(Mickey Bey, left, and John Molina, right, at the weigh-in; credit: Tom Casino, Showtime)
John Molina was fighting a horrible 10th round on ShoBox Friday night, walking forward aimlessly, not throwing many punches in a replication of what he'd done wrong in earlier rounds, getting pounded by Mickey Bey to the point that it looked like Bey might score a knockout and appearing all the world like he would officially slip from "former contender" to "future gatekeeper." Then, out of nowhere, he landed a left hook that hurt Bey, and with one minute left in the fight, it was over: Molina had one of those kind of instant victories so unique to boxing, where he'd been losing for the whole contest and won it in a series of exceedingly riveting moments.
Molina had graced the lightweight top 10 over the years, but losses to Martin Honorio, Antonio DeMarco and Andrey Klimov had made it so he never stayed long. Bey was the "prospect" in Showtime's prospect showcase, a Floyd Mayweather-promoted fighter looking to bounce back from a failed drug test and make something of a career of fits and starts at age 30. I missed the first three rounds because I'm a customer of Comcast and I was on day five of periodic outages, but by the 4th Molina had established with his big right hand that Bey's reported easy go of it early wasn't going to last forever. Bey, who might've been hurt in the 4th, re-established control the very next round and kept it through the early minutes of the 10th with a sharp display of power boxing. Molina, a puncher who has had his share of sudden reversals, wasn't able to significantly rattle Bey during that strech, and with Bey putting it on him in the 10th, the sense was that Molina would regret his low punch output and non-existent defense. Molina fought with more nuance under on-again/off-again trainer Joel Goossen, but he still has the ring sophistication of a Lego block.
That left hook, though, began a sequence for which no amount of exclamation points would suffice. Molina launched a power punch fusillade that somehow didn't put Bey on the ground, but the referee made the right call to stop the bout because Bey was getting hammered and wasn't defending himself. That Bey was confused in his corner about what happened is all the evidence you need of the righteousness of the ref's decision.
Bey fought well, and was a minute away from moving on from a tough test to a meaningful bout. He simply got caught. The loss might affect him more than it would affect another fighter, though, because Bey already was hard to spotlight because of the drug test. Molina, by beating Bey, might not have fully reestablished himself as a contender yet. But by beating Bey how he did, he gave fans the kind of adrenaline rush they live for, and anyone who had fallen out of love with Molina probably is back to heart a-fluttering.
Over on ESPN2, Hank Lundy -- once a victim of Molina's surprise comeback powers -- easily dominated Olusegun Ajose at 140 pounds on Friday Night Fights. Ajose was fighting for the second time since Lucas Matthysse dealt him an epic beating of the kind that shortens careers, and Ajose definitely was worse for wear from that loss. Lundy, meanwhile, was trying to come back from two consecutive losses to Raymundo Beltran (understandable) and Viktor Postol (say what?). And he was in peak form.
Lundy was, after a few competitive rounds, too fast and slick for Ajose. Ajose is one of those sturdy Africans who had gotten most of his work done with the twin weapons of a ridiculous chin and strong punching. But Lundy wobbled Ajose repeatedly, evidence that the Matthysse thrashing had taken its toll. And while Ajose might've struggled at his best to connect on the crafty Lundy, who fought as a southpaw for most of the fight to great effect, Lundy was in especially sharp condition -- there were none of those mental slip-ups that have marked his career, harrowingly for him and wonderfully for fans of drama. Lundy didn't have to deal with his frequent "Oops, now I might get knocked out" dalliances Friday.
While he's been an FNF staple, Lundy has always flirted with more. He was even supposed to fight Matthysse earlier this year on Showtime but had to pull out due to promotional issues. With this victory, he's no worse than an in-between fight for a top 140-pound contender, and maybe on a good night he'd beat some of them. Given his penchant for zany bouts, I'd welcome seeing him on any channel next.