By Lem Satterfield
John Molina’s opponents rarely need to go looking for a fight, because the 35-year-old, all-action brawler often brings the battle to them.
Following a 44-second stoppage loss to left-handed former 135-pound champion Antonio DeMarco in September 2012, Molina won three of his next four, including a majority decision loss to then-unbeaten Andrey Klimov (June 2013) and consecutive victories by 10th- and second-round TKO over future titleholder Mickey Bey and Jorge Pimentel in July and November 2013.
Over the course of his next three 140-pound bouts, all non-title losses to current or former champions, Molina fell by 11th-round knockout to Lucas Matthysse (April 2014) and consecutive unanimous decisions to Humberto Soto (September 2014) and four-division title winner Adrien Broner (March 2015).
Mark the war with Matthysse as exhibit “A” regarding Molina’s durability in a bloody affair that earned the honors as that year’s top fight.
Molina scored a knockdown during each of the second and fifth rounds against Matthysse, who bled from a cut above his left eye from a third-round accidental head-butt that also caused bleeding from the side of Molina’s head. Matthysse floored Molina in Rounds 8 and 10, with the second knockdown ending the fight.
After Broner, Molina won two straight by third-round knockout over Jorge Romero (November 2015) and unanimous decision over former champion Ruslan Provodnikov (June 2016) before suffering an eighth-round TKO loss to three-division champion Terence Crawford (December 2016).
But Molina (30-7, 24 KOs) was far from done. He bounced back, yet again in his last fight in December by rising from the canvas in the second round to score his own pair of knockdowns on the way to a fourth-round TKO of Ivan Redkach.
One can expect more of the same in his 140-pound bout on February 16 at a venue to be determined in Los Angeles on FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT), when Molina battles 28-year-old former lightweight world champion Omar Figueroa Jr. (27-0-1, 19 KOs), of Welaco, Texas.
Ending 17 months of inactivity, Figueroa looks to pick up where he left off in July 2017. That’s when “Panterita” (Little Panther) ended a 19-month ring absence with a sensational five-knockdown, third-round TKO of former two-division champion Robert Guerrero.
“A fight with Omar is a fight that’s been a long time coming,” said Molina, who turns 36 next month. “He’s definitely accepted the challenge. It’s a great fight for L.A. It’s definitely a great fight to put on Fox.”
Molina was 18-0 with 14 knockouts before falling to Martin Honario by unanimous decision in November 2009. He won his next six (five KOs) before falling to DeMarco, a unanimous decision loser to Figueroa in December 2015.
“I know [Figueroa’s] gonna bring it. He always does. His record speaks for itself,” said Molina, of Covina, California, just over 30 minutes from Los Angeles. “But I’ll be right there with him. Everybody knows I come to fight. This is a great fight for boxing. It’s gonna be a fun fight.”
For most fighters, being only a few months from 36 years of age usually means increased thoughts of retirement. Their best years are often in the rearview mirror. But John Molina Jr. isn’t like most fighters.
As far as Molina is concerned, his best years in the ring have yet to come. His desire to claim his first world title burns hotter than ever. And Molina is convinced that as he ages, he’s become a better fighter — physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s also increasing his chances of achieving his world championship goal.
Placing a major world title belt around his waist, however, will likely require the larger, stronger, more mature Molina to begin competing at welterweight. That isn’t a problem for the former lightweight/super lightweight contender. In fact, it’s a move the 5-foot-10½ Molina welcomes and looks forward to.
Always considered large when he fought at lightweight and super lightweight, Molina envisions fighting at 147 pounds to be a huge advantage for him. In addition to being physically stronger and smarter in the ring, being a family man further increases his determination to financially secure the future for his wife and two children.