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Real-life Rocky Balboa

MANCHESTER, England (AP) – He’s the accidental challenger with a checkered boxing record who, away from the ring, teaches kids with special educational needs at a high school.

Eric Molina, in many ways, is an improbable contender for the world heavyweight title.

The American was a late call-up to fight IBF champion Anthony Joshua after the British boxer’s proposed super-fight with Wladimir Klitschko failed to be approved in time.

The experts see Molina as the latest fodder for Joshua on his inexorable rise to the top of the heavyweight division, where he’s won all 17 of his professional fights by knockout.

But it might be unwise to write off Molina ahead of Saturday’s fight.