Figueroa vs. Molina: A Sure-Fire Fight of the Year Candidate

Omar Figueroa Jr. and John Molina Jr. are known for their warring ways. Expect nothing less in this 140-pound throwdown Saturday night on PBC on FOX.

Is there any chance Saturday night's 140-pound scrap between Omar Figueroa Jr. and John Molina Jr. turns into anything but a war?

No, not really. That just isn't in their nature, nor their fighting styles. 

Figueroa and Molina, two Mexican-American warriors, are set to battle in Los Angeles’ Microsoft Theatre on PBC on FOX (8 p.m. ET/ 5 p.m. PT).

The bout may serve as chief support to WBA world featherweight champion Leo Santa Cruz’s title defense against Rafael Rivera, but many expect it to steal the show.

“It’s the fight of the night for sure,” said Molina (30-7, 24 KOs). “I think the world knows that.”

“Even if he tries to box, it won’t be long until we’re in the phone booth,” added Figueroa (27-0-1, 19 KOs).

The “phone booth” is exactly where Figueroa likes to work. It’s paid great dividends for him during his 11-year tenure as a professional. Through 28 fights, the Weslaco, Texas native has never been beaten.

In 2014, Figueroa, 29, captured the WBC world lightweight title with a ninth-round KO of Daniel Estrada. After defending it once, he began to struggle with making weight and remaining active.

Figueroa moved up to 140 pounds in 2015 and won a wide decision over former two-division champion, Ricky Burns.

However, in defeating former world champion Antonio DeMarco next, he entered the ring weighing a whooping 151 pounds, 16 pounds heavier than the weight he won his world title at. 

“140? What’s up?” said Molina regarding the mandated weight for Saturday’s bout. “That’s not my doing, that’s Omar’s doing. He hasn’t made that weight in four years!”

Figueroa has fought just once since 2015, an impressive third-round TKO over Robert Guerrero in July 2017. The Fight of the Year candidate produced non-stop action. Figueroa dropped Guerrero five times in all, accomplishing something welterweight elites Floyd Mayweather, Keith Thurman and Danny Garcia failed to do by becoming the first man to stop the rugged Guerrero.

Figueroa’s youth and undefeated record make him the favorite over Molina, but in a fight expected to occur in close quarters, anything can happen.

Molina can hurt you with his vaunted right hand from anywhere. Ideally, he likes to get some distance between himself and his opponent to fire it off. With Figueroa playing the bull, Molina will have to try and tag him as he comes forward.

Figueroa doesn’t offer much on the outside, but he tucks his chin well and switches from orthodox to southpaw, often several times within the same round. The Texas native likes to use range-finding punches on the outside to work his way inside. Once he’s in that phone booth, he’s able to create enough room to fire off a high number of punches—usually in combination—and suffocate his opponents.

Figueroa is not a one-two artist or a straight shooter down the middle. He prefers to land clubbing hooks and uppercuts to the body and head. The former world champion will attempt to smother Molina’s power up close and batter the veteran with an accumulation of punches along the ropes and in the corners.

In short, Figueroa is going to make it a dogfight.

Molina, 36, is no stranger to those types of affairs. His last fight, a December 2017 brawl with Ivan Redkach, was as good a four-round scrap as any in recent years.

Molina, who also was in 2014’s Fight of the Year with former champion Lucas Matthysse, found himself on the seat of his pants in the second round against Redkach, when the Ukrainian dropped him with a left hook. It looked like Molina’s latest brawl might be his last. Instead, the Covina, California native got up and dropped Redkach in the third and fourth rounds to win via TKO.

As is typically the case, it was Molina’s right hand that turned the fight around for him. It’s not the only time he has shown major gumption. In 2013, after losing nearly every round to a then-undefeated Mickey Bey, Molina dug deep and knocked Bey out in the final round. That time, it was a left hook that set up the stoppage.

Against Figueroa, Molina will need to weather the storm against a younger opponent, just as he did with Bey and Redkach. If he can’t catch Omar coming in at mid-range with a right hand, he may have to find a way to get his left to do the job, as he did with Bey.

Figueroa’s style will give Molina the opportunities he seeks to change the fight with his power.

“I’m excited to be back against a guy like Molina,” Figueroa said. “He fits perfectly with my style.”

Both fighters will seldom take a step back on Saturday night, to the delight of those in attendance at the Microsoft Theater. That means another crowd-pleasing, entertaining fight, exactly what we’ve come to expect from these two warriors.

For a closer look at Santa Cruz vs Rivera, check out our fight page.

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