Photos by Tom Casino for Showtime
by Gautham Nagesh
For most of his fight against unbeaten Cleveland native Mickey Bey on Friday night, Covina, Calif. lightweight John Molina Jr. (right) looked ordinary at best.
Until the 10th and final round, Bey had turned the ShoBox main event at Hard Rock Casino in Las Vegas into his personal coming out party. Bey had thoroughly out-boxed Molina for nine rounds, while standing up to his opponent’s dangerous blows. Molina appeared on the verge of his second straight loss, and destined to finish his career as a trial horse, his vaunted punching power reduced to a hurdle for up-and-coming prospects at 135 lbs. Few would have blamed Molina if he had simply succumbed and accepted his fate, as Philly super middleweight Farrah Ennis had appeared to in his listless points loss against Badou Jack (below) to open the telecast.
But John Molina Jr. is not ordinary. He possesses something most men do not: an extraordinary ability to hurt men with his fists, also known as heavy hands. His blessing is rare enough that all boxing trainers wait eagerly for the day when a man like Molina, carrying natural destruction in his palms, waltzes into their gym. Molina may not have made the Olympic team, like Bey, and his trainer may not have an immortal last name like Mayweather. In boxing, punching power is the great equalizer. It can square the most uneven circumstances in the blink of an eye.
“This was certainly one of the most dramatic ends to a ShoBox fight in the history of the series,’’ analyst Steve Farhood said afterward. “How many fighters can say that they have come back from a big points deficit to win by knockout even once in their career? Molina has now done it four times.
Molina struggled with Bey for nine rounds on Saturday, who controlled the bout with his footwork and superlative jab. Even when Molina landed his big overhand rights, Bey appeared to withstand the blows. By the 10th, Bey was fully in control, and Molina looked hurt by a blow to his body. Bey showboated, and grew overconfident. Moments later, Molina caught Bey squarely with a left hook in close. Another hard shot to the head followed, then another. Bey tried to hold, but Molina shrugged him off, and continued to rain blows on Bey’s head. Bey retreated, to no avail.
A few more concussive shots was all referee Vic Drakulich could take. He waved off the fight, as Bey blinked in confusion and disbelief. Molina lifted his arms to the sky in victory, after looking like a beaten man in the corner before the 10th. Where Molina found the ability to hurt Bey after failing until that point is beyond me. It is what makes fighter special, and different from ordinary men. Molina showed something rare in the 10th, rare enough that even if we never see it from him again, his name will always evoke shades of Emile Griffith, and be tinged with at least a hint of greatness.
Molina is large for a lightweight, and easy to hit. He moves slowly for a top fighter and his skills are crude at best. None of that mattered on Saturday night. With his career on the line, Molina reached within himself and found the willpower to mount one last attack. It was enough, and it earned him at least one more moment in the sun. There is no telling what the future will hold, but the beauty of boxing is that it is a sport of todays, not tomorrows. Today John Molina Jr. is the toast of the boxing world. That makes him anything but ordinary.