Throwback warriors Josesito Lopez and John Molina Jr. ready to wage war
By John J. Raspanti
It’s not often you read words penned by William Shakespeare about a boxing article, but when comes to the upcoming Josesito Lopez vs John Molina Jr. rumble, the words by Willie fit.
These two guys are blood and guts warriors-through-and-through.
Lopez, 35, was last seen giving former WBA welterweight champion Keith Thurman fits. Lopez kissed the canvas early in the fight. Most in the crowd probably figured the fight was over, but as always, Lopez, nicknamed, “The Riverside Rocky,” got up, and battled back.
He stunned Thurman a couple of times before dropping a split-decision. His performance backed up the words of trainer Robert Garcia, who said a few weeks before the match, “I’ve never seen Josesito so ready.”
Lopez captured the imagination of many boxing fans in 2012, when, behind on the scorecards, he came back to stop Victor Ortiz. The victory earned Lopez a shot at then-junior middleweight champion, Canelo Alvarez, three months later. The stronger Alvarez stopped Lopez in six.
I was in media row nine months later when Lopez met Marcos Maidana at the Home Depot Center (now Dignity Health Sports Park) in Carson, California.
Lopez looked sharp that night. He boxed intelligently, using the ring and jabbing. He resisted standing toe-to-toe with Maidana. In round six, Maidana drew closer. He pushed Lopez into the ropes and let fly with an overhand right. The blow sent Lopez crashing to the canvas. He hauled himself up, but was soon being battered. The assault prompted referee Lou Moret to wave off the contest.
The loss crushed Lopez. After being stopped by Andre Berto in 2015, Lopez’s career appeared over. Instead, Lopez (36-8, 19 KOs) got up again, winning three fights in a row before his narrow loss to Thurman.
Molina Jr., 36, has never met a fight he didn’t like. He delighted boxing fans a few years ago with come-from-behind knock out victories over highly-ranked Hank Lundy, and Mickey Bey. He cemented his standing as a pugilistic tough guy on April 26, 2014.
He engaged in a knock-down, drag-out brawl with Lucas Matthysse that had boxing fans in attendance and watching at home yelling themselves horse.
The battle was intense from the opening bell. Molina, a significant underdog entering the bout, 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. Molina hurt Matthysse a few more times, but the hard-hitting Argentinian was strafing Molina’s face with multiple shots. Finally, in round 10, a combination of blows put Molina Jr. down.
A round later, the bout was over, with Matthysse declared the winner.
The hostilities had lasted a little over thirty minutes. It was dramatic, brutal, and suspenseful.
The exciting brawl was judged “The Fight of the Year” in 2014.
Since then, Molina’s career as has been a hodgepodge of wins and losses. He stunned many by outboxing Ruslan Provodnikov, but was pummeled by heavily favored Terence Crawford in 2016. Molina (30-8, 24 KOs) scored an exciting knockout over Ivan Redkach, and in his last fight, dropped a debatable decision to Omar Figueroa.
And so, the two warriors will lace up the gloves and fight each other on September 28. In many ways this is a last hurrah. The winner will fight again, while the loser could be looking for employment elsewhere.
That’s the way it is in boxing. But no matter what, nobody should ever forget the intestinal fortitude Lopez and Molina have displayed throughout their careers.
They deserve respect.
Photos by Stephanie Trapp