By Thomas Gerbasi
With the latest “biggest fight of his life” coming up against Ruslan Provodnikov on June 11 in Verona, New York, John Molina can’t afford to take any time to be sentimental. But on a recent day in the gym, he couldn’t help it.
“I was watching these two kids spar, and they were beating the hell out of each other,” he said in New York City before the press conference to officially announce his bout with the former junior welterweight world champion. “They're amateur kids living on a dollar and a dream, with the hopes that they can make it to the level to be compensated well for what they do.”
“I thought, 'Damn, I was that guy. I was that kid.' If I could bottle it up and sell it, I'd be a millionaire.”
Those days of scraping by and hoping for the big break are long gone for the 33-year-old from Covina, California. He has yet to win a world title, but he has built a career for himself as a fighter fans will pay to see and that premium cable networks want to feature. Often, that’s more important than being a world champion, but not to Molina, who still craves that title.
“The belt means the world to me,” he said. “I will not leave this sport without being a world champion and I will be a world champion. It's a pride issue. I gave my life to this sport, I want the hardware to go with it.”
And he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get it. That means agreeing to a bout with a man no one is lining up to fight in Provodnikov. For the fans, it’s guaranteed fireworks. For Molina, it’s likely another walk through hell. And he’s okay with that.
“It's a can't miss fight,” he said. “We can have a phone booth. We don't need a ring. And it's a can't miss fight for the fans as well. From an outside perspective, I always say I wish I could put it on autopilot and watch it from ringside. But I'll have the best seat in the house - I'll see it live, up close and personal.”
That attitude is the difference between fighters and everyone else. No one should want to fight Provodnikov for one round, let alone 12, and given Molina’s style, he’s not going to stick and move for 36 minutes and take home a decision, though he has the talent to do so. Instead, he’s going to start off with a good game plan, take a couple shots from the Russian, and then it’s on. We’ve seen it too many times from Molina for the fight to play out any other way. It’s who he is.
“It's something that's instinctual,” he said. “I love to fight. I wouldn't be in this business if I didn't love to fight and it's definitely not for everybody. People aren't lining up to get into this business. Especially with a fight of this magnitude, with two guys that stylistically are two trains getting ready to collide.”
I ask him what he thinks about before a fight like this, where he knows it’s going to be a tough night in one way, shape or form.
“Be prepared, be in the best shape of my life, and be ready to go 12 hard rounds.”
That’s what John Molina signed up for. His family didn’t, but they’re part of this too. I spoke to his father, John Sr., and he said that he’s confident in his son’s ability but that “You're always going to have that worry, especially as a parent.”
As for Molina’s two daughters, he says “My oldest daughter is three years old, my baby is two months, so my oldest is starting to understand and comprehend what goes on. But to her, it's fun. This is daddy's job, what he does for a living. She's thinking 'Boom boom,' and we laugh. She doesn't understand the other part where there's some wear and tear on the body. With that being said, this will actually be the first fight my daughter will be in attendance at. So we're excited about it.”
Molina is a smart man. He knows how crazy all of this can sound. He’s not going into the ring to dance or hug. He’s going in to fight. Luckily, he packs dynamite in his fists and he can pull off a win at any time, no matter how bad things are going. But too many wars are never good. He’s well aware of that reality, but the way he sees it, you either fight or you don’t. There’s no middle ground.
“You've got to love what you do,” he said. “I always give the analogy that if you're going to be a police officer, you've got to be all in. If not, you're going to get somebody hurt or killed. In this business, you've got to be all in. If not, you're gonna get hurt or get killed. And that's the harsh reality of it. Now if I had a son in the future and he wants to fight, I want to make sure he's exceptionally gifted before he steps in that ring. I can't imagine seeing a loved one going in there to fight. It would kill me. So I do feel for my family. But it's how I make my living and boxing has provided so much for me and my family. Look around, times are hard, but my family's doing well because of boxing.”
And he wants to keep it that way.
“What keeps me hungry is that I never want this to end,” Molina said. “I've done exceptionally well in boxing and my family comes first. I want my family to be taken care of. They have a lifestyle that they lead, and I never want that to change. I'm gonna bust my tail to make sure it stays that way. I box because I have a family to provide for. It's my job, but I'll never disrespect boxing because of what it's done for me. Boxing changed my life.”