NEW YORK (AFP) – American boxer John Molina posted the biggest victory of his career Saturday night, upsetting Ruslan Provodnikov by a unanimous decision in a 12-round junior welterweight fight.
The two brawlers squared off in the centre of the ring for all 12 rounds but it was Molina’s ring expertise in the first half of the fight that allowed him to pile up enough points to hold on for the victory at the Turning Stone Casino, in Verona, New York.
‘‘This was a fight we needed,’’ Molina said. ‘‘Ruslan is a very notable name. A tough guy. People don’t realize that I had my amateur career in the pros and now it is time for me to step out and shine.’’
The 33-year-old Molina improved to 29-6, with 23 knockouts as he won the non-title contest by scores of 116-112, 117-111, 115-113.
Ex-junior welterweight champ Provodnikov was the favourite heading into the bout and was fighting the first of a multi-fight contract he signed with Showtime cable network. It was the fifth loss of his career to go with 25 victories.
Molina, who had lost three of his last four fights, stunned the former champ with a game plan that involved slugging it out with the dangerous Russian warrior.
‘‘I knew I won that fight and it was going to be hardpressed for them to take it away from me,’’ Molina said.
Molina joked before the fight that ‘‘this wouldn’t be Dancing with the Stars’’ and he meant it.
Molina scored early by landing his jab almost at will. The Russian appeared to be content to walk into blows in an attempt to get in heavy counterpunches of his own.
But the strategy failed to work as Molina took Provodnikov’s best shots, even withstanding some four-punch combinations that would have floored most fighters.
Provodnikov accepted the decision and said Molina wanted the victory more.
‘‘Molina won the fight. He was better tonight,’’ Provodnikov said. ‘‘It wasn’t my night, maybe I don’t have the same hunger as before.’’
Provodnikov started using his jab effectively in the ninth but it was too late and Molina, despite bleeding from the mouth, still had enough left in the tank to withstand the assault.
Tempers flared at the end of the seventh round when the referee warned Molina about throwing punches after the bell even though both fighters were guilty of doing it.