SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif. — Abner Mares received most of the attention at Thursday’s media workout for his Aug. 13 showdown with Joseph Agbeko, but the bantamweight contender’s manager was more concerned with the two lightweight prospects shaking out at the Mixed Martial Arts Academy.
Frank Espinoza, who manages Mares, Luis Ramos Jr. and Carlos Molina, is confident that his unbeaten bantamweight standout is ready for Agbeko. Mares, who faces the IBF titleholder in a Showtime-televised main event at The Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas, has never looked as sharp or as physically fit as he does now.
It’s the two lightweights, Ramos and Molina, that Espinoza is nervous about. Both Southern Californians face stern challenges on the Agbeko-Mares undercard.
Ramos (19-0, 8 knockouts), of Santa Ana, Calif., fights David Rodela (15-4-3, 6 KOs) in his first scheduled 10-round bout.
Rodela, a rangy boxer-brawler from Oxnard, Calif., has lost three of his last five bouts but he’s faced better competition than Ramos. Rodela has also served as one of Manny Pacquiao’s main sparring partners for years.
“This is the toughest fight of Luis’ career,” Espinoza said. “They come tough out of Oxnard.”
Ramos agrees with his manager.
"David fights with everything he's got, with all his heart," said the 22-year-old prospect. "He's got nothing to lose in this fight, but I've got an undefeated record to protect."
Molina (14-0, 7 KOs), of Norwalk, Calif., faces a more nebulous foe on Aug. 13 — inactivity. The 25-year-old boxer has not fought since winning an eight-round unanimous decision over John Figueroa last November.
Molina has had to scrap three fight dates in 2011 because of illness and a nagging hand injury but he flashed rapid and crisp-looking combinations while working the mitts with trainer Clemente Medina.
He said his hand problem, which was a tendon injury to the middle finger on his right hand, helped him sharpen up his left hand.
“I couldn’t close my right hand, so I just didn’t use it for a while in the gym,” Molina said. “Clemente said ‘We’re going to perfect your left.’ I worked on my jab and left hook and those punches are mixing well with my right now that it’s healed up.”
He has no idea who he’s going to put those quick hands on during his scheduled eight-round bout — opponents Joshua Allotey and Carlos Vinan have fallen out in recent days — but he doesn’t care. Molina just wants to get back into the ring.
Rodela, who was also at Thursday’s media workout, wants to get back into the win column. The 29-year-old veteran is coming off an entertaining eight-round decision loss to Lonnie Smith in April. Last year, Rodela suffered back-to-back losses to junior lightweight prospects Eloy Perez and Dante Jardon.
He knows he’s viewed as the underdog against Ramos but he‘s not counting himself out.
“I like this fight,” said Rodela, who became a father with the birth of this son, Diego Champ Rodela, on July 29. “I wanted his gym mate Ronny Rios because I can still make 130 pounds, or even 126, but they offered me Ramos and I was cool with that.
“It’s a good style match up. He’s a fast boxer who likes to counter punch and I like to bring it. Who wins is whoever has the better night on Aug. 13.
“All I know is that it’s going to be a good scrap because I’ve never been in a boring fight.”
Rodela was asked if his many years of sparring with Pacquiao give him an edge against southpaws.
He doesn’t think so.
“Every southpaw is different,” said Rodela, who trains at the same gym in Ventura, Calif., as WBC welterweight titleholder Victor Ortiz. “I’ve sparred with Victor and it’s totally different from sparring with Manny. Victor’s awkward as hell.
“I’ve done alright with southpaws. It all depends on their style and how big they are. I beat (former featherweight titleholder) Kevin Kelley (SD 8) in a junior lightweight bout but I had a draw with ‘Mookie’ (Cleotis) Pendarvis fighting at welterweight.”
The other lightweight named Molina:
Lightweight fringe contender John Molina (23-1, 19 KOs) dropped by the Mixed Martial Arts Academy to check out his new gym mates, Mares and Molina. The hard-punching native of Covina, Calif., is now being trained by Clemente Medina.
Molina, who is coming off a bloody fifth-round stoppage of Robert Frankel last month, says he angling to a get fights that will move him up the WBA and WBO lightweight rankings.
His goal: eventual showdowns with fellow Californians Brandon Rios (the WBA beltholder) and Robert Guerrero (the WBO’s interim titleholder).
Photos by Gene Blevins-Hoganphotos.com/Golden Boy Promotions