By Graham Houston
Every so often a prospect comes along who has the punching power and aggressive style that gets fans excited, and John Molina, the unbeaten lightweight from Covina, CA, fits the mould. Molina’s trainer, Joe Goossen, says he sees something of Rafael Ruelas and Diego Corrales — world champions he trained — in Molina. “He’s tall like they were and a natural puncher,” Goossen said from his Los Angeles gym on Thursday. “I’ve had him starting faster. The way we train, he’s ready to go as soon as that bell rings. In the gym he’s been hurting welterweights and junior welterweights, and I’ve had him wearing 16-ounce gloves because even with 14-ounce gloves he’s been wrecking guys.”
Molina has stopped his last five opponents and fans who attended the Klitschko-Arreola heavyweight fight a couple of months ago got a glimpse — and I mean a glimpse — of Molina’s fierce aggression when he rolled over veteran Efren Hinojosa in 34 seconds.
On Saturday, in a special edition of ShoBox, Molina steps up in class when he meets the durable and seasoned Martin Honorio, whose only loss in the last five years came when he got caught by a huge left hand from Robert Guerrero in the opening round of a junior lightweight title challenge.
This 56-second stunner doesn’t tell the real story about Honorio. The 29-year-old Mexican fighter has wins over two reigning featherweight champions — Steven Luevano (hard-won decision in 2005) and Cristobal Cruz (first-round stoppage eight years ago) — as well as a victory over a fighter who nearly won a title, the durable and courageous Rogers Mtagwa, who had Juan Manuel Lopez reeling in their dramatic title fight last month. Also, Honorio fought a draw with world title challenger Jorge Lacierva.
Honorio has been matched in tough fights from the start of his career, which is typical of boxers who come up through the Mexican system. His fight with Mtagwa in 2006 was one of the greatest ever seen on the Telefutura network, 12 bloody, punch-for-punch rounds, with Honorio cut over both eyes but letting fly with all he had to eke out the split decision win. He has won two fights inside the distance since getting caught cold by Guerrero.
On Saturday, though, Honorio is moving up in weight from junior lightweight to meet a young, strong, heavy-handed 135-pounder in the scheduled 10-rounder.
This bout, for the vacant NABF title, is Molina’s third appearance on ShoBox, having crushed Ghanaian Joshua Allotey and veteran Frankie Archuleta in a total of five rounds.
Molina goes right after his opponents, jabbing his way in and looking to hook to the body and bring the right hand over the top. If he gets a man hurt, he lets the punches fly. The speedy win over Hinojosa was surprising, since the long-serving Mexican fighter had lasted eight rounds against Robert Guerrero three months earlier.
I was able to see Molina’s win over Hinojosa, and the 37-year-old trial horse was hurt almost immediately by a left hook downstairs and took a knee from a right hand to the body shortly thereafter. I think it was the first body shot — the left hook — that did the damage, because after it landed Hinojosa had the look of a fighter who is debating whether to go down. The right hand downstairs was the convincer. Hinojosa didn’t want any more of Molina, it was that simple.
If Molina can get a veteran such as Hinojosa to look for the exit inside a minute, he obviously can punch very hard. Honorio won’t fold up this easily, though. There is very little likelihood of another one-rounder. Honorio has shown time and again that he is tough, gritty and proud, and he is a capable fighter who can box well or fight on the inside. On Saturday, though, he seems to be seriously outgunned.
“Honorio might jab and move and use his experience, but if you don’t have the ammunition to discourage Molina it’s very difficult to stop his forward progress,” Goossen said. “We respect Honorio — anyone who can beat Luevano has to be a good fighter — but I think my guy will hurt him and stop him.”
This is a good test for Molina, but it is a fight in which I think he has the chance to look spectacular. Honorio will put up a fight and I can see him landing his share of punches, but Molina has the superior firing power and the natural size advantage — and he’s the fighter on the rise. I’m expecting Molina to overpower his worthy opponent sometime around the seventh round.