Anthony Joshua Set to Face Wladimir Klitschko in 2017... If He Gets Past Eric Molina
Boxing often promises so much but habitually delivers very little. The ongoing saga between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady “GGG” Golovkin is presently displaying all the frustrating hallmarks of the tiring episode between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, which left the sport in a state of purgatory for a few years before their damp squib of a fight.
Fears of a similar situation materialising between Anthony Joshua and Wladimir Klitschko—inarguably the biggest heavyweight fight to book right now in all of combat sports—were heightened as the World Boxing Association (WBA) failed to decide whether they would include their title among the prizes on offer in this fight. This was the main sticking point in negotiations as Klitschko refused to sign a fight deal unless this particular belt was on the line—a championship which was vacated by Tyson Fury following his drugs and mental health issues.
As a result, it was announced Joshua would be facing Eric Molina, an unremarkable Mexican-American heavyweight hailing from Raymondville, Texas. Molina is no doubt Joshua’s toughest opponent to date, but their upcoming showdown in Manchester, England, in December left a lot of fans cold with the towering shadow of Klitschko looming over the news.
However, the WBA made a late Tuesday night announcement which adds a little more spice to Joshua’s next contest. The WBA confirmed it had sanctioned its belt to be up for grabs in a potential fight between Joshua and Klitschko next spring—providing “AJ” advances beyond Molina in December.
Talking to Sky Sports, Joshua’s promoter Eddie Hearn said: “"It was beautiful to finally see the WBA's decision last night finally allowing the Joshua v Klitschko fight for the spring. The deal is in place and we can now move forward with Bernd and their team to start confirming dates and venues.
"The only thing in AJ's way is Eric Molina and the full focus must be on the toughest fight of his career on December 10 in Manchester,” added Hearn. “Wladimir will be ringside with his fingers crossed and victory for AJ will set up this mega fight in March/April 2017."
Bernd Boente, of the Klitschko camp, was similarly exited, telling ESPN: “"Team Klitschko is very happy about this WBA resolution. Wladimir always was a proud and committed WBA 'super' champion and now he wants to regain his title. From the beginning, Wladimir made clear how important it is to him that the WBA title is on the line in his next fight.
"Hopefully, Anthony Joshua wins his upcoming fight against Molina and then we have a mega event, a promoter's dream fight coming true in March or April. Two Olympic super heavyweight gold-medal winners fighting each other, the young lion challenging the old lion. This is a fight each boxing fan around the world wants to see."
Creating fights of this magnitude well ahead of time, especially with fights in the meantime, is inherently risky business. As mentioned before, Molina is undoubtedly the toughest test of Joshua’s career—no matter his in-ring limitations—though, that’s more a symptom borne out of a weak heavyweight division and the lacklustre competition faced by Joshua thus far. Molina is ranked high in the heavyweight reckoning, helped by his tenth-round knockout of former light heavyweight and cruiserweight world champion Tomasz Ademek in his own backyard in Krakow, Poland, to capture the IBF Intercontinental heavyweight championship.
Molina also fought reigning WBC heavyweight world champion Deontay Wilder for his belt in 2015 and even had the towering “Bronze Bomber” in a lot of trouble in the third round, wobbling him with a big right hand. However, Molina was on the receiving end of a knockout loss in the ninth round—adding to his total of three knockout losses in his professional career. Molina is tough, gritty and rarely fails to entertain. But, a lot of that is due to his willingness to endure punishment to dish out his own—something which has proved his undoing in the past and a fighting trait Joshua is surely looking to exploit with his proven punching power.
Despite his disappointing first attempt at a world title, Molina appears confident ahead of his trip to England, citing his recent success in Poland, and wants to spoil the party of Joshua, Klitschko and the boxing world—who is rightfully willing a Joshua victory to ensure this slated behemoth heavyweight boxing contest takes shape.
"I can definitely say one thing, I will hit AJ harder than he's ever been hit," Molina told Sky Sports. That's going to happen on December 10. I will hit him harder than he's ever been hit and if he dances, and I can get him hurt, I will not sit back like I sat back with Wilder.
"This is my dream to fight in the UK. I'm looking forward to visiting, I'm looking forward to fighting, and I'm looking forward to upsetting their superstar. This is going to be the toughest fight of his career and only because I'm that fighter that has gone better throughout my career. He'll fight the toughest Molina that anybody has ever seen, just like Adamek fought the toughest Molina that was seen before him.”
Molina certainly talks a good fight. But, the boxing world will be hoping his bark doesn’t match his bite come December 10th for the sake of what will be one of the biggest heavyweight fights to be contested in the 21st century thus far.
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