to ten rounds now.”

Franjic who stands at 6’3” should have a huge size advantage of at least five inches in height over his opponent who felt at one time that he was best suited for middleweight. But despite the ten losses, the layoff and the size advantage, Franjic knows that McCrary comes into the rings with credentials and that his losses have been to credible opponents. All but two have come against either fighters who have won or fought for a world championship, or in the case of David Lemieux, fought an elimination fight for mandatory challenger staus. “Stuff happens like that in boxing,” said the Ontario fighter about the late change in opponent, “You just have to be ready for it, the work’s been done so we just tweaked a few things and we’re ready for tough fight. You got to be ready for everything and can’t take anybody lightly. He’s a veteran with a lot of fights and a lot of experience and he’s been in there with a lot of tough opponents in the past, we just have to be ready.”

Franjic feels that not only is he ready for the fight, but ready for the spotlight as well in this his 10th fight. “I’m pretty excited in being a headliner for the first time and looking forward to it. There’s added pressure when all the eyes are on you but I like it and try to thrive off it. Not having to sell tickets takes a bit of the stress off but I’ve fought a couple of times here on KO shows and hopefully the people like it and come back to watch me the next time.”