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John “The Warrior” Molina returns to face Humberto Soto

(Photo © German Villasenor)
(Photo © German Villasenor)

By John J. Raspanti

“I’m supposed to be a fighter.
John  Molina


John Molina makes no bones about it.


He likes to fight.


Molina will be back in the ring on September 13 facing former two-division champion Humberto Soto.


Four months ago, Molina, 31, engaged in what many called "the fight of the year," a knock-down, drag-out brawl with Lucas Matthysse.


The battle was intense from the opening bell. Molina won the first round with aggression—and the second with a knockdown. Matthysse battled back, but in round five, Molina floored him again.


Matthysse was rocked a few minutes later, but scored a knock-down of his own in round seven.

The war waged on.


The crowd at the StubHub Arena in Carson, CA. grew hoarse from screaming.


Molina still had the power to hurt Matthysse, but the hard-hitting Argentinian was strafing Molina’s face with multiple shots.


Finally in round 10, a combination of blows put Molina down. The exhausted warrior survived to the bell.


A round later, the bout was over, with Matthysse declared the winner.


The hostilities lasted a little over thirty minutes. It was dramatic, brutal, and suspenseful.


What was it like to participate in such an encounter?


“When you’re in the mix like that, it’s a matter of life-and-death, but you’re competing,” Molina told this writer on the phone a few days ago. “There’s a pride and primal thing. Like anything he does, I can do better. It’s really instinctive. We exchange. It’s a strange feeling.


“For me, I’m not worried about what he’s hitting me with. I’m more concerned about what I’m going to hit him with. It was a helluva of a fight. I faced the lion and went to war.”


Molina also likes the one-on-one competition of boxing.


“There’s a team behind you, but when you get in the ring, ultimately, it’s up to you,” Molina said. “It’s something in me. Even in sparring. When someone catches me with a good one—they know it’s time to go to work. I’m supposed to be a fighter. I think that fight (with Matthysse) proved it to the world.”


Molina recovered quickly from his loss to Matthysse. If anything he believes it’s helped him. His boxing pedigree doesn’t include 400 amateur fights. He came to the game late.


“My learning curve is a little wider," Molina said. "I didn’t turn pro until I was twenty-four-years-old. Fighting with the likes of Matthysse taught me a lot. I feel like I have gained something from every fight.  I think the fight showed that I’m a force to be reckoned with at one hundred and forty pounds.


“Matthysse himself said that I’m the hardest puncher he’s ever been hit by. I fully anticipate having that rematch. He fought a great fight. What he did was amazing, but he’s been at that level longer than I have. The experience I’ve gained from that fight will help me the next time.”


To prepare for a veteran like Soto (64-8, 35 KOs), Molina (27-4, 22 KOs) has been working with Jose Santa Cruz, and his father, John Molina Sr.


Santa Cruz trains his son Leo, the reigning WBC super-bantamweight champion. 


Molina feels that working with Santa Cruz has helped him hone his craft.   


“Jose has been able to implement things that we’re planning on showing on the thirteenth against Soto,” Molina said. “There’s not going to be a drastic change obviously because this is our first camp together. But there will be some knowledge that he instilled in me that I’ll definitely bring to the table against Soto.”


Molina has been studying film of some of Soto’s recent bouts. He remembers vividly the first time he laid eyes on the former champion.


“Funny story about that,” said Molina. “Some years ago I fought a four-rounder on the same card as one of his fights. His fight was the main event. I remember him walking into the room and thinking, ’Wow! That’s Humberto Soto. That’s a bad boy right there’.


“He walked right past me. Didn’t say a thing. I didn’t blame him. Who was I? It’s funny how it will come full circle on September thirteenth when we lock horns.”


Six months ago, Molina signed an exclusive contract with boxing manager, Al Haymon. 


“My life has changed substantially since signing with Al Haymon. I’ve become, quote-unquote, something of a household name since signing with him. It’s an amazing feeling. I’m very thankful for the fans.


“They’ve been so great in accepting me. I’m just excited about my future in boxing.”


He should be. Molina is a throw-back boxer. He puts it on the line every time.

His growing popularity is easy to understand.

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