Last week, I got a call from WBO NABO lightweight titleholder John Molina Jr., who wanted to set the record straight about his recent split with his trainer Joe Goossen. The veteran trainer and young fighter had been together since December of 2009, going through Molina’s only loss (a points loss to Martin Honorio in November 2009) and his biggest win over Hank Lundy in July of 2010. The two seemed to be two peas in a pod every time I covered them at the Goossen’s Ten Goose Boxing Gym in Van Nuys, CA. They shared an easy sense of humor and appeared to be on the same page with Molina’s style of infighting and overpowering his foes using that brutally powerful right hand. While some trainer splits get ugly really fast, Molina made it clear that he still cares for Goossen and thinks the world of him.
“I don’t want to say anything bad about Joe,” said Molina right off the bat. “The reason I made the move is because at this point in time, I felt it was the best move for me at this point in time of my career as far as me going to the next level. Joe has done wonders for my career. It was such a joy and a great experience to have him in my corner up until this point in my career. I am really excited about 2011. It’s going to be a great year for me. It was just the best business move in my career.”
Molina explained that, for him, the move was more about what he feels is best for him at this stage of his career where he has reached the number two ranking on most sanctioning bodies’ ratings.
Under Goossen, Molina learned the art of infighting. A tall lightweight at 5’10½”, Molina used his size to overpower foes and take them out, while eschewing an outside game. At this stage, he feels he has learned enough of the inside game and wanted to get a fresh perspective and new skill set to move his game to another level. He has now been training with Mario Morales out in Whittier for over a month.
“I felt I took the essentials of what Joe Goossen had to offer,” explained Molina. “It’s no secret if you see any of his fighters, Gabriel and Rafael Ruelas, they were come-forward fighters. Diego Corrales was definitely an offensive fighter. I felt that being 5’10½” for 135, I felt like I needed to work on my advantages which are my height and reach instead of going forward and brawling. I think as far as my inside game, it’s where I want it to be. And now we have called on Mario Morales and his brother, Raymond, to work on my outside game. One of the best fighters they have is [Daniel] Ponce de Leon and [at one time] Edwin Valero. I like to think of myself, like Edwin Valero, as a raw, powerful guy. I think the Morales brothers can tighten up the screws and work on combinations, work from the outside, which was on display in the fight between him and [Antonio] DeMarco.”
While the Valero vs. DeMarco fight convinced Molina that Morales was the guy he wanted to work with. Molina, as he already assessed, feels he is a Valero type; a fighter with overwhelming power who is raw and needs some polishing.
“What you saw from Valero,” said Molina, “which I thought was an excellent performance against a technically sound boxer in Demarco, is what you will see from me in 2011. I think with the two guys I gave you, Valero and Ponce, they are right up my alley in terms of punching power and strength. I think what we all lack is that we are kind of crude, boxing technician-wise, and I believe Morales has the answers to solving that puzzle in my career.”
Up next for Molina is a tune-up fight on January 28 on the undercard of Chris Arreola-Joey Abell card at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA. The fight is essentially a stay-busy affair as Molina has not fought since the Lundy fight in July.
“I take no one lightly but it is a stay-busy fight. My title won’t be on the line. I haven’t fought since Hank Lundy in July. That’s on the undercard of Arreola[-Abell]. It’s going to be a stay-busy and then after that, I believe there will be some big fights coming up for me.
One question that inevitably came up was who would promote Molina since he has split from Joe Goossen (who declined to be interviewed, when contacted, but classily wished Molina well) but is still promoted his brother, Dan.
“I am still with Goossen Tutor Promotions,” said Molina. “The fact that I am no longer with Joe will not taint my relationship with Dan Goossen. Again, as people know, boxing is a business and, as a business, it is much better for the team. And if my team does better, so does Goossen Tutor.”
In his last fight, Molina seemed to have trouble with Lundy’s movement and athleticism, when the Philadelphian moved and boxed for much of the fight. But in the eighth, the power of Molina’s right hand flashed and dropped Lundy hard. Three rounds later, the wheels had come off of Lundy and Molina got the stoppage win. The problem is you can’t go to that well too many times before you get diminishing returns. Under Morales, Molina feels he is adding tools that will help him deal with all types of fighters in a variety of ways.
“It’s no big secret what everyone will be looking for from me, which is a big right hand,” explained Molina. “They already knew what I am about. I went in there with an open mind. I said, ‘You guys are the artists and I am the canvas. Paint a beautiful picture.’ And we have been using footwork, head movement; I am learning a lot here, angles, my jab [and] the lack of. My jab is built like a right hand. I think I can destroy people with my jab, my bodywork, my combination punching, not just looking for that Vic Darchinyanish one-punch knockout. I think they have the keys to get me there.”
With his new team and his high ranking, this looks to be a very good year for Molina. Time will tell what this new change will yield. Generally, it takes about three fights for the new changes to take hold. Next week begins a first step on the newest leg of Molina’s journey.
“With their direction, I think I will get the most out of my advantages,” explained Molina. “We all know I can take a punch. That will just be the icing on the cake. Now they are molding the last pieces of the puzzle that needed to be put together.”