The former lightweight and super lightweight contender talks about providing the best life possible for his wife and two daughters, moving up to welterweight to fight in boxing's glamor division and why he won't retire without a world title strapped around his waist.
For most fighters, being only a few months from 36 years of age usually means increased thoughts of retirement. Their best years are often in the rearview mirror. But John Molina Jr. isn’t like most fighters.
As far as Molina is concerned, his best years in the ring have yet to come. His desire to claim his first world title burns hotter than ever. And Molina is convinced that as he ages, he’s become a better fighter — physically, mentally and emotionally. It’s also increasing his chances of achieving his world championship goal.
Placing a major world title belt around his waist, however, will likely require the larger, stronger, more mature Molina to begin competing at welterweight. That isn’t a problem for the former lightweight/super lightweight contender. In fact, it’s a move the 5-foot-10½ Molina welcomes and looks forward to.
Always considered large when he fought at lightweight and super lightweight, Molina envisions fighting at 147 pounds to be a huge advantage for him. In addition to being physically stronger and smarter in the ring, being a family man further increases his determination to financially secure the future for his wife and two children.
How is your family a source of motivation?
When I first started boxing, the money wasn’t there. I survived on sponsorship. I started the game wanting to buy myself things, but that all changed when I started a family. I’ve been married to my wife, Neda, for seven years and we’ve been together for 10. My daughters are Raenah, who is 5, and Riley, who is 2.
As long as my family is provided for, I won’t bat an eye. I’ve been humbled to the point where I know what matters now. It comes from maturity. I don’t take anything for granted.
The nice cars, the nice house, that’s all good, but to see my daughters go to bed with a smile on their faces, their bellies full and not a worry in the world, that, to me, is the pinnacle. I don’t go into the ring hating the other guy, but it literally comes down to the fact that I fight for my family.
How does a guy prosper who never has won a title and is 6-6 in his past 12 fights?
Chronologically, I’m an old veteran in the sport, but I’m just getting started. I didn’t start boxing until I was 18 years old, and I’m a dangerous guy for anybody they put me in there [with] because if there’s a heartbeat left in me, I can get you out of there and you stand to lose.
Looking at my resume, my accolades and what I’ve accomplished, I’m going to get the big fights because people know that when I fight, they’re going to see a guy who is gonna bring it, give his all in the ring and give them their money’s worth.
What’s next and how long why will you continue to fight?
The type of fighter that I am, I’m not supposed to be able to articulate anything. I’m supposed to be talking like, ‘Duh, Duh, Duh …’ But [retirement] has never even crossed my mind. I still have the intellect and I still love to fight.
It’s my livelihood, and whether I’ve won or lost, I’ve gained experience and gotten better. I’m thankful for everything that I’ve gotten in my career, but I’m just getting warmed up. My record is what it is, and I know talk is cheap. Just put me in the ring.
You want me to fight Keith Thurman, give me Keith Thurman. If you want me to fight Omar Figueroa, we can do that. But whomever it is, I’ll pull it out. The fans know what they’re going to get from me every time I’m in the ring.
Are those fights you want?
It’s gonna be either [former 135-pound champion] Omar Figueroa or [147-pound champion] Keith Thurman. I’ve been chasing Figueroa for years. Guys like Thurman and Figueroa may believe they can outbox me.
But I don’t know how keen they’ll be to get into the ring with me. If I land my shot, there is always a chance that it could be a different story. That’s the enigma about me. If you look at my past fights, I’ve been involved in some of the most dramatic wars in recent history.
“ I’m a dangerous guy for anybody they put me in there [with] because if there’s a heartbeat left in me, I can get you out of there and you stand to lose. ” John Molina Jr.
Before facing Terence Crawford, weren’t you as much a boxer as a brawler during your upset of Ruslan Provodnikov, who was as much as a 9-to-1 favorite?
Changes definitely happened with the Provodnikov fight, but there are a lot of moving parts. Terence Crawford’s the man, and the right guy won that night. But the reality is that I only had 5½ weeks to get ready for Crawford. I missed weight for the first time in my career.
I was literally 30 percent of myself. I know that some will say, ‘that even at 120 percent you wouldn’t have won. I beg to differ. I didn’t feel challenged by Crawford, which isn’t to say that he’s not good. Crawford is a savant, because the guy can fight by himself, with or without his team there. He’s gifted that way.
So what happened against Crawford?
Had I known then what I know now, I’d have said, ‘You know what? Let me not make weight. I’ll give you your six figures and let’s get on with it.’ But I literally sat in the sauna because I’m a man of honor. The old way of making weight is to dry out.
I was driving 107 miles each way to train and we got down to 143 for that fight. But this was a mismanagement of my time, my weight, and we mistimed the body composition. I take full responsibility for myself.
Are you leaning more toward one division over the other?
If someone at 147 wants to test the waters with me, then let’s do it, and it’s going to backfire and blow up in your face. If it’s going to be at 140, then that’s OK, we can do that, too.
But either way, the fans are going to pay for a great fight because they know that when John Molina fights, there is going to be carnage.
What would you do differently against Antonio DeMarco?
I think everyone saw that the DeMarco fight [WBC lightweight title bout in September 2012] was an aberration. Taking nothing away from DeMarco, I always chalk that up to a lack of experience. I was never hurt in that fight, but I was a rookie. I should have taken a knee [before referee Jack Weiss stopped the bout].
But I didn’t, which may have made a difference in how things played out. I learned a lot from that fight in 40-some seconds, and that’s gotten me to where I am today. The [Lucas] Matthysse fight was also a lack of experience as to why I didn’t finish that fight.
The [Adrien] Broner fight, fans think I laid down, but I just wasn’t prepared. They’re all high-caliber fights that I’ve learned from, and that's what makes me a dangerous to anyone at any point in a fight after the bell rings. I’ve experienced the [highest] of the highs and the [lowest] of the lows, which has become invaluable to me.
With that being said, I am ready to showcase what I’m all about. I’m at the point where, if given that opportunity, I’m gonna definitely capitalize on it because I’m hitting my stride. When I catch you, it’s a game-changer, whether it be a Keith Thurman, an Omar Figueroa, or whoever — I promise you that.
For a closer look at John “The Gladiator” Molina Jr., check out his fighter page.