Monday, February 06, 2023  |


Molina ready for braggadocious Broner


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I’m not supposed to have favorites or play favorites or betray a rooting interestÔǪand generally, I think I do fairly well despite the fact that the head and heart sometimes have anyone that isn’t a robot “falling in like” with a certain fighter, who may be extra charming or humble or possess some other trait which speaks to me.
Confession: I sort of fell in like with junior welterweight John Molina Jr. when I heard him use the “braggadocious” in relation to the man he’ll be fighting on Saturday night on NBC, in prime-time, Adrien Broner.
Now, I don’t think Broner would necessarily take exception to that characterization, as that’s been a huge element of the buzz he’s conjured, and the size of of the fan (and ANTI-fan) base he’s built since turning pro in 2008. The number of folks who’d love to see Molina, a California-based boxer and married father, drop and stop Broner on “Premier Boxing Champions” when they square off, is considerable.
But it wasn’t simply the admirable vocabulary which spurred some kind thoughts in my head during a recent phoner with the 32-year-old Molina, who possesses a 27-5 (22 knockouts) record. In fact, he was in the Boxing Writers Association of America’s “2014 Fight of the Year” with violent waltz partner Lucas Matthysse.
When Molina and I were wrapping up and I asked him if he wanted to add anything or touch on anything I neglected, he told me he was dedicating this fight to two people who are no longer with us. His grandfather, the 80-year-old patriarch of the family, Sid Molina died three weeks ago. And his childhood pal, Andy G. died a couple weeks ago from complications from cystic fibrosis. “He was like a brother to me; I’ve known him since I was five years old. We grew up on the same street,” Molina told me. “And Grandpa had such a personality. He had 19 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren. And each one of us was his favorite! So those two things took a bit of wind out of my sails. But because these two men faced the mystery of what we’re all going to go throughÔǪmy little broÔǪman, there’s nothing I can’t face.”
OK, while I’m on this track, I might as well keep at it; I also enjoy and admire Molina because he’s unabashed about acknowledging he is in the entertainment business. Kid gets it, that people are ponying up good money to come see him and they didn’t end up at the arena because they thought they were buying a ticket to watch “Dancing With the Stars.”
No, the reason people responded to his fight against the Argentine Matthysse is because it was, he told me, “an all-out dogfight.”
I noted that I really respond to the Fight of the Year award, oftentimes, more so than the “Fighter of the Year” because a fighter can win Fighter of the Year without being severely pushedÔǪbut you know the two who won Fight of the Year worked together to paint a compelling portrait of violence that can strangely evoke emotions that only a great work of art can. Matthysse and Molina COLLABORATED on that masterpiece, in which each man allowed an intimate look at his character and proved on that one night, for themselves, for everyday people too timid for that arena but perhaps facing the prospect of a terminally ill child or a terminal cancer diagnosis or whatever, that they too can do as those men didÔǪand not give up. “Yes, it was one of those rare instances where you can lose a fight but your reputation is enhanced,” Molina said. “Mine and his. But we gave pieces of ourselves that night.”
He gets itÔǪMolina knows the contract; he’s read and re-read it. No, not physically, that’s not what he’s talking about. He told me he feels stellar and his coach of six years, Joe Goossen has been pleased with his camp, the first after back-to-back losses to Matthysse and then Humberto Soto (UD 10) in September, as he readies for Broner.
“Science would say your body is only supposed to go through so much but I feel amazing,” the resident of San Dimas, Calif. said. “I’m not diminished; this is the best I’ve ever felt. I’m talking about my heart. I wanted the world to see my heart.”
Mission accomplished, pal.
The fighter told me he feels overwhelmingly pleased to be able to provide for his wife, Neda, and child, a two-year-old girl named Raenah. Oh, another reason to dig Molina? He wanted a name that couldn’t be found in a gift-shop, on a key chain. RaenahÔǪcheck.
Back to the fight; Molina knows the 29-1 (22 KOs) Broner is skilled. Some solid instincts, skills and athleticism. Hand speed, a notch better. Reflexes, probably born with a better batchÔǪThe personality, that doesn’t really put Molina off, though he does allow that the Cinci man can come off as “braggadocious.”
“I could care less about his antics outside the ring,” Molina told me. “It’s inside what he’s doing that I’m concerned with.” So no, he’s not marshaling negative energy, any sort of “hate” to get hyped for “AB.” He’s dealt with a trash-talker before, he told me, Hank Lundy, and actually, he doesn’t hold much fondness for Hank. “He’s the only guy I’ve fought who really I’d not be down with having dinner with after,” Molina told me because he didn’t like the way Lundy protested a stoppage loss (TKO 11) to Molina in 2010.
No, he says, there won’t be personal animus toward Broner affecting him on fight night. “I’ll be doing what my profession is, that’s fight. And to want to impress, might I be overly aggressive? No. If it does become that type of fight, going tit-for-tat, that’s to my advantage. My prediction for the fight is: I’m going to make it an uncomfortable place for him. He’ll have a game plan; I don’t want him to gain confidence.”
Molina has recently gotten to that place where his earnings as a prizefighter are allowing him some breathing room. The pride he feels at having gotten there and the gratitude he has for manager Al Haymon is considerable. He said he’s happy to have gotten to this place and doesn’t want to be leaving anytime soon. He’s been picked because Broner is being built back up to a place where he can headline shows as an undeniable A-side, after he was de-powered by Marcos Maidana at the end of 2013. Molina is a rung on a ladder, someone perceived to be not as tough as a Maidana but a hard out, someone who will make Broner work, be telegenic and give the viewers what they want. He thinks – tells me he knows – that he is more than that. I heard an extra measure of confidence, of determination, when he told me about the people who have moved on, who meant so much to him. I will be real damn curious to see if something I cannot measure, how Molina’s feelings for his grandpa and his best bud, touch him on fight night. If feelings translate into a physical manifestation, Broner might be in a mode a bit less braggadocious post-fight than of which we’ve been accustomed.
Michael Woods lives in Brooklyn and, in his spare time, watches boxing. Follow him on Twitter.
Video by Dominic Verdin and Daniel Morales