Eric Molina on Arreola, "I'm Out to Take Everything That He's Got"
by Pavel Yakovlev: In two weeks, Eric Molina meets Chris Arreola in high-stakes showdown between Mexican-American heavyweights in Corpus Christi. With just 19 pro fights under his belt, Molina is a heavy underdog. But the boxing world must take notice: Molina clearly does not regard himself as disadvantaged against his highly-rated foe. Rather, Molina approaches the fight intending to win.
Article posted on 06.02.2012
In Molina’s view, being Mexican-American is an “equalizer” – an intangible mental quality -- that puts him on the same footing as Arreola. “What people don’t realize here, is that you got two Mexicans in the ring who are going to go for it all,” he explained. “For me, there’s more to this fight than what people see. I got the same kind of blood running my veins that he has. I got the same heart, the same arms, the same fists. We’re both Mexican, and that means I got a 50/50 shot to beat him. I am just as Mexican as him, and that means I can take everything that he’s got.”
A native of the Rio Grande Valley, Molina draws strength from the fact that the fight takes place before his own people. He clearly feels that, in the ring, he and the onlookers will experience a common identity, and that the feeling will make him that much stronger. Molina stated, “This is a big fight for people where I’m from. The odds are against us, for people from here. That makes all of us that much tougher in everything that we do. I’m taking all that into the ring with me on fight night. It ain’t going to be an easy fight for him.”
Molina exudes self-confidence when he points out that people from his region have had to strive for what they have in life: it is ingrained in their character to persevere. This aspect of Molina’s background makes him regard the Arreola fight as a chance to transcend hardship. “I’ve had to struggle every day in boxing, not knowing when or who I’d fight against next,” he explains. “I’d train every day not knowing if my hard work would lead to anything. Arreola hasn’t had to deal with that. He’s had everything, the big money, the big fights, the opportunities, the title shot. What fighter wouldn’t want that? I want what he has…I want to take that for myself. This is the opportunity I’ve been waiting for. A chance to take the whole bag of marbles.”
The 29-year-old Molina, currently rated WBC #11, is undaunted by pundits who slight his chances against Arreola. Justifiably, he points out that many people are misinformed about his characteristics and strengths as a fighter. For example, one common criticism of Molina is that, supposedly, he is not a full-fledged heavyweight because he fought many of his earlier bouts at the 200 lbs. limit. “They can speculate all they want,” he says of the naysayers. “If they really think I’m a cruiserweight, let them show up at the weigh-in.”
“I weigh 235 lbs now, and this is my natural weight,” he explains. “I feel stronger and healthier than ever before. Earlier in my career, I was struggling to make the cruiserweight limit. We were doing about two hours of cardio every day just to make 200 lbs, and I wasn’t healthy at that weight. Now that I’m heavier, I feel that I’ve grown into the body that I should be in. I feel a lot faster and my balance and control are better.”
Concerning the psychological pressure of appearing in his first big television match, Molina is philosophical. “About the pressure, I look at like this…who’s the pressure on, him or me? Everyone’s expecting him to win easily. That’s putting pressure on him. I’m the underdog, so the pressure’s not on me. He has to live up to expectations, or he looks bad. But I got nothing to lose here…absolutely nothing at all.”
In speaking with Molina, this writer noticed that he is inspired by something else: a sense of validation stemming from his relationship with legendary promoter Don King. That King signed him to a promotional contract seems to give Molina confidence; a feeling that he has been endorsed by a powerful patron whose aura, in some ways, transcends the sport of boxing.
“Don King is a sports icon, a legend. It’s a great honor for me to work with him,” said Molina. “Don King is the type of promoter who wants to see what he’s got…he’s not afraid to make moves. He makes things happen. So, when Don put this fight on the table, my attitude was the same as his…I said ‘let’s take it.’ I want to win this fight to revitalize Don King heavyweight boxing.”
Molina is training in the Rio Grande Valley for this fight, his gym regimen overseen by manager-trainer Ricky Fisler and the team of local coaches who originally taught him to box years ago. Noteworthy is that former heavyweight champion Oliver McCall is in Molina’s camp, serving as chief sparring partner and assisting with training duties.
“I’m down here with lots of good people, the guys who have worked with me from the beginning, and now I’ve got Oliver here too,” said Molina. “He’s sparring with me and helping to establish a game plan. Nobody knows the heavyweight division better than Oliver does, hands down. Any heavyweight who has been in the ring with Oliver, they know what he brings.”
“As far as this fight goes, I won’t tell you what our plan is, but I will say we will be 100% prepared. We know what to expect from Arreola...he fights one way,” Molina continued. “There’s no secret about how he fights, and we’ve established three or four game plans for what he brings. I feel really comfortable with what we’ve got going here in camp.”
Fisler is confident of his fighter’s chances. “Arreola’s been in a lot of wars, too many wars,” said Fisler. “Fights like he’s been in take a toll on a boxer. It will be a great fight between two Mexican warriors, and I think Eric’s going to win it. Eric’s the fresher, stronger guy. A lot of people underestimate Eric’s ability. They don’t realize he’s got one of the strongest right hands in the division, and he’s going to use it. When Arreola gets hit, he’s going to go down.”
“Eric knows that if he wins, he sets himself up to fight for big money against one of the Klitschkos,” Fisler continued. “Eric is motivated and he’s ready.”
On February 18th, Molina fights in an arena that will be filled with his ethnic kin from the Rio Grande Valley, people who share his heritage, formative life experiences, and hopes. He will be accompanied by the trainers who first taught him to box years ago, before he fought his first amateur bout. He will have Fisler, his professional manager-trainer, in his corner, in addition to having McCall, a one-time heavyweight champion, by his side. Don King will be at ringside. Clearly, Molina is not thinking about just himself.
“This is our shot,” says Molina.
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