Growing up in Los Mochis, Mexico, Antonio DeMarco had to fight for every meal, scrounging for food on the street in garbage cans. It’s not something he’s proud of, but he’s a survivalist and did what he had to do, eventually moving to Tijuana to pursue his dream of becoming a world champion.
Against Jorge Linares last year, he was a survivalist once more. Down on the cards, DeMarco, a big lightweight at 5-foot-10, sustained massive punishment and trudged on. In the late rounds he bloodied Linares and battered him into submission to upset the odds and become WBC lightweight champion.
DeMarco (27-2-1, 20 knockouts) makes the second defense of his title against John Molina Saturday in Oakland, Calif. – the HBO co-feature to Andre Ward-Chad Dawson. And while the fight hasn’t received much attention, it’s likely to end up stealing the show. Both DeMarco (THE RING’s No. 1 lightweight) and Molina love to brawl and have power in both hands. With so much on the line, it’s a can’t-miss action fight.
“[My toughness] is because of what I’ve been through in my life,” DeMarco, 26, told RingTV.com. “That’s what gives me the extra push and gave me the extra push in [the Linares fight]. I fight for my family and the people of Mexico and this is going to be a great fight for the fans. John Molina is a tough fighter, and it’s going to be a war, but I will die in the ring to keep my WBC title.”
Molina (24-1, 19 KOs) is taking a sizable jump in class for this bout. His best victory came against Hank Lundy in July 2010 on ESPN’s Friday Night Fights. Lundy was dominating the fight until he got careless and started showboating. Molina (RING No. 6) took advantage and caught Lundy, stopping him in the 11th round.
The 29-year-old Covina, Calif., native doesn’t see the fight going the distance and plans to deliver what everyone is expecting – a memorable war.
“All the boxing experts are saying this is a fight of the year candidate and I believe so,” said Molina, who is expecting a baby girl in Nov. “I can almost guarantee you this fight’s not going to go 12 rounds. I fully anticipate becoming a new world champion. Antonio DeMarco doesn’t take a backwards step. I don’t take a backwards step.
“I believe I hold the punching power, but he’s been to the big show once before.”
The lightweight scrap could stand alone as a main event fight, but perhaps the promoters wanted to ensure there would be at least one good fight on HBO, with so many doubts pertaining to how Ward-Dawson will play out in a matchup of tactical boxers.
“This is what boxing is all about: a throwback fight with two fighters that come straight across the ring,” said Shaw, who promotes DeMarco. “There is no quit in either one. I don’t think it goes twelve rounds. Antonio DeMarco has that special something that makes a man from the streets, from the way he was brought up, from eating off the streets, from having no home.”
Before DeMarco wrested the belt from Linares, he was being built up on Showtime as a player at 135 pounds. DeMarco scored wins on the network over Jose Reyes, “Kid Diamond” Almazbek Raiymkulov, Anges Adjaho and Jose Alfaro before being matched with power-punching dynamo Edwin Valero. DeMarco displayed his trademark toughness against Valero but was no match, succumbing in the ninth round to the Venezuelan knockout artist who committed suicide in 2010, making the DeMarco bout his final fight.
DeMarco, who is the cousin of junior welterweight contender Humberto Soto, climbed back up the ranks and now enters a marquee bout as a favorite for the first time, after being a decided underdog against Linares and Valero.
“John Molina is a great fighter, I always respect all my opponents,” said DeMarco, who is being considered to fight Adrien Broner later this year should he win Saturday. “But I think I still have a lot to give to the public and I want to consolidate the titles at 135 and that’s what motivates me.
With questions about the fan-friendliness of the main event on Saturday, everyone is counting on DeMarco and Molina to provide a show-stealing bout. It says here fans won’t be disappointed.
“This fight does have championship implications to it, and that says it all” said Molina. “People ask me ‘is this going to be your toughest challenge?’ Absolutely. DeMarco is a great champion, a great warrior. You saw his heart against Linares and I don’t expect anything less of him come Saturday. But I want that world title and I want to make a better life for my family … It’s going to be nothing but fireworks.”
Photo / Mark Ralston-AFP/Gettyimages