JOSHUA vs. MOLINA — When the IBF’s 8th ranked contender, Eric Molina, takes on IBF heavyweight champ Anthony Joshua this weekend, most will view the bout as being nothing more than another highly paid sparring session for Joshua. And sadly they’re probably going to end up being right. It also doesn’t help in dismissing their argument that Molina was stopped in the two biggest bouts of his career. In June of 2015, he was virtually dominated before getting stopped in the 9th round by WBC champ Deontay Wilder. Prior to that, in February of 2012, he was stopped in the first round by former title challenger Chris Arreola. And in his last fight, he was trailing by five points on all three cards before catching lightning in a bottle and stopping former cruiserweight champ Tomasz Adamek. It was the first time in Adamek’s career that he was ever down for the 10-count.
Molina, 25-3 (19) is a big guy. He stands 6-4 and weighs between 230 and 235 when he fights. He’s not fast and isn’t a particularly good boxer. He does have a pretty good right hand, but sometimes tends to lean in with it. He’s also not that busy and tends to look for the perfect shot to get the knockout instead of setting it up. In his defense, he shook Wilder pretty good with a single left hook and rocked Arreola real good with a single right hand. And both of those shots were in the midst of exchanges.
Molina, 34, must be applauded; he only had one amateur fight and was stopped in his pro debut. Yet he’s already earned one title shot, and this weekend he gets a second. Excluding his debut, he’s only lost to name heavyweights. Both losses were by stoppage, but they were against two guys noted for their considerable single-shot punching power. In essence, it’s easy to label Molina as a guy who can’t take a big shot, but that’s a little of an overstatement. The reality is all upper-tier heavyweights can punch…and the noted punchers at the elite level are really scary. I think the fact that Molina, when he gets hit, gets hit really flush is a big issue for him. Unfortunately, Joshua, 27, is a more accurate, busier, and harder puncher than Wilder and Arreola.
It’s easy for critics to dismiss everybody that isn’t great in the heavyweight division. However, aside from Anthony Joshua 17-0 (17), I could make a grocery list of negatives regarding every other top ranked heavyweight. I even have major questions about Joshua, as much as I laud him, questions as to what kind of a punch he can take and how durable he is. To this point Joshua has been so dominant that only Dillian Whyte has really buzzed him. The problem with that is that Whyte isn’t close to being a special puncher in any era.
Eric Molina is a determined guy, but he’s limited athletically. I have no doubt he has convinced himself that he’s going to be the first to test AJ’s toughness and durability and that he’s going to win the fight. But I just can’t see Eric pulling it off. He and Joshua are on different levels and Molina doesn’t have one discernible tool in his arsenal that Joshua can’t overcome. Perhaps Molina may be fighting Joshua at the right time because there is the possibility Anthony has a letdown. Remember, he was supposed to be fighting Wladimir Klitschko, but Wladimir withdrew from the bout because the WBA title wasn’t on the line and Molina jumped at the opportunity to replace him. Molina has had time to train and has said how much his life will change with a win. But I don’t think it is meant to be.
Yes, Joshua could suffer a letdown on the night of the fight but I doubt it. Anthony seems to be too dialed in to winning and becoming known as a great champion. The fight with Klitschko is set to take place in early 2017. The bout will be promoted as being the passing of the torch from one era to another, and that’s a fair proclamation. And you better believe Joshua is aware of that and no doubt relishes being thought of as being the “man” in the heavyweight division — and if that weren’t enough to keep Joshua focused on the task at hand, it’s rumored that WBC champ Deontay Wilder will be attending the bout.
Wilder, currently 37-0 (36), is being mentioned as a future foe for Joshua — which, of course, if Joshua beats Klitschko next year, most of the heavyweight hardware will be on the line. And with both fighters having solid reputations of being big time punchers, a bout between an undefeated Joshua and an undefeated Wilder, promoted as the UK versus the USA, would be Fort Knox financially.
Lastly, there’s another factor relating to Wilder sitting ringside that is in play. And that is that Wilder fought Molina a year-and-a-half ago and it wasn’t a walk in the park. Although Wilder had Molina down four times and was well ahead on the scorecards, Molina wobbled Wilder pretty good during the third round. Finally when Wilder stopped looking to end the fight with one punch, he finished Molina in the ninth round.
I believe Joshua is intent on beating Molina more convincingly than Wilder did without any tense moments. This will have AJ totally focused. Therefore I think Joshua will enter the bout with the mindset of destroying Molina and erasing the hypothetical question of who is better, he or Deontay Wilder, until they fight. For those reasons I believe that regardless of his effort Saturday night, Eric Molina will be in the wrong place at the wrong time when he stares across the ring at Anthony Joshua at the Manchester Arena in Lancashire on December 10th.
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Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com