John Molina Jr. (29-6, 23 KOs) jabbed his way to a unanimous decision over former WBO junior welterweight champion, Ruslan Provodnikov (25-5, 18 KOs) in what should’ve been a sure fight of the year candidate. Both fighters are known to be hard-punching aggressors, however the fight took on a slightly different course. Provodnikov stayed true to his nature as brawler, while Molina had a different strategy in mind.
Molina started the fight trying to establish range with his jab, while Provodnikov started with a solid attack to the body.
Provodnikov seemed to walk Molina into the corner with ease. Molina allowed Provodnikov to take control early by allowing himself get walked into the corner multiple times, in addition to getting his body and head peppered with hard hooks and overhand rights.
It was in the fourth round when the action really began to heat up. Both Provodnikov and Molina had their moments throughout the round, trading power shots in the middle of the ring. Provodnikov was cut over his left eye from an accidental headbutt during the firefight.
Down the stretch Molina begin to take control of the fight, dominating the range with his jab but also opening up his punch selection by throwing in combination. Provodnikov ate a lot of leather as he struggled to close the distance on Molina behind his defensive shell.
As the fight went on, a more confident Molina repeatedly lead with the jab adding in the straight right hand. It almost looked as if he was double punching. Provodnikov continued stalking the rangier Molina, landing hard punches when he could. To close out the sixth round, Provodnikov landed an overhand right followed by a left hook that staggered Molina.
In the later rounds, the fight followed the same pace. Molina was leaning on his jab and Provodnikov stalked him around the ring, landing both single hard punches and three-punch combinations, sporadically.
Molina was tagging Provodnikov with hard combinations on a consistent basis. Provodnikov’s face began to swell badly around his eyes.
In between rounds Provodnikov’s new trainer, Joel Diaz, thought Molina was seriously hurt from the left hook late in the sixth round. He begged Provodnikov to throw more punches and asked if something was wrong. Provodnikov shook his head indicating he was fine, though his face seemed to emote that he was uninterested, or didn’t really want to be there.
In the post-fight interview Provodnikov said, “I think I couldn’t find the hungriness I had before tonight. I have to sit down and figure it out. Maybe it was the motivation. Maybe it was something else, but something was off.”
It definitely seemed that way, until the eleventh round, when Provodnikov had his best round of the fight. He started the round with a nice combination that put immediately put Molina on his heels. He actually showed some nice footwork of his own before landing another hard combination. The flurry began with a thudding right hook downstairs that opened up Molina for a left hook/right uppercut. Molina followed up Provodnikov’s assualt with a nice right hand. Provodnikov answered by launching a booming right that rocked Molina’s head back to close the round.
If only Provodnikov had fought like this earlier. Maybe the fight would have taken a different course.
The 12th round started with intensity, but fizzled out during the middle of the round as Molina again pacified Provodnikov’s pursuit with the jab.
Judges Don Ackerman, Glenn Feldman, and John McKaie all scored the bout 116-112, 117-111, and 115-113, respectively.
Molina won the fight convincingly -and uncharacteristically- by using his jab to out-boxing his opponent. While his inclination is to stand and trade, it seems that he has added a new wrinkle to his game .
When asked about the new weapon in his arsenal he said, “People don’t realize I had amateur career in the pros and now it’s time for me to step out and shine and show what I can do. I believe I’m I getting ready to hit my stride.”
“It was a fight that we needed. Ruslan is notable name. A tough, tough guy. I felt his punching power in there. He kept coming forward,’ said Molina.
While Provodnikov’s future is uncertain at the moment, one can only expect that John Molina, Jr. will definitely be in the conversation for a title shot again in the near future.
All photos by Amanda Westcott/Showtime