DeMarco vs Molina Preview: 'New' Lightweight Division Begins Sorting Process

John Molina and Antonio DeMarco could put on the best fight of the weekend ... if they're both in shape. (Photo by Alexis Cuarezma/Goossen Tutor)

11 months ago, Antonio DeMarco rallied for a come-from-behind stoppage win over Jorge Linares to claim the WBC lightweight title in what was the lone highlight of the Hopkins vs Dawson pay-per-view in Los Angeles, easily stealing the show. Unfortunately, given that not many people ordered the show, not many people saw the fight.

It was a classic in a lot of ways, featuring a gritty, tough battler bloodying a far more talented foe and beating him into submission. When the referee was forced to stop the bout in round 11, Linares led by wide margins on the scorecards: 98-92, 98-92, and 99-91. The fight was in the bag for Linares. DeMarco and his corner knew this.

And unlike many times when we see a fighter mentally give up, or fail to/choose not to go out on his shield, DeMarco said, "To hell with it," threw caution to the wind, and attacked with all he was worth. It was inspiring, and it made DeMarco (27-2-1, 20 KO) part of the upper echelon of the lightweight division.

But how real was it? Linares, as we know, is a mega talent, but has a weak chin and just plain doesn't like being hit. He's as vulnerable as can be for someone with such incredible skills. So is DeMarco, who spent years as a fringe contender with up-and-down performances, really a top lightweight? Or was it the right opponent, the right attack, and the right night?

There's probably something to both thoughts. The 26-year-old DeMarco is a courageous fighter, talented but lacking next-level ability, and he'll never go down easy. He's fought just once since beating Linares, an easy title defense against journeyman action fighter (read: tough as nails punching bag) Miguel Roman in March. DeMarco knocked Roman out in the fifth round.

Prior to his title win over Linares, DeMarco was always seemingly on the cusp, a ShoBox product who ran the risk of never getting over the hill. Here's a quick recap of some of his notable pre-Linares outings:

  • 2009 win over Almazbek "Kid Diamond" Raiymkulov (who never fought again). DeMarco fought pretty well in this one, and served some notice.
  • 2009 win over Anges Adjaho. DeMarco did not fight particularly well in this one, but scored the KO.
  • 2009 win over Jose Alfaro. Everyone fights well against Jose Alfaro.
  • 2010 loss to Edwin Valero. Probably Valero's best performance. DeMarco tried, but got outclassed.
  • 2011 win over Reyes Sanchez. This fight was the reason I didn't think DeMarco could beat Linares even on his best day, because he was tooth-and-nail with Sanchez.

But here we are, and DeMarco has the green belt. John Molina, his opponent tomorrow night on HBO in the Ward vs Dawson co-feature, wants the green belt.

I want to say right now that I'm going to be picking John Molina to win this fight. Molina (24-1, 19 KO) is a pretty good fighter with a really good punch. Talent-wise, I think the two are about evenly matched. Molina's most notable win came against Hank Lundy on Friday Night Fights back in 2010, and his only loss came to spoiler Martin Honorio in 2009, which is certainly forgivable, and did probably make the 29-year-old California native a better fighter overall.

Both DeMarco and Molina can be suckered into fights that aren't really good for them. Both are tough, strong guys who are more than happy to mix it up, and the ingredients are here for a really fantastic fight, a true slugfest.

What worries me about DeMarco is not his talent, or the idea that his current standing might be a bit of a mirage. It's that photo at the top of the article, taken at yesterday's press conference in Oakland. DeMarco just does not look good physically, and really looks reminiscent of Brandon Rios last December, when Rios killed himself trying (and failing) to make weight for his fight with John Murray.

Sure, Rios wound up winning that fight on sheer determination, and an out of shape DeMarco could do the same. In fact, in a lot of ways, the match-ups are similar. Rios had Murray, a fellow stand-and-trade brawler, and he was able to outlast him. Molina and DeMarco aren't entirely dissimilar fighters either, and even DeMarco not quite at 100% could be good enough to beat Molina if things break his way.

But I think the class level is closer between these two. If Rios had been fighting the same type of fighter, but more as good as -- well, closer to as good as Brandon Rios than as good as John Murray, would Rios have won that fight? I think he might have been broken down and stopped.

Molina's career stalled a bit when he went through some promotional issues, but after a year out of the ring, he got himself a tune-up win on June 23, so he's not coming into this thing totally cold. And DeMarco hasn't fought in six months, either, and had his own problems with what would have been a July fight, which he wanted to take, but was (wisely) blocked by his promoter.

If they're both healthy, and I'm wrong about the look of DeMarco and his sunken facial features and overall sickly appearance at the press conference, I think this is a 50-50 fight. But I'm going with Molina on the feeling that DeMarco isn't at his best here. Molina's got the punch to stop him, and if the legs aren't there, and the body doesn't respond, DeMarco's going to be in trouble. That's what I'm thinking is going to be the case. John Molina TKO-10.

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