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Eric Molina: ‘I’m in the spot I always dreamed about’

01
Dec

He is Mr. Molina to his students at a Texas high school, a guy with a ready ear and a burly shoulder to lean on. The special education kids are his specialty, those who maybe have a harder time with structure, with ability to concentrate and learn within a strict environment, who have not been born with silver spoons feeding them opportunities galore.

Molina, age 34, is always keen to listen to their hopes, dreams, worries and frustrations at J. Economedes in Edinburg, Texas.

He’s a magnet for it because so many of them know his own story, in his other guise, that of a world-class caliber heavyweight boxer.

Oh but he hasn’t always been designated that way…

Molina’s experienced losses, getting dropped and stopped, dissed and dismissed and categorized as a steppingstone sort. They sting; he will admit. Because his pride is considerable and it didn’t leave him, not for long anyway, even as he took loss No. 1, 2, 3…

He soldiered on, just like those special ed kids have to, lest they get chewed up by ill fortune or poor decision making.

Molina has cred when he talks about the need, most vital and omnipresent, to soldier on. He lived it when he lost his pro debut in 2007…when he was stopped by Chris Arreola in 2012…by Deontay Wilder in June 2015. But, of course, self-doubts creep into all our heads. That’s the sign of a reasonably healthy psyche, as only reflexively grandiose, narcissistic types aren’t prone to occasional bouts of severe self-analysis. Come Dec. 10, he will get another opportunity to show the kids and the doubters that the press that slammed him as a steppingstone no-hoper, that loss doesn’t define you. It can spur you on to correct negatives and launch you to higher highs.

Let’s put it on the table, though. On Dec. 10, the Texan (25-3, 19 knockouts) is not the favorite. Fight game pundits are pretty sure that foe Anthony Joshua will go to 18-0, retain his IBF heavyweight title and give Molina another “opportunity” to perfect the art of bouncing back.

I reached the hitter, between workouts in Texas, on the phone.

“This time of the year, as I think about Thanksgiving and the holidays, I’m happy to know I’m in the spot I always dreamed about, for me and my family and for the opportunity,” Molina said.

The boxer will travel with a tight training and family crew, 13 in all, to England late Friday into early Saturday, and will be based in Manchester.

He won Brit fans with his straight talk, which came off as calm, assertive and dignified, last month, when the tango came together and he and Joshua, along with promoter Eddie Hearn, did a hype-up presser.

“I spoke about my experiences, what I’ve been through, and the response was good. On social media, people said that they were impressed with how I carried myself and the things I represent,” Molina said. “I think many fighters out there understand the roads I’ve been down more than the average fan.”

He’s prone to optimism and stubborn perseverance but not to wearing blinders. He knows Joshua is a talent. “I  look at the fight as definitely not an easy task. I know what I need to do, to execute and, if I can execute the plan, we’re very confident. It will take a perfect performance. I will be – and need to be – very focused, to stay relaxed..and I know I can land that punch to cause the upset. I’ve seen pretty much all his fights and, as it comes closer, I will look more and more.

Have I become more or less impressed the more I watch? In breaking down certain things Molina does, there are impure things in every fighter. Every fighter has strengths and weakness.

“Listen, Mike; I don’t expect media to give me much of a shot…but I’ve been up off the mat while I had a full-time job in school. I’m a blue-collar heavyweight on the side. I’ve been referred to as a bum. I do this the hard way. I do this the hard way and get written off, dismissed…but I channel the negative energy and I’m bringing my best to the table December 10. Ten years ago, I had a dream be a champ. I’ve put everything into this. I know everything I got is going into that fight. There’s no way that I can lose, knowing I put everything into camp and into the fight.”

 

 

Michael Woods is in the place he’s always dreamed about too. Beautiful wife and kids, owns his own website, hosts a top-shelf podcast and whips up a helluva selfie. So what’s next? Probably supper.

 

 

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