12 Rounds With ... John Molina Jr.

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The hard-hitting super lightweight is ready to go to war versus Omar Figueroa in their 140-pound showdown this Saturday on PBC on FOX.

John Molina Jr. missed his six-year-old daughter’s gymnastics competition while training for Saturday night’s 140-pound bout clash versus Omar Figueroa Jr. Molina has vowed to make the former 135-pound champion pay at the Microsoft Theatre in Los Angeles on PBC on FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

Molina, 36, is as motivated as ever. “The Gladiator” (30-7, 24 KOs) will end a 14-month ring absence against Figueroa and is raring to go. He last fought in December 2017, when he rose from the canvas in the second round to score his own pair of knockdowns on the way to a fourth-round TKO of Ivan Redkach.

Now he faces the 29-year-old Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs), of Weslaco, Texas in what many believe will be the best fight on the card.

How has training been?

I’m firing on all cylinders preparing for a highly decorated guy who likes to go to war like I do. My head trainer is Robert Alcazar, and his assistants are Ricardo Marquez and my father, John Molina Sr.

My body performance trainer is Michael Galvez, head chef is Ernie Galvez, and facilitator is Eric Villegas. My stablemates are [WBO 154-pound champion] Jaime Munguia, Michael Norato and Rene Moreno.

We called for the fight to be at 147, but Team Figueroa wanted 140. So we’re at 140, and I’ll be surprised to see if he makes it, because it’s been four years or so since he’s made that weight.

I’ve been allotted ample time to prepare for Figueroa like I was for [former 140-pound champion] Ruslan Provodnikov, who, like Figueroa, was with trainer Joel Diaz. This fight is coming at the right time.

Do you think Diaz is taking this fight personally?

I don’t want to say Joel is taking it personally, but if I’m a competitor, like I know that Joel is, I’m sure he wants to get one back for what I did to him and Provodnikov [Note: Molina defeated Provodnikov in 2016].

Guerrero was a good fight for Omar to show how good he can be. Stylistically, it’s a can’t miss, all-action fight. I expect a tough, no-nonsense Omar Figueroa, but that won’t be good enough for him.

What is the one thing you miss doing outside of camp?

I enjoy being around my family and really miss them during training. My oldest child, Raenah, is a 6-year-old gymnast and the youngest on her team. Her first competition was last month in Las Vegas.

She also competed in February so missing that is part of the sacrifice I’ve made. But being with PBC helped me to maximize my earning potential, providing for my family through boxing.

How has that changed things?

When my wife and I first met, I was a four-round fighter used to borrowing money from her. I had a payment due, once, and I asked my wife for X amount of dollars. The next day she gave me an envelope.

So, I told her at the time, “Stick with me, and our dreams are going to come true.”

On February 18, two days after the fight, will be our eighth-year wedding anniversary.

When you are home, where do you like to hang out?

I like Old Town San Diego, or even Big Bear, California, two local places close to home. Eventually, we’ll go to Disney World in Orlando, Florida.

I’m still pretty tight with the local community where I grew up. As a matter of fact, I was there today, talking to students at my former high school, Charter Oak, where I was a big part of their wrestling team.

I expect a tough, no-nonsense Omar Figueroa, but that won’t be good enough for him. Super Lightweight Contender - John Molina Jr.

You wrestled?

Wrestling was my first love. I wrestled 112, 119, 125 and 135 from my freshman year until I graduated from high school in 2001. I didn’t start wrestling until my freshman year yet I won my league.

At the time of my graduation, I was still the only guy from the San Gabriel Valley to go on to the masters, which is before States in California.

What are your favorite cars?

I have a red [Polaris] Slingshot, which has two wheels in front and one in back. I had it before Deontay Wilder or Tim Bradley. My logo was my nickname, a Gladiator, which is also on my gloves and trunks.

But the unveiling of the Jeep Gladiator will happen at the end of 2019. It’s a beast of a car that’s a four-door truck in a Jeep frame. I'll be purchasing one of those with or without my wife’s approval.

How about favorite restaurants?

I miss pizza during training – pepperoni, sausage and Canadian bacon. “Mike’s Pizza” in San Dimas, California, is a hole in the wall place that's better than New York-style pizza.

My favorite overall restaurant is The Arroyo Chop House in Pasadena. It’s a pricey, but it’s got the best steaks anywhere in California. But the best steaks of my life outside of California is at The N9NE in Las Vegas.

Who were your favorite fighters growing up?

Oscar De La Hoya was a unique talent with rhythm and style who let his hands go.

De La Hoya showed heart in his war with Ike Quartey, getting up off the canvas to beat a tough guy with a killer jab.

I also like Roberto Duran’s tenaciousness in beating a prime Sugar Ray Leonard, who is arguably the greatest fighter of all time.

How was your first sparring session?

I was 17-years-old when I walked into a boxing gym and said, “I want to be a fighter. I’ll fight any of your guys to show what I’m about.”

There was a tall kid with a big nose named Vanes Martirosyan who had qualified for the Olympics. Everyone laughed when I said, “I want to fight him.”

But they put me in with a four-time national champion from Chicago who mopped me up. I was more bloody that day than I've been as a professional.

So, my dad says, “Get your butt in there and show me you want this.” I got back in and dropped the guy with my right hand. The old-timers were like, “Who in the hell is this kid?”

My shirt was covered in blood. So, my dad said, “If you’re going to be a fighter, this is what it takes. You’re going to keep that shirt and you’re never going to allow a shirt to get like that again.”

How were you as an amateur?

I was 18 for my first amateur fight. Vanes Martirosyan was cheering me on, saying, "Just throw your right hand.” When I landed, it was like, “Boom!” I knocked the guy out.

As an amateur, I was knocking people out but I had no technique. I won the Golden Gloves, earning “Best Boxer” with five wins, all knockouts. I won four national titles.

What is your proudest moment as a professional?

That would be my first-ever Showtime appearance. I was dumbfounded hearing Jimmy Lennon Jr. announce, “And now, from Covina, California, ‘The Gladiator,’ John Molina Jr.”

That was just surreal. I was so distracted that my Dad hit me in the head and said, “Wake up, kid, you’ve got a fight in front of you.” I knocked out Joshua Allotey in the second round.

My fight served as the co-main event on a card where Andre Ward beat Henry Buchanan. I’m human, so that remains a really big deal to me.

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