A world champion bare-knuckle boxer from Lincolnshire says he looking forward to fighting again after revealing he nearly died from bowel disease.Ricardo 'Bon Bon' Franco, 28, went from peak fitness to "rock bottom" when the illness flared up during lockdown.Months after becoming BKB world super middleweight champion, Franco became bedridden as his condition turned life-threatening.But after an operation to remove his intestines and fit an ileostomy bag, he says he can't wait to get back to the very top.Franco, from Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, said: "The surgery has been completely life-changing for me."For the eight years I had ulcerative colitis, I had to deal with the pain and just had to get used to living with it.
"Even while I was competing at a high level and managed to become the bare-knuckle boxing world champion, I was still dealing with it."Then about six months ago, it took a turn for the worst. I was bedridden for at least four months, and was constantly being taken into hospital."The doctors told me I couldn't put surgery off and I needed to have my bowels removed and an ileostomy bag fitted."There was a risk that the intestines would rupture, which would be life-threatening."It was awful to have crashed to the bottom like that - I went from the fittest that I had ever been to being really ill, and I was sitting with my thoughts all day about how I should be training.
"While I was waiting for surgery, coronavirus was a big concern as my immune system was basically zero at the time - and if I did catch it, I would have to wait even longer for surgery."Franco shocked the bare-knuckle boxing world when he defeated the legendary Jimmy Sweeney at The O2 in London in November 2019.After only 18 months of experience in the sport, Franco won by technical knockout in the sixth round to claim the super middleweight crown.
Later that month he underwent an eight-hour keyhole operation to remove both of his intestines and fit the bag.However, he soon found himself back in hospital after one of the stitches caused further problems, and he was left unable to eat for five days.Now that it's over, he's been given a new lease of life.Franco said: "It's changed everything - after eight years. It's a big relief.
"When I first had bowel disease, I was embarrassed about telling my girlfriend, but eight years later it doesn't bother me."It's just a bag, I don't need to be self-conscious about it, and this is an issue that affects thousands of people."My career's definitely not over. I can't fight MMA now due to the bag, but there is an American boxer with a bag so I know it is possible.
"My rematch with Jimmy Sweeney in 2020 was cancelled due to Covid, but I'm hoping to make my comeback and fight him again in November this year."Now I'm training everyday again and I can feel a massive difference."Even when I was at my peak form before, it always felt like there was something holding my fitness back because I was fighting the disease. Now that's gone, and there's nothing stopping me."I've learnt from this that I can do anything with the right mindset."