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Who Is Eric Molina?

James Parrott in  boxing

The world held its collective breath as negotiations were reportedly underway for IBF World Heavyweight Champion Anthony Joshua to take on the legendary Wladimir Klitschko. When news broke that the fight would not be happening due to Klitschko suffering an injury, the world exhaled with a breath that sounded a lot like "Who the hell is Eric Molina?"

While most fans could accept that AJ's opponent for his heavily-hyped title defence in November would not be the mighty "Dr Steelhammer", they at least hoped that rumours of all-British clashes with David Haye or David Price might come to fruition.

When the Texas-born Mexican American was confirmed to be sharing the ring with the 2012 Olympic Gold Medalist, on pay-per-view no less, it's fair to say many people were pissed off. But is Molina really not worthy of fighting for a portion of the heavyweight crown?

"Drummer Boy" Molina is the reigning IBF Intercontinental Champion, and while in the muddled world of boxing politics this belt is basically like a free gift you'd find in a cereal packet, the 34-year old did win it in impressive fashion. In fact you can argue that in beating former cruiserweight champion and heavyweight contender Tomasz Adamek by 10th round knockout, Molina possesses a win superior to any currently on Joshua's record. While the Watford man has impressed so far with his explosive knockouts, they have come against modest opposition. The limp resistance Joshua has met was very clear in the match where he won his world title, when Charles Martin spent more time on canvas than the Mona Lisa.

Molina is also no stranger to world title fights, as he challenged WBC champion Deontay Wilder in 2015. While he came up on the losing end against the unbeaten American, he gave the "Bronze Bomber" his toughest test as a professional, even rocking the champion with a crisp left hook in the third round. Crucially, Eric managed to get up from three knockdowns in a gritty display. Wilder is often compared to AJ in terms of power, so it will be interesting to see if the Englishman fares any better at making Molina stay down for the count.

Molina's career has been a tough one, with the challenger suffering a brutal knockout defeat in his first professional fight. After racking up some wins on the US circuit, he made a step up in class in 2012 to meet former world title challenger Chris Arreola. Molina's career was pounded back to square one at the experienced fists of his opponent, and Eric took time out to pursue a teaching career. It was infamous promoter Don King with his greying cactus hair that led Molina back to the squared circle, and the Texan has been doling out lessons to opponents rather than pupils ever since.

Pushed a world champion to the limit: tick. Better professional opponents than Joshua: tick. A Rocky-like backstory of swapping school books for boxing gloves: tick. Taking all this into account, on six weeks notice promoter Eddie Hearn could have done a lot worse in finding a worthy challenger for AJ. Sure, it isn't the superfight we all crave but the time for those will come. David Haye and Wladimir Klitschko aren't going anywhere, and maybe...just maybe...it'll be Molina rather than Joshua who meets them as champion. Probably not though, but this fight should be a good one while it lasts.

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