Eric Molina came into Saturday’s underdog match-up with talented young heavyweight Anthony Joshua touting that he’d had a full training camp for the first time. The moment the opening bell rang, he looked more like a guy who didn’t want to be there. He lasted three rounds before Joshua smashed him to pieces.
The bout, aired live on Showtime, turned out to be even more of a mismatch in reality than it was on paper. Molina, after all, had beaten some “name” heavyweights, and wobbled Deontay Wilder at the peak of his reputation. But Joshua, the former Olympian who could be on the precipice of greatness, was heavily favored to win.
Joshua came out moving forward but on guard. Molina basically just backed up and was on guard. He had his back on the ring ropes from the 1st round, the worst place he should be. Even when he jabbed, he jabbed moving backward. Over the course of three rounds, the most he mustered were some wild shots from range, one to the body and a few to the head, most of which missed wildly.
Joshua stayed patient. He threw smart combinations once he got Molina on the ropes. In the 3rd, he caught Molina with a flush right hand that sent his head rotating like it was in a centrifuge. On the way down, he looked unconscious. When he slumped in the corner on his back, he didn’t look like he wanted to get up, even if he could. He did, somehow, and a flurry left him turning his back, forcing the referee to stop the bout.
After the fight, former heavyweight champion Wladimir Klitschko stepped into the ring and they officially announced what we knew was coming in the spring, a meeting between the best heavyweight of his generation and the man who could be the best heavyweight of his. It’s a helluva fight. It might be too big a step-up for Joshua. But we can’t wait to find out.
(MANCHESTER, ENGLAND : Anthony Joshua, left, of London in action against Eric Molina of the United States during their heavyweight fight at Manchester Arena on Dec. 10; Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)