|John Molina Interview: “I’m just looking to give the fans the best fight they could ask for”
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 19, 2013)
Photo © German Villasenor, Doghouse Boxing Inc-
“It’s not easy for a man to wake up every day and pull a ten hour shift. This is how I support my family”
- John Molina
He’s a throwback to another time. His image would have looked very natural on a black and white television.
He’ll take four or five punches to land his one because that one could end things.
John “The Warrior” Molina (27-3, 22 KOs) is the number-six-ranked lightweight in the world, capturing two linear titles in the lightweight division. In the last few years, Molina thrilled boxing fans with his come from behind knock-out victories over Hank Lundy and Mickey Bey.
But Molina wants a world championship. That’s been his dream since he turned professional at the relatively late age of twenty-four. His road has been filled with traps and disappointments, but Molina continues to punch.
In a wide-ranging interview conducted with this writer last week, Molina, 31, reflects on the ups and downs of his professional career and what his hopes are for the coming year.
John J. Raspanti: So John, what drew you to boxing?
John Molina: I’ve always been a big fan of boxing. Ever since I was a kid, that’s all my father and I would do was watch boxing. My grandfather was also a big boxing fan. It always intrigued me. I can remember back when Mike Tyson got knocked out by Buster Douglas. I was old enough to realize that this was significant. It was a big upset, a shocker. I’ve just always felt that I have what it takes to be a professional fighter.
JJR: You like the one-on-one aspect of boxing?
JM: If you win it’s because of what you did. Of course with your team, and your trainer, they’re with you, but in the moment it’s you. If you lose, it’s also something that you did as well. I love to have my destiny in my own hands. That goes a long way in being blessed with one-punch knockout power. We all know what my style is. I’m never going to be looked as a fighter who can win on points.
JJR: There's a long history of Italian-American boxers who can punch. Names like Graziano, LaMotta, and Marciano are legendary. You like going for the knockout?
JM: I’m a fan of knocking people out. People always ask me about my strategy before my fights. It’s no secret. My strategy is to go for the knockout.
JJR: Your grandfather and father both boxed. Do you think boxing is in your blood?
JM: Of course. I’ve played every sport under the sun. You name it, I’ve done it all. When I played football, I was the smallest guy on the field. I was still able to lay guys out. I always knew that I was a lot stronger than the next guy. Maybe I’m stronger because of the wrestling I did, or gymnastics in high school. I excelled in one-on-one sports. I could use my physical body and excel. I’ve always been very strong for my size.
JJR: I want to jump to your first professional loss in 2009. Tell me about that fight.
JM: I was really sick going into that fight. No excuses, this is a fact. We almost called the fight off, but being young in the sport I was afraid if I called the fight, I’d leave a bad taste in the network’s mouth. I had a one hundred and three temperature going into that fight. I drank some Nyquil to try and get rid of some of the aches in my body. I had the shakes, but I knew I had to go out there and fight. But after the first round I knew I was in an uphill battle. Keep in mind that I was a twenty-five-to-one favorite going into that fight. I gained a lot of experience from that fight. It did leave a bad taste in my mouth for about two weeks. I do believe that everything happens for a reason. Actually, I’ve learned something from all my losses. I think I’m a better fighter. I’ve done a lot of on the job training. I didn’t have the accepted amateur career. Now I feel like I’m ready to make a good run at this.
JJR: Hank Lundy treated you like a second-class citizen before your fight three years ago. Was there a little extra motivation going into that fight?
JM: He was definitely a pest, but I had to keep myself composed. I’m really an easy-going guy. I can always talk to my opponents after the fights are over. We're professionals. Not him. Even to this day we have a bit of a rivalry. He didn’t get to me. I knew it was a matter of time before I was going to get to him.
JJR: Wasn’t there a lot of behind-the-scenes drama going on before that bout?
JM: The reality of the fight is that they did everything they could get to us. They wanted to make it into a ten-round fight instead of a twelve-round fight. We told them that if they changed the fight to ten rounds – we were going home. We did everything we could to make the playing field equal. If the fight had been ten rounds we might have been talking about another loss because of the scorecards. I’m the kind of fighter who likes to have those twelve-round fights in case I have to pull the fight out of the fire.
JJR: When you fought Antonio DeMarco for the lightweight championship you looked really focused. You got caught with a punch and stumbled. I’d seen a few of your fights and had never seen you hurt. What happened?
JM: You know, believe it or not, I’ve never released this information to any other writer, so this is going to be an exclusive for you.
JM: Everything we did leading up to the DeMarco fight was correct. I was in the best shape of my life. I had knocked out seven guys in sparring. We were prepared for this fight. There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to be world champion that night. I’d taken hard punches in training from the likes of (Antonio) Margarito, (Alfredo) Angulo and (Joel) Casamayor. These guys can lay the wood on people. Demarco has a good punch, but not a significant punch in my opinion. That little left he did land on me was not a big punch. What happened was about a half hour before I went to my dressing room; I had a muscle fascia release, which is a fancy word for a massage. And they rubbed my leg for a half hour. Now, when I got hit with that shot I felt there was nothing wrong with me. My legs were a lot looser than they’ve ever been in my life. This is why I’ve stated that every fight is significant in the fact that I’ve learned what not to do. The only thing is I regret is – obviously, my Hall of Fame trainer Joe Goossen would have never allowed that to happen. This was an executive decision that I made on my own.
JJR: So, you felt real good going into the fight?
JM: Yes, the strength and conditioning coach had done everything to make me feel like a million bucks. So I thought maybe he was right. If I was a marathon runner that muscle fascia release would have been the best thing for me because my legs were ready to go. But in the sport of boxing my legs were so loose going into that fight that they had no bearing to them. When I got hit I didn’t feel like myself.
JJR: Was it a hard punch?
JM: The punch felt more like a jab. I have a strong chin. If you look at my fights I’ve taken a lot bigger punches that DeMarco threw that night. I don’t want to take anything away from DeMarco, he’s one of the classiest guys I’ve ever faced, but I believe I shot myself in the foot that night.
JJR: The fight was stopped after forty-four seconds in the first round. That loss must have really hurt.
JM: Oh man, that was a tough fight to come back from. The fact that I had finally made it to the pinnacle to get that world title shot – knowing that I was going against a guy that I felt I had all the tools to beat. My team felt it was going to be an explosive fight. From that horrible forty- four seconds or whatever it is, I’m that much better of a fighter because of it.
JJR: There was some controversy when referee Jack Reiss waved the fight off. From my vantage point it looked like you were sitting on the bottom rope.
JM: In my opinion Jack Reiss made a bad call. He’s a world class referee and he made the call he thought was necessary. My butt was on the ropes. The rules state that if any part of your body is being held up by the ropes, it’s considered a knockdown. I would have much rather lost the round.
JJR: You’ve played musical trainers the last few years. First you were with Goossen, then Mario Morales, Robert Garcia, and now Goossen again.
JM: Me and Joe are the Ross and Rachel of relationships. Robert Garcia is a great trainer. That came down to location. I’m a new father now. Being that the training camp is located in Oxnard and I live in San Dimas – it’s just too much being away for six weeks at a time. I’d come back on the weekends. My wife and I went through a lot in the early part of our marriage. We lost my mother-in-law five days after my child was born. That was the toughest fight I’ve ever fought in my life. I just felt like I needed to be closer to home. That’s why Joe and I reunited. We also work really well together. We understand each other.
JJR: In June of this year, you lost a highly debatable decision to Andrey Klimov. You then shocked everyone by taking on undefeated Mickey Bey a little over a month later. Why the quick turnaround?
JM: Going into the Mickey Bey fight I knew I was behind on the scorecards going into the weigh-in. This is being brutally honest. We came off the fight that I wasn’t prepared for. I lost a controversial decision, but, in all due respect, he’s a guy I should have annihilated. He was tailor-made for me. I didn’t pull the trigger. This is what led us to Mickey Bey. After that so-called loss, we sat down with my manager and said we need to get back in there and fight. We need to show the world that not so much the loss was a fluke, but that I’m here to stay. Nobody wanted to fight Mickey Bey. Al Hayman and the money team reached out to Dan Goossen and said let’s get a fight with Molina. I said let’s do it and signed the contract. I didn’t care what the issues were. We know what this is. We’re going into Floyd Mayweather’s backyard. The fight will be shown on the network that he signed with- the biggest contract in boxing history. The deal had been made by the most influential man in boxing, Al Hayman. I knew the only way out was by a knockout. I could have beat Mickey Bey pillar to post and still would have lost the decision. Again, this is all my perspective.
JJR: After 10 rounds of the Bey fight, you were substantially behind on the cards. What did Goossen say to you?
JM: Going into round 10 I knew I was behind. I sat down and Joe looked at me and told me that this is it. He reminded me that I’ve done this before. To bad the cameras weren’t on me. People would have heard one of the best pep talks ever. I knew I had three minutes to do it. I felt strong. I still had my power. Bey came on strong. I didn’t feel any of his power. He hit me with a body shot. I grabbed him and put my arms around and thought, “This is not going down like this.” I took a hard right hand and a second later hit him with a jab. His head shot back. It was time to go. We went into the ropes. He was looking for my right hand. I was able to sneak in a little left hook that we had been working on in camp. That little hook did it. I knew he was done. He fell into the ropes. I unleashed everything I had left in the tank. I landed shot after shot. At that point the referee jumped in and I was like, ok we did it. Actually I knew I’d win the fight at the weigh-in. He was smiling all the time. I told him we were fighting tomorrow. I shoulder checked him a few times. He even talked to me in the ninth round. I told him that this fight is far from over. I knew he was scared of me.
JJR: Has there been any talk of a rematch?
JM: He’s been hollering about wanting a rematch. There have been no offers for a rematch. He doesn’t want a rematch. He’s just saying that. If they are the money team and step up to the plate, and give the right numbers, we can definitely do it again. I don’t believe they want to invest that kind of money in Mickey Bey.
JJR: Where do you think your knockout power comes from?
JM: It’s definitely a God-given ability. As far back as nine years-old I knew I was stronger than the other guy. When I was ten, I was knocking guys out a lot older than me. I’m not tooting my horn here. I was like a freak of nature. I like my ammo. I like my one-punch knockout power.
JJR: Is there one guy you really want to fight?
JM: At this point in my career I’m ready to make my run. The one guy significant to me at one-thirty-five is (Omar) Figueroa. He’s the guy I want. He’s the only guy that I see, other than (Yuriorkis) Gamboa to hang around at one-thirty-five. Rocky Burns is probably going to fight Terrance Crawford. He’s another guy I wouldn’t mind mixing it up with. I really believe that Figueroa and me could be another Alvarado and Rios fight. It would be a fight of the year candidate. Moving up to one-hundred-and-forty, another guy that could give me that kind of fight would be Lamont Peterson. I’m just looking to give the fans the best fight they could ask for. I want to fight on the big stage. If you look at the one-hundred-and-forty pound division, a fight with any of the top-ranked guys is a can’t miss fight. I’d like to fight Lucas Mattyasse or Danny Garcia if he doesn’t fight Mayweather. There’s a risk for them given that fact that I’m a puncher. Boxing is a dramatic sport.
JJR: Thanks so much, John. Have a blast with your family.
JMM: Thanks John, for taking the time to write this.
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