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Victor Ortiz wanted a Southern California main event, and he knew the best way to get it was with a slugfest with a neighbor.
First in mind was his rival from Oxnard, Brandon Rios. When that failed to materialize, he thought of his friend and long-ago sparring partner, John Molina Jr.
Sunday night at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario, Ortiz (36-6-3, 25 knockouts) and Molina (30-7, 24 KOs) will go at it in the FS1-televised main event card that begins at 6 p.m. PDT.
“We’re taking a page out of the UFC playbook: It’s not about wins or losses, but styles, and styles make fights. It can only be a slugfest, toe-to-toe action,” co-promoter Richard Schaefer said.
Co-promoter Tom Brown added, “Would I pay to see it? Yes. Does the winner get something bigger with a good victory? Yes. And how can it not be a good victory?”
Former welterweight champion Ortiz and former junior-welterweight title challenger Molina will be strongly positioned in the welterweight-heavy Premier Boxing Champions for a significant bout.
While International Boxing Federation champion Errol Spence Jr. is still focused on making a fight with unbeaten lightweight champion Mikey Garcia early next year, new World Boxing Council champion Shawn Porter could have an opening, as could former champions Danny Garcia and Andre Berto.
“As a fight fan, you know the excitement you’re getting. As a competitor, this is nothing but heart,” said La Verne’s Molina. “This is my introduction to 147 [pounds], but I’m a big 140. I respect him. They got it right with this fight. We’ve never had animosity, but it’s a business, so during the fight, it’s a fight.”
Molina said he and Ortiz first sparred in the San Gabriel Valley when Molina was an amateur more than a decade ago.
“John Molina is no walk in the park. I know that personally because of the sparring,” Ortiz said. “We’re here to do what we do best.”
Ortiz is at his best as the aggressor, and when he’s saying, “Any fight from this point forward is make or break. Victory means the world, or it’s possibly retire,” the urgency is unquestioned.
“I’ll let it rip, bro,” he promised.
Molina, after engaging in the 2014 fight of the year at StubHub Center versus Lucas Matthysse, smiled in delight.
“He’ll be there to fight me. He’s brave, he has a big heart and throws bombs,” Molina said. “I know what I have to do because a victory would speak volumes.”
A month after his opponent walked out of the ring just after the first bell, Nigerian heavyweight Efe Ajagba (6-0, five KOs) is expecting to fight Nick Jones (7-0, five KOs) on Sunday.
“The statement [Ajagba] made there was probably bigger than a first-round knockout,” Schaefer said of the first-bell exit of Curtis Harper, who later contended he exited due to the discomfort with his contract for the bout in Minnesota.
“That video went viral on all social media platforms, with more than 10 million views. Non-boxing fans know Efe now and they’ll want to see what happens in this fight. So we’ve found somebody who has the [courage] to fight him. That’s not an easy thing to do.”
Schaefer is also excited about his heavyweight prospect Joe Joyce (5-0, five KOs) being on the card against Iago Kiladze (26-3, 18 KOs). Joyce, a 2016 Olympian from England, trains in Big Bear at Abel Sanchez’s the Summit, so Schaefer has taken to nicknaming him “Triple-J” in reference to Sanchez’s best-known talent, former middleweight champion Gennady Golovkin.
Speaking of GGG
Golovkin, following his majority-decision loss to Canelo Alvarez Sept. 15, will meet with promoter Tom Loeffler on Tuesday to map out his strategy moving forward.
While Alvarez is empowered to dictate whether there’ll be a trilogy bout next year, Golovkin has opportunities that will stem from the secondary World Boxing Assn. middleweight title defense of Japan’s Ryoto Murata on Oct. 20, and Billy Joe Saunders’ World Boxing Organization title defense the same day against Demetrius Andrade.
“Murata has emerged as a strong candidate given how marketable he is in Japan,” Loeffler said. “Of course, a trilogy with Canelo makes most sense. Tremendous performance by both fighters. I thought Gennady won the fight, and the replay made that clearer, but I’ll stay in contact with [Alvarez promoter] Eric Gomez and see what makes the most sense for Gennady.”
Gomez said Alvarez is awaiting “doctor’s clearance” on the cut he sustained over his eye to see if he is free to pursue a Dec. 15 bout.
Venezuela’s IBF super-middleweight champion Jose Uzcategui will meet Argentina’s Ezequiel Maderna (26-4, 16 KOs) Friday night in an ESPN-Plus-streamed 10-round non-title bout at Oakland’s Oracle Arena, and is poised in victory to next fight the winner of the planned December rematch between World Boxing Organization champion Gilberto Ramirez and Jesse Hart, officials have told The Times.
Until next time