John Molina: Can He Go to War Once More?

John Molina
Photo By Esther Lin

September 8, 2012, was supposed to be a good night for John Molina. He was on HBO fighting Antonio DeMarco, a mirrored, southpaw version of himself–hard hitting, willing to engage, easy to find. It was billed as a can’t-miss fight, one that could turn into a war at a moment’s notice.

The bell rang to start the fight, and Molina came out as he always does – aggressive and looking to engage.

Less than a minute later, he was a first-round knockout victim.

It was a humiliating end for a throwback fighter who prided himself on being a warrior with big-time power. He was stunned and badly hurt by a straight left hand from DeMarco. He tried to throw back, but was on wobbly legs as DeMarco started throwing everything at him. Molina sat on the ropes in an effort to compose himself while DeMarco fired merrily away until Jack “LOOK AT ME!” Reiss had no choice but to shut him down.

Of course, Molina could have simply taken a knee to compose himself, and who knows, he may have punched his way back into the fight. But it’s easy to critique somebody in the aftermath. The reality is that he was in a situation he had never been in before, and he probably panicked. Seasoned fighters know this stuff. Molina, who was very much used to being the stopper, was simply unprepared for that moment.

He was back a few months later, this time on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights, taking on another wicked puncher, “Dangerous” Dannie Williams. A fight between two iffy boxers with massive power who are unwilling to back up only ends one way–violently. This time, it was Molina who came out victorious, drilling Williams into the mat with an absolutely epic knockout shot.

The happy times were short lived. He dropped a decision to Andrey Klimov in his following fight, before rebounding with a come-from-behind stoppage win over Mickey “My Promoter Is Useless” Bey.

Then, the big one came.

If you want to see a fight that perfectly encapsulates the ebb and flow of a boxer’s career, go ahead and fire up Lucas Matthysse vs. Molina. Besides being a goddamn blood-fest, it perfectly sums up John Molina. Molina was there to provide a stern test for Matthysse in his comeback bout after dropping a decision to Danny Garcia.

The idea was that he’d give “The Machine” some tough rounds before faltering. He gave him a lot more than that. There were already questions about Matthysse being on the elite level, but Molina raised an emphatic awareness that Matthysse is in fact, a human being. He dropped Lucas hard in the second round, badly buzzing a fighter who had only been down once in his career.

After that, it was on. They traded bombs throughout the fight, and while Molina gave an incredible showing of himself, the shots that Matthysse was landing (shots that would have ended many fighters long before Molina) finally took their toll. Swinging away until the end, Molina finally bowed out in the 11th round of a classic fight.

Despite the loss, Molina’s stock was as high as ever, the first-round loss to DeMarco finally behind him. Unfortunately, as has been the case time after time, Molina lost a great deal of that steam he built up by putting on a listless performance in his last fight. He dropped a unanimous decision to 67-year-old Humberto Soto. (Seriously, how is this guy only 34? That can’t be right. He’s been fighting since Reagan was in office.)

But Molina caught a break. He’ll be appearing on the inaugural episode of PBC on NBC, fighting March 7 against Adrien “The Moderately Difficult” Broner. If you’re wondering how in the hell a guy who’s lost his last two bouts and four of his last seven scores a fight on network television, remember that it’s a showcase fight for Broner.

And it’s a damn fine position for Molina to be in. He’ll certainly be the underdog, but it’s not as if Broner has been blissfully hammering his way through elite competition. Marcos Maidana showed Broner the hard way that being an arrogant dickhead doesn’t guarantee victory. Maidana bashed Broner around the ring, and it’s not inconceivable to think that Molina could do the same if he catches him right.

The biggest question for Molina is what exactly does he have left?

Broner will have the edge in hand speed, youth, agility, quickness, boxing skill and dance moves. Molina brings the power, but he wasn’t exactly sharp against Soto. Taking a couple hundred bombs from Lucas Matthysse can take something out of a man.

As much as I hate the word, this is a crossroads fight for Molina. He can’t drop a third straight fight and expect to get any decent work after that, unless he can summon up another surprise performance.

Broner fights counter-intuitively. He desperately wants to use the Mayweather shoulder roll, yet he sucks at it and gets hit frequently. When he opens up offensively is when he’s at his best. If Molina can put him on the defensive, he’ll have a shot at the upset. And then he can rap about it.

I mentioned before that this is a showcase bout for Broner, but Molina has the power to make it his showcase fight. He’s got a shot to prove that he’s still formidable, and that he’s got another Gatti performance left in him.

And if he gets into trouble, for god’s sake, take a knee.


Some Random Notes From Around The Boxing World:

How perfect of a depiction of character is that picture of Mayweather and PacMan though? Mayweather is of course talking, seemingly laying out his plan for a successful negotiation. Pacquiao is staring aimlessly away from him.

Andy Lee is set to face Peter Quillin. I can’t remember hearing people more excited to see a guy get drilled than they are for Petey. The Haymon Effect is in full force there…

Terrance Crawford’s return will unfortunately have to wait a little longer. I’m more bummed about not getting to see “The Axe Man” again.

Oscar De La Hoya is further proving that he’s sick of everybody’s shit by cutting ties with Leo Santa Cruz, who despite words to the contrary, is about as excited to face Guillermo Rigondeaux as he is to catch the measles. The measles is a thing now, right?

De La Hoya may not succeed, but he’s clearly one of the only promoters willing to risk a fighter’s record for the sake of entertainment, and he should be lauded for it.

Maybe the networks are the issue. Maybe it’s the promoters. All I know is that these things got successfully resolved when Lennox Lewis fought Mike Tyson. The thing is, Tyson didn’t give a shit about anything other than that fight, and Lennox DESPERATELY wanted Tyson. Guess what? They made it happen. Regardless of whom you feel is at fault, both fighters could make this happen if they applied a little more pressure.

I don’t know what the hell Shots is, and now I hate it.

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