|When a loss is really a win|
Articulate junior welterweight John Molina Jr. hates to lose.
At anything. That includes prizefights, checkers, and trash can
basketball. What's ironic is that were it not for a loss last
year to Lucas Matthysse in the Ring & BWAA Fight of the Year, Molina might not be in
the enviable position he now finds himself. It was against the
Matthysse that the "Gladiator"
showed fight fans what
he's truly capable of when a boxing match becomes a war of attrition.
Despite the 11th round defeat in the championship rounds, Molina is now
on the front of boxing's long overdue return to the mainstream. His
fan-friendly style is one that new primetime viewers will easily relate
to. On March 7, "good guy" Molina takes on "bad guy" Adrien Broner in
the first of two bouts to be aired on NBC as part of Al Haymon's new
Premier Boxing Champions banner.
It's a truly big deal and Molina, 32, is
well aware of what a win over Broner could do to boost his career. While
it's not wise to mistake Molina's kindness for weakness, one can't help
but like him as a person and as a pugilist. Molina, 27-5, 22 KO's, California, comes to fight and
rarely leaves anything behind in the ring. KO Digest
caught up to Molina less than two weeks before the Broner bout and found
him to be unflappably affable during a 45-minute telephone conversation
that came on the heels of a long day spent in Los Angeles talking to
writers and reporters at a scheduled media workout. Mourning the recent
losses of his grandfather Sid and good friend Andy Gee, Molina
plans on dedicating his fight against Broner to Grandpa Sid and to the
memory of Gee, who passed away from cystic fibrosis at the tragically
young age of just 28. "I'm going to honor Andy March 7. He will be on my boxing trunks for this fight."
KO Digest: How well are you adjusting to the intense media attention that now comes with fighting on the first ever Al Haymon PBC card on NBC?
|Molina has five losses but does it matter?|
Nothing changes. A fight is a fight. We're prepared.
KOD: How big a deal is this PBC on NBC, not just for you but for boxing?
Outside the boxing community, for boxing as a whole, it's huge, because it's putting boxing back into the mainstream of
sports, right where it belongs. I won't say boxing has been a black
, but this is definitely putting it back in the
mainstream—where everyone knows somebody like Peyton Manning or Kobe
Bryant because of primetime TV. This will make us all more household names. Everybody is going to know who we are. Back in the day, the champion of the world was almost as big as the President of
the United States.
KOD: What can you tell us about your dealings with the mysterious Al Haymon?
Al Haymon is the best manager in
the business. He is an advocate for us fighters.
He has definitely
enhanced my career and I am very grateful to fight under this banner and
be a part of Team Haymon.
KOD: You're coming off back to back losses but that doesn't seem to matter like it might have in the past where being undefeated was the winning formula. As you prepare for the biggest fight of your life, to what do you attribute this apparent contraction?
I think it's very fitting that we're going back to the old days
of boxing, given my style, and why the fans gravitate towards me. Fans root for me because I've been the underdog every which way you
can imagine. I'm very grateful for
that. I started late in this sport. I didn't start boxing until I was
17. I didn't turn pro until I was 24. I had only 22 amateur fights so I
had to take the scenic route to get here. I wasn't supposed to be here.
I did make it and I'm showing everybody in the world that if you stick
to something you apply yourself to, you can make it in life. I think
that's why fans are so intrigued with my style, with how I fight. Fans
enjoy it because that's exactly what it is. I'm there to fight you. I'm
not there to outpoint you. I'm there to beat you up.
Fans relate to me because of that.
KOD: You’re a pretty powerful guy
and you have never been afraid to trade—you have the name "Gladiator" for
a reason—but the first fight on NBC is a game changer. Is there a stronger
temptation than normal for you to give viewers an all-action fight?
|Al Haymon's PBC banner|
I'm on a grand platform
of 130 million homes worldwide on primetime television, so of course I
want to perform my best. I hate to lose at checkers, let alone a fight
of this magnitude.
We're already a known name now, and we passed a
couple of humps, and so a win over Adrien Broner would catapult my
career into the stratosphere and that's where I want to go. I'm a family
man and this is how I provide for my family. Boxing has done nothing
but wonders for me financially. I don't ever want that to change. It
wasn't always like that.
Now that we're here, I want it to stay like
this forever. I don't want this lifestyle to change for my family.
That's motivation enough to get me up and ready for this fight,
especially being on the platform of NBC primetime television.
KOD: The main event you and Broner are fighting under on March 7 is Keith Thurman vs Robert Guerrero.
What are your thoughts on this welterweight fight and how do you see it playing out?
Very intriguing. They're both my friends. I imagine Guerrero would be the underdog given the
momentum that Thurman has built up but if he is an underdog, he's a very
live one. Thurman is the young hungry guy. Some people might say he's
not battle tested yet. Other people say that somebody like Guerrero
will bring out the best in him. I think Guerrero is in every fight, he's
a former world champion. If Thurman is not what everyone is expecting
him to be, Guerrero will be the guy to reveal that to
everybody, to expose that. I think Thurman, Guerrero, Broner, and myself
are going to set the bar very high for the inaugural show back on NBC
KOD: Adrien "The Problem" Broner is a controversial character who elicits a very wide range of negative
emotions in fans and fighters alike. He plays the villain role very well. Taking the emotions out of it,
what is your assessment of Broner as a fighter?
|Boxing is back on primetime|
As a fighter, you cannot deny the
accolades he's accomplished in the ring. He's a three time world
champion and a showman, but that's completely irrelevant. I have to
worry about the Adrien Broner that shows up March 7. I don't have to
worry about the antics outside of the ring. As a fighter, he is very
talented. He had an extensive amateur career. I think he has some
shortcomings. The reason he didn't go to the Olympics, I heard, is
because he got in a little trouble when he was younger. What he's
accomplished at such a young age speaks volumes about the kind of
fighter he is.
Do I think I have the kryptonite
to his power? Absolutely, I think our styles are going to clash very well. I'm very confident. I think he realizes
he's in a real fight. No disrespect to his last two opponents, but I am
not them. I don't believe that Emanuel Taylor or Carlos Molina posses
the power I posses. The punches they were touching Broner
with, if I touch Broner with those same punches, which we know we will,
we gotta see what the outcome is going to be. The one God given ability
that Broner has is hand speed, it's phenomenal
, but we know
what I do with hand speed. Hank Lundy had it. So did Mickey Bey, but
we ended up on top in those fights.
KOD: Broner is known as quite the trash talker. The worst thing I've head him say about you is that you're a punching bag who apparently punches back.
|Broner punches bag|
That's actually quite
big of Broner to say. That's actually a compliment given his past
rants and raves for past opponents. When I heard that, I said, OK, I'm
in his head, he's thinking about me. He knows he's in a real fight
whether he wants to play it cool as a cucumber or not, March 7, it's
irrelevant regardless of what we both say. It's going to be me and him
in the ring fighting. So let me take it a step further. I'm a punching
bag who can knock you out.
KOD: They say you sometimes learn more from your losses than from your wins. You've had four losses in the past two and a half years. What did you learn from your losing experiences that you can take into the Broner fight?
like to lose. The Matthysse fight was actually a weird kind of oxymoron. It was like
the only way in a loss where you can be a winner. That loss catapulted
Matthysse was like this boogieman in the sport of boxing.
The fight that came about between him and I put me on the map. That was a
rare occasion where you can lose a fight but actually win. You can
learn a lot from a fight like that being in there with a power punching
beast like that. If I had to pick between who hits harder, Broner or
Matthysse, I would say Matthysse, wouldn't you? So there is a lot you
can take from a loss, but the moral of the story
is sticking to
everything in life. Discouragement is a key word in boxing.
If you can
get past that, it lends itself to anything in life. If you can
get past discouragement, you're going to make it in whatever you focus
your ability on. I am a first class example of getting past
KOD: You are now best known for the Fight of the Year loss to Matthysse. You had him down twice early but he rallied back to stop you in the eleventh. The performance was valiant and earned you new fans, new respect, and new opportunities. What is it like to come so close to victory but not be able to grab it, particularly for a fighter like you, one that's known for those late round heroics?
|Molina had Matthysse down but could not finish him|
I don't want to be the
loser in anything in life. That's a fight that down the line I think
we'll need to readdress and open that one back up. The fans deserve it.
Both of us fighters deserve it. That was a brutal, all-out dog fight. It could be a trilogy like Ward-Gatti or
Rios-Alvarado. I can see the makings of a rubber match. Somewhere down
the line I believe we're going to have to lace them up again. I think
the fans will clamor for it. But yes, getting that close and not
finishing on top with the win, there were some things I learned. I'm
going to chalk that one up to inexperience. That was just my second time
at that level. Had I known then what I know now, I think I would have
stepped on the gas pedal when I actually had him hurt. When I had him
hurt in the first and second rounds, I didn't realize how hurt he really
was. Had I put the onslaught on like I did against Bey, I
could have ended the night in the second round. I was being a little too
cautious. I didn't know if he was playing possum to try and coax me in
to catch me with a big shot. These are the many different variables that
go through a fighter's head when you're in the ring. You're trying to
read your opponent. But I'm not crying over spilled milk. Matthysse did
what he had to do to get the win. Did we give the fans a treat?
Absolutely. Did I learn a lot from the experience? Absolutely. It's a
fight I'd want to address one more time.
KOD: Matthysse vs Ruslan Provodnikov just became official for April 18 at the Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, NY. What do you think about this venue? Is it big enough to hold a fight that is already being speculated on as a Fight of the Year candidate? How do you see this one going down in the ring?
|Molina gives the edge to Matthysse|
Us fighters can fight in the backyard. A fight of this
magnitude with these two proven warriors, I can't say I agree so much
with the location. I feel it has more of a making for like a StubHub in
Southern California, a location that would be more appealing to the
fans. I'm sure the fighters aren't going to look too much into the
location as much as they're looking to be prepared for a fight like
that. This is not going to be "Dancing With The Stars"
this is going to
be a real hell of a fight. I've never been in the ring with Provodnikov. I have shared the
ring with Matthysse and I think he is a bit better technically. I would bet that Matthysse comes out on top. I'd tell Ruslan
that as soon as he has Lucas hurt to step on the gas pedal. Don't play
it back. The respect has to go out the window. Not in an ignorant or
naive way where you get caught cold because you're so wide open but the
respect in the ring has to be a happy medium. When you have the man
hurt, finish him.
KOD: That is exactly what you did in 2013 against Mickey Bey. That tenth and final round was the consensus "Round of the Year" and you scored a dramatic come from behind knockout victory. What are your recollections on that incredible fight with Bey?
|Molina beats Bey with a tenth round TKO |
Going in, my back was
against the wall. A month before that, I'd lost to a guy who I was like a
15 to 1 favorite to beat but I didn't train properly against Andrey
Klimov. He was set for me to go and dismantle but I didn't do it. I
chalked it up to training. I went into my promoter's office and told
him, "I don't care who you get me, get me a fight. Make it happen." The
next day, I get a phone call, "OK, we have a fight. Mickey Bey. You have
28 days to get ready." At this point I'm thinking Bey was an
outstanding amateur, he had some roadblocks, and he got busted for the
testosterone allegations that he had in Vegas. So I said send the
contract and I'll sign it and I'll get ready. Then they were reluctant
to take it because Bey's team was wondering why I'd sign the
contract so fast, like do I know something they don't know? So my back
was against the wall at this point and I needed to show the world that
the Klimov loss was just a hiccup. Bey finally accepted the fight but
here is the kicker. Everybody thought I was, but I wasn't making huge
money at this point. Bey took the lion's share. I got paid
more for hole in the wall club fights, that's how embarrassing it was.
The opportunity itself was bigger than the purse. The fight was
one-sided where he was outpointing me, yes. He was fighting very technically sound. But if you watch, I was
tracking him down. We both landed our shots but mine were putting more
of a worse for wear on him. Before
the last round, I hit him with a devastating body shot that really hurt
him. I knew I was getting close to knocking him out. The tenth round
came and I'm behind on all the score cards. At this point I was not with
Al Haymon. We knew that going into Floyd Mayweather's backyard in
Vegas, with the most influential man himself, ringside, which is
Mayweather, against his undefeated prospect, the best guy in his stable,
with his promotional team, long story short
, I knocked him out with 58
seconds left in the fight. That fight changed my life. I signed with Haymon and we're today fighting on the biggest event in boxing. People
ask me what was going through my mind in that last round, I say, "I have
a mortgage to pay! I have a daughter I want to send to college."
KOD: Your 2012 fight against Antonio Demarco was for the WBC lightweight championship of the world. It looked like a quick stoppage in the first round before any kind of fight could even break out. Can you talk about that loss from your point of view?
I think it was an
inexperience issue. I messed up and got a massage 30 minutes before the
fight. I don't want to blame it on that, Demarco is a hell of a fighter
and a hell of a warrior. There was a lot going on behind the scene that
world doesn't know. My daughter was born and five days later my
mother-in-law passed away. It was an emotional gauntlet I was going
through in my head. That's not to take anything away from Demarco. Were my legs buckled? Yes.
people say it was a premature stoppage. Given the nature of the Mattysse
fight, I think the world would now agree it was definitely a premature
stoppage and the fight had the trimmings of another fight of the year
candidate. Jack Reiss is a hell of a referee but I believe he made the
wrong call that day. Had he made the right call, the world would have
been treated to another fight of the year. I don't see a rematch
happening. I don't see Demarco's name being what it once was
to make it worthwhile. At the end of the day, boxing is a business and it needs to
make financial sense. I
would actually say Demarco is the nicest guy I've ever had the opportunity
to share the squared circle with. To this day, we're friends.
KOD: You're trained by Joe Goossen. What does he bring to the corner?
|What color is Goossen's outfit?|
Joe is a soothing calm
voice in the trenches of warfare. I've had my best moments with him and
I've had some of my worst moments with him. He's probably forgotten more
than I know in boxing after his 40 years in the business. He is the man
for the job and there is a reason why we are with him. Joe is a trusted
voice. In that ring, when we are at war, if he tells me the grass
outside is blue, and you ask me what color the grass is, it's blue.
That's how much trust you have to have in a trainer when you go into
war. He's a well respected trainer and trusted set of eyes. He has the
fight of the year with me and Matthysse and the fight of the decade with
Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo. So, he's been in this position
before and he's been able to navigate though to victory. Joe knows what
the heck he's doing in that ring.
KOD: Let's say you make your fans very happy by beating Adrien Broner on network television. What are your long and short term goals after March 7 and how do you see yourself blossoming into Al Haymon's Premiere Boxing Champions banner on NBC?
not much I can say right now about after Broner. Right now, this is my
fight. This is the one for me. When the dust settles, I believe this will catapult me into
becoming a household name, especially on the NBC platform with 130
million homes. Broner plays a hell of a villain. People love to hate
him. I've always taken the high road and the world knows that. I'm like
the working class man in the sense of where everyone rallies behind me
and is pushing for me. I think it's going to be quite fitting after I beat
, it's going to give me the name and get me all the extra
accolades that I need to catapult my career to the stratosphere.
KOD: This Broner brawl at the MGM Grand in Vegas looks and feels like a "good vs evil" match-up. Is that why Al Haymon chose this fight to serve as the very first bout to be shown on network television after such a long time away from primetime airwaves?
Al knew exactly what he was doing when he put
this fight together. I think it will be a brutal,
barn burner. I'm going
to hit him every opportunity he gives me. I'm going to bully him and
make him know he's in a fight. That's the key to victory. I believe
this is classic boxing at its best. I think the world is going to see
what they've been missing.
There is a villain and a hero and we
already know who wears what hat. I'm rightfully the underdog
but I have the lottery ticket in my hand right now and I have to go
cash it in.
KOD: OK, last question. Speaking of winning lottery tickets, Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao are finally set to fight on May 2. They'll each make in the range of 100 million dollars. What are your thoughts on boxing's ultimate match-up and who is going to win Superfight 2015?
|Molina favors Mayweather to win|
You're not talking about
the fight of the year or of the fight of the century. It's bigger than
that. You're talking about the biggest fight in the history of boxing.
Do I wish this happened four or
five years ago? Of course. You want to see these guy at their prime
peak. But, with that being said, I think casual fans are going to tune in to see the
biggest fight in the history of boxing. I think if anyone can figure
out the enigma of Mayweather, Pacquiao could have some kind of
recipe for destruction against Mayweather but with that said, if I have
to bet with my hard earned money, you have to side with the guy that's
undefeated, and that's Mayweather. If it happened four or five years ago,
it would be a little closer, but I'd still see Mayweather figuring it out
and getting the win.
KOD: Any final words for your fans John?
I'm very thankful to them
for keeping me relevant, for falling in love with my style, my never say
die attitude. I'm very thankful for the opportunity to showcase my
ability on the grandest stage in boxing on NBC primetime. This fight is
dedicated to my grandfather Sid who just passed away and to my best
friend Andy Gee who lost his battle with cystic fibrosis two weeks ago. I'm going to honor him on March 7. That
really took the wind out of my sails, my little brother Andy who I
grew up with. He was only 28 years old. Andy will be on my trunks for
this fight. We will mourn his death after the fight but we're going
to celebrate his life with a victory.
KO Digest Interview conducted, written, and produced by Jeffrey Freeman, KO Digest EIC