By Gabriel Montoya
(Photo © German Villasenor, MaxBoxing)
There are few fighters who enjoy the build-up to a fight more than lightweight prospect John Molina, Jr. (18-0 with 14 KOs) who trains out of Joe Goossen’s Ten Goose gym in Van Nuys, CA. This fight marks a full year under Goossen’s tutelage and a step towards his ultimate goal of becoming a world champion. The Covina, CA native was upbeat as ever just days before the biggest fight of his life; a 12 round NABF lightweight title fight against Martin Honorio (26-4-1 with 14 KOs) at the Pechanga Resort and Hotel in Temecula, CA televised live on Showtime as part of their Shobox: The Next Generation series.
“You know training camp. It’s always an exciting day at Joe Goossen’s Gym,” Molina told me earlier this week. “It went really well. We’re really well prepared. It’s something you dream about as a kid. I am extremely excited for my first title shot.”
If Molina had a nickname, it’d be “The Joker”. Whether it’s in the gym, the dressing room, or over the phone, Molina is always quick with a quip or a one-liner.
“If I was Manny Pacquiao you’d be over here in a second,” Molina joked with me earlier in the week when I had to cancel on a gym visit due to Los Angeles beyond my control.
But beyond that laughing exterior, lies a gloved assassin. When the bell rings in the arena or the gym, the jokes end. Understanding what type of environment Molina needs to grow is all part of the Joe Goossen’s business of building champions.
“It’s a mixture of both,” Molina said of the balance between keeping things lighthearted in the gym and getting focused for the task ahead. “There’s a happy medium to the whole thing. It’s a mad science. It’s a sweet science but it’s a mad science as well. Joe has a really good gauge on keeping that in perspective. Absolutely before the fight I’m popping jokes. We get into the dressing room and I’m cracking jokes. But once it’s time to lace on them gloves and it’s time to go to work, then its time to be a soldier in there. Its time to go to war and we’re prepared for that. If you know anything about Joe he’s prepared me 100% humanly possible as best as he can to make me be ready for whomever I am facing.”
If you haven’t seen Molina fight you’re missing out. While it may not resemble Mayweather 2.0, what Molina brings is an all-action style to the table. A rangy fighter for lightweight at around 5’11”, Molina fights like Goossen’s previous rangy lightweight, the late Chico Corrales. He loves a phone booth fight and one in which he doesn’t have to look hard for his opponent though he is capable of finding him if necessary. Time and again in the gym, I’ve watched him snap out his long jab and right hand for extended periods only to eschew that long range game, jump into the eye of the storm and proceed to bang away at its body. It makes for exciting TV. But Molina isn’t some laugh one minute, rage against his opponent the next split personality. The jokes don’t mask fear and the rage of his explosively quick KO’s isn’t the product of some hidden issue. No, what drives Molina to go from a joker to a killer is something deeper, more humanly recognizable.
“Believe it or not it’s the thought process of my future family,” explained Molina, “whomever that may be, the success that I have seen thus far, the in the ring success and the financial that I have gained, I don’t ever want it to stop. I just want it to keep going up and up. I am on the fast track all the way to the top. So, I am more fearful of losing that than anything else. The way I see it, the other fighter standing across the ring from me is just standing in the way of my dreams coming true. I’m not going to let him stop me by any means, shape or form. I’m not going to let anyone stop me from getting what I worked so hard and sacrificed so much for and that’s being a world champion.”
Before world champion can be achieved, there is the matter of the NABF title to attend to. For all the talk of too many belts at the world championship level, regional belts like the NABF are necessary stepping stones for a young fighter to get on the title shot fast track.
“The NABF and the NABO, those are actually pretty prestigious belts that catapulted other fighters to bigger and better things,” said Molina. “So it’s kind of a right of passage so to speak. I’m pretty happy about it.”
With a win in this one, Molina will secure his first world title and not only make his sponsors Blazing Steel and newly signed Affliction happy, but he will be the second Goossen-Tutor promoted fighter in as many weeks to pick up their first title. Just last week, stable mate and friend Andre Ward picked up a super middleweight title by defeating Mikkel Kessler. Next month, another stable mate in Paul Williams will be fighting in a unification bout at 154 pounds. It’s an exciting time to be a Dan Goossen promoted fighter and Molina hopes to keep it going by doing his part.
“It’s a great, great feeling,” said Molina. “It’s going to be huge year in 2010 for Goossen Tutor promotions. Definitely congratulations to my good friend Andre Ward. He just shut up all the naysayers. He was like “Ok. This is the best in the world, let me show you what I am all about” It was nice to se him win not just because he is an American but just to show all the naysayers that said he was moved too slow or wasn’t strong enough, he’s not man enough to be with the best in the world. He really proved them wrong. Now with me fighting for these regional titles, it’s going to be another notch in the Goossen-Tutor belt. For our young stable. With Andre Ward, myself, Cris Arreola, Paul Williams, Manuel Quezada, Javier Molina, and Shawn Estrada, I think Goossen-Tutor is going to be force to be reckoned with.
“Dan has been in the business as long as all of them,” he added. “He’s very smart; he knows exactly what he’s doing. With Joe Goossen and my father as the manager, the sky’s the limit. It really is. As long as I keep doing what I do best which is knocking people out the sky’s the limit.”
In Martin Honorio, Molina faces a rugged career feather and super featherweight making the move to lightweight in hopes of one last run at things. While his 4 losses may say “journeyman” to some, Honorio is a live dog. While he was blown out in one round last year by Robert Guerrero back in 2007, this is a man who took the rugged Rogers Mtagwe the distance the year before and has been on a two fights in two years win streak. He’s the type of rangy (5’9” ½), hard nosed opponent who should take Molina a few rounds more than he wants to go. Should it not go that far, the win could serve as a nice measuring stick against Guerrero who holds a super featherweight title which is within striking distance of Molina’s weight class.
“Rangy, crafty veteran, possesses a Mexican style,” Molina said of Honorio. “We have some similar opponents. If I want to bring the fight to him, he’s going to be there to accommodate me. The only step up on me is experience. And that’s going to be nullified when I get in there and dictate the pace of the fight. Honestly, any way it unfolds, we’re prepared. We had a great preparation for this fight.”
With a fighter the size of Molina at lightweight added to the fact Honorio is moving up in weight and not much of a power puncher, the thinking here is that Honorio will try to make it a little ugly and extend the fight through movement or jab and grab techniques. Molina seemed to agree that the opponent will not be looking t o get into the phone booth right away.
“I don’t think he is going to sit there and try and bang with me,” Molina said. “Though he possesses the heart to do so and I respect him in his game but I would be surprised if he stood there and banged with me. More power to me if I don’t have to go find him. One of his quotes, he said I’m a young fighter and he’s going to try to bring me out to deep water and drown me. We’re prepared to go the distance if need be but to be honest with you I don’t see the fight going the distance.”
Such confidence is generally born of arrogance but the way Molina says such things it doesn’t come off that way. It’s just a confidence born of preparation and knowledge of what he has pushed himself through to get here.
“I don’t think he possesses the power to put me out but you have to respect every fighter,” explained Molina. “You got to respect everybody. An infant, holding it in your arms, can punch you and make your mouth bleed. So a grown man who is trained and has beaten world class fighters, you better believe he can knock you out. My confidence is not stemming off of arrogance but that we have done everything humanly possible to be prepared. It’s going to be an explosive fight. He brings heart, he’s brings a Mexican style to the ring and you know I can accommodate.”
Sitting at 136 pounds four days out from his fight, Molina didn’t sound like a guy making weight. Joe Goossen is a stickler for his fighters making weigh the right way and insists Molina eat all the way to the fight to maintain proper strength and conditioning. But even still, with this being Thanksgiving week, avoiding food has to be harder than ever. Not so, says Molina.
“It’s a small sacrifice to pay to be NABF champion,” he said. “My career comes first. God willing I am going to have a million thanksgivings. And holidays. The way I see it, it’s going to be a helluva Christmas. Everything is there for me. Now all I’ve got to do is walk through the door.”