MEXICAN/AMERICAN Eric Molina, 33, says he is fully aware he is the underdog going into his June 13 challenge of WBC heavyweight champion Deontay Wilder, yet the man with the 23-2(17) record says people cannot possibly know how confident he is or about the tough times he has endured as a fighter on the way up.
Looking forward to making history as the first Mexican/American to hold a world heavyweight title, Molina spoke exclusively to Boxing News:
Q: When were you first told you’d got the shot against Wilder?
Eric Molina: “I’ll have had around six full weeks by the time of the fight. We just signed the fight a few days ago. I first had an inkling in early May that I’d get the fight, then they asked us to come to Miami to discuss the fight for real. Then we put together a training camp down here in Texas.”
Q: And were you in the gym before then anyway? Are you in good shape with six weeks to go?
E.M: “I was in the gym and I was in good shape; not good enough shape to fight for a world title, but good shape. Now I’m working real hard for this. I’m sparring big guys, 6’6 and 6’7” to get ready.”
Q: Wilder is red-hot right now and you are a big underdog in the eyes of most. Does that bother you at all?
E.M: “Oh, of course [I’m the underdog]. This fight, it’s in his backyard, it’s his show. But this is a voluntary defence for him and he can fight anyone in the WBC Top 15. People can say what they want. And I know why I was picked: he’s [Wilder] looked at my record and seen those two losses (by stoppage, to Chris Arreola and, in Molina’s pro debut, to Ashanti Jordan; both first-round KO defeats). But my record, that’s just an overview of my career. People cannot possibly know what I’m really like or what I’ve gone through as a fighter and I don’t expect them to. It’s okay. But I have a lot to focus on and I hope he’s ready for this fight.
“The Arreola fight, I had just three weeks notice and I was nowhere near in the right frame of mind to have taken that fight. I was a 220-pound heavyweight back then, inexperienced, yet I still hurt him. I actually took a lot of confidence away from that loss, because it showed me I do have what it takes. And this is one of the things people don’t know about me: I’ve hurt every single fighter I’ve fought, either in a fight or in sparring. Now I’m 245 pounds. My fight with Tony Grano (in 2013, two fights after the Arreola loss), for that fight I had just three weeks notice and I did absolutely no sparring for that fight. And after that fight, Don King wouldn’t let me fight for 13 months. Me and King had our ups and downs. But I beat him over 12-rounds, and he is a pretty big puncher. I won the NABF title, so that was a pretty big win for me.”
Q: Do you feel there are still some possible question marks over Wilder’s chin and can you exploit them with your punching power?
E.M: “I’ve seen some things in the way he fights that I can use. The thing is, when you are fighting a big guy like him, 6’7” you have to make adjustments. [Bermane] Stiverne, he never made those adjustments, he just stood there. I’m working with big guys now and I will make those adjustments. Aside from Stiverne, Wilder hasn’t really fought a whole lot of good fighters. I’m not saying all of his first 31 opponents were bums, but they were not me; they didn’t have my mindset and what I’m bringing. The Malik Scott fight, I’ve watched a lot and I’m still not convinced it was legit. Malik is a friend of mine as well. And Stiverne, I worked with him in camp before the Wilder fight, and he says something was wrong in that fight and I believe him. Myself, this is the first time I’ve had long enough to get ready; in the past I’ve taken fights on short notice. So for me to get six weeks to fight Deontay Wilder, it’s the best position for me to be in.”
Wilder, via his trainer Jay Deas, had the following to say on his upcoming opponent and fight:
“I commend Eric for taking the fight, but I can’t give this title up. It means too much to me. It’s my time and I want to be an active champion. That’s why I’m fighting less than five months from winning the title, even through an injured hand. I don’t want to be one of those guys like the ones who held this belt before who fought every year or two. I’m excited this fight is at home. The place will be rocking and I can’t wait.”