For better or worse, Friday night will mark a new chapter in the careers of both John Molina and Dannie Williams. After each saw his rise suddenly stopped in 2012, the potential lightweight contenders are now set to face each other in this week's main event of "Friday Night Fights" (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 9 ET) from Indian School in Santa Fe, N.M.
All it takes is one bad night to stall a fighter, as both men can attest to. In one edition of FNF last March, Williams (22-2, 18 KOs) suffered a decision loss to Hank Lundy (21-1-1) in a 10-rounder. And Molina's loss in his most recent fight was even more devastating, as he was knocked out in 44 seconds in the first round of a September title shot against Antonio DeMarco. But as debilitating as a single defeat can be, back-to-back losses can completely derail a career, which is why Molina and Williams will be under the sort of pressure to win on Friday that neither has experienced before.
For that reason, an explosive fight that could go either way between desperate KO artists is anticipated. And although Molina (24-2, 19 KOs) is the slight favorite, his mental state is a wild card because it's impossible to know how he'll respond to the knockout and whether he can leave the defeat in the past. Williams, for what it's worth, has had a chance to get straight since the Lundy loss, winning by seventh-round KO against Rynell Griffin in October.
Trainer Jack Loew, who used to be in charge of Kelly Pavlik's career, says this fight could be the only chance for Williams to earn a title shot.
"He knows he'll be fighting under pressure," Loew said. "That's why he'll be aggressive from the very start."
"I will show everyone that my defeat against Lundy was just a bad moment for me," Williams said.
In the opposite corner, Molina will be held to a similar standard before getting a chance to challenge for a title again. Returning to headline another nationally televised card, Molina will be expected to demonstrate that the DeMarco defeat was merely a bump in the road. In his favor: On his résumé, Molina has a knockout win over Lundy, the last man to beat Williams.
What sort of fight can we expect? Molina likely will try to set the tempo, standing at the center of the ring and seeking to put pressure on and hurt his opponent early. Williams, despite Loew's assertion, figures to be cautious at the start. He will work light on his feet in the early rounds, throwing punches only when it's safe and waiting for the right moment to launch his combinations. In fact, Williams may try to really drag things out in an effort to maximize his counterpunching tactics. In any case, count on an even fight.
The show's first televised fight will be a test for rising middleweight prospect Brandon Gonzalez (16-0, 10 KOs), who will face Don Mouton (12-4-1, 10 KOs), a solid opponent with decent punching power and lots of stamina.