John Molina Jr. has a problem. Those who step into the ring with him as he trains for his showdown with Adrien Broner on March 7 have an even bigger one.
“You know how hard it is to get sparring partners to stay with me?” Molina asks rhetorically. “I’ve knocked out seven of them—knocked them out cold. And I’m paying these guys great money.
"I had to get [160-pounders] to come spar with me, because I was knocking out guys my weight.”
Molina’s power is well-known: Of the 140-pound contender’s 27 victories, 22 have come by knockout. But where does it come from exactly?
It likely begins with Molina’s background in gymnastics.
Starting in the sixth grade, Molina was a star gymnast.
He was so good that he was selected to be a part of a school program in his native California for which he traveled to other schools to put on gymnastic shows.
With all that work on the parallel bars, the pommel horse and the steady rings, Molina developed serious core strength, which is crucial in transferring the momentum of a power punch from the lower body up through the hips and out to the fist.
When Molina got to high school, he became a standout in another sport: wrestling. By the time he was a sophomore, he was ranked second in his weight class in the state.
He credits wrestling with helping him cultivate the discipline and stamina that he’d later need to take full advantage of his power in the ring.
Finally, when Molina was a senior in high school, he turned to boxing.
He won his first national tournament after only five fights—the minimum needed to qualify for the competition.
Molina went 22-2 as an amateur, with 17 knockouts.
“Not 17 referee stoppages,” he was quick to clarify. “Seventeen physical knockouts.”
One guy actually broke his leg because he fell unconscious on his way to the canvas after Molina belted him.
“I was physically stopping everybody I stepped into the ring with,” he says.
With a chuckle, Molina recalled putting on a pair of boxing gloves for the first time, a moment that sticks with him like his punches tend to stick with his opponents.
“I’ll never forget, the trainer came up to me and said, ‘What’s wrong, kid? Your girlfriend break up with you?’” Molina remembers. “I said, ‘No, I just want to fight.’”
- John Molina Jr