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Pupil excels at sweet science

If there’s a fight on the campus of John Glenn High in Norwalk, forget about calling security as long as Javier Molina is close by.

“We would never use a student that way, but Javier could bring a quick end to the fight,” Principal Linda Granillo said.

Molina is the rarest of high school seniors, a professional boxer who made his winning debut on ESPN with a second-round knockout on March 27 at the Nokia Theatre. Classmates cheered for him when the announcement was made during a school dance.

Last summer, he was the youngest member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team that competed in Beijing. During the opening ceremonies, he was walking with and taking pictures of Kobe Bryant and Dwyane Wade.

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By day, he goes to classes in economics and graphic design. By the afternoon, he heads to the boxing gym at Bristow Park in Commerce and trains relentlessly as he pursues his goal of becoming a world champion.

“I always pictured myself as a professional boxer,” he said. “It’s always been my dream and now that I’m living it. It’s a great feeling.”

Molina, 19, was supposed to graduate last year from Glenn, but he had to miss school while training for the Olympics. He has come back because he and his parents believe nothing is more important than education, so as an honor student he’ll join the class of 2009 in June graduation ceremonies.

“I’m a super senior,” he said.

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He serves as an admirable example of what can be accomplished when a teenager is focused on academics and athletics.

“It’s been amazing for the last couple of years watching him grow from a high school student to an Olympic athlete and now this year turning pro,” Granillo said. “He has put his education first.”

Molina comes from a family of boxers. His father, uncle and older brother have been professional boxers, and his twin brother was a member of Mexico’s Olympic team.

Molina is 5 feet 9, weighs 145 pounds and has been with trainer Roberto Luna since he was 9. He had 166 amateur fights and is a junior welterweight.

“He’s always been very successful because he’s disciplined,” Luna said. “He’s quick at making adjustments inside the ring. He understands the situations. He’s not a pattern fighter. He’s extremely strong and has a lot of energy.”

It takes lots of energy for Molina to go from doing homework to standing in a ring and shadowboxing until sweat is coming down his face.

He gets nervous before fights, but he said, “I’m real relaxed in the ring. I know a lot of people might be thinking, ‘Oh, he’s scared,’ because you have somebody throwing punches at you. But I don’t look at it that way. I look at mostly what I’m going to do to them, not what they’re going to do to me.”

Classmates are still coming to terms with the fact that the unassuming boy walking around campus in a T-shirt and jeans is a pro boxer.

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“Some didn’t know I boxed,” Molina said. “They were shocked to see me on ESPN, ‘Oh yeah, that kid goes to my school.’ ”

The power and sting in his hands can be felt and heard as he pounds away on a heavy bag in the gym. And his intelligence comes through when he talks about getting an A in Advanced Placement biology or when he’s studying economics. “I better get an A in that one so I can manage my money,” he said.

He has no regrets about devoting time to school, though he admitted, “It’s a little weird. One week I’m fighting, then I go back to school.”

His attitude is refreshing because he understands that the places he wants to reach require time, effort and commitment.

“You can have talent,” Molina said, “but if you’re not disciplined, you’re not going to get too far.”

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eric.sondheimer@latimes.com

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latimes.com/sports

A young boxer on a quest

See a video of Javier Molina training for and talking about his experiences and aspirations in the ring.


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