By Jake Donovan
John Molina Jr. has literally backed out of this weekend’s Vegas blockbuster event.
BoxingScene.com has learned that the veteran contender has withdrawn from his planned welterweight crossroads bout with former 140-pound titlist Sergey Lipinets after reportedly suffering a back injury during fight week.
The bout was due to take place on the Fox Sports Pay-Per-View card headlined by a welterweight title consolidation clash between unbeaten Keith Thurman and former eight-division titlist Manny Pacquiao this Saturday at MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev.
“We’re just thinking about Saturday night,” Alex Vaysfeld, Lipinets’ manager told BoxingScene.com, though declining specific comment on Molina’s situation when asked to verify the news. “Until we’re told otherwise, Sergey is ready to show on Saturday night all of the hard work he’s put in to prepare for this event.”
Lipinets (15-1, 11KOs) was last seen surviving a hellacious war with Lamont Peterson this past March, overcoming an early deficit to rally late en route to a 10th round knockout in their Fight of the Year contender. Peterson retired immediately after the conclusion of the FS1-televised headliner, while Lipinets has set his sights on a second major title.
The hard-hitting contender from Kazakhstan—who now lives and trains in California—briefly held a version of the 140-pound crown before conceding the title to Mikey Garcia in a 12-round loss last March. He’s since moved up in weight, where he’s won his last two starts including the aforementioned thriller over Peterson.
There were talks of Saturday’s winner moving towards an interim title fight with resurgent contender Jamal James, who came up aces in a 10-round war of a win over Antonio DeMarco last Saturday in Minneapolis, Minn. That fight could very well still happen, but Lipinets would much rather prefer another high profile win to precede the event.
It won’t come against Molina (30-8, 24KOs), who has endured an up and down career with his share of turmoil in recent years. The Californian was hailed for his valiant effort in an 11th round knockout loss to Lucas Matthysse in their April 2014 war. The bout was honored as the Fight of the Year by the Boxing Writers Association of America.
The setback also marked a stretch, however, of his having lost five of his last eight starts. The defeat to Matthysse was the first of three straight, including a 12-round loss to Adrien Broner in a March 2015 fight that also saw him test positive for a banned diuretic.
He rebounded with two wins which he parlayed into a title shot versus then-reigning 140-pound king Terence Crawford. It became a non-title fight, though, after Molina badly missed weight, proceeding to get stopped in eight rounds. A 4th round knockout of Ivan Redkach one year later breathed new life into his career, only to have to land on the wrong end of the sport’s ugly side of politics for his next two planned fights.
An all-California clash with Victor Ortiz was planned for last September, only for the former welterweight titlist to be pulled from the show after being charged with three counts of felony sexual assault for which he remains on trial. Molina would sit out for 14 months before entering a planned super lightweight bout with Omar Figueroa Jr. in February.
Instead it became a catchweight bout unbeknownst to Molina and most in the promotion, when Figueroa requested the modified weight. The fight went on, with Figueroa taking a 10-round decision to remain unbeaten as he fights on this weekend’s card in a title eliminator versus Yordenis Ugas.
Efforts are currently being made to keep Lipinets on the show, although whether he remains on the PPV telecast is currently unclear. BoxingScene.com has learned that two different opponents have been offered, with any final opponent selection subject to approval by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox