Not too long ago, Antonio DeMarco (27-2-1, 20 KOs) was just another homeless kid fending for himself on the savage streets of Tijuana. Now, the 26-year-old battler is just days away from the second defense of his WBC lightweight world title and on the verge of becoming the next in a long line of Mexican boxing stars.
"He's come a long way from the streets, eating garbage out of garbage cans, not having a home to sleep in, to winning the world championship," DeMarco's promoter, Gary Shaw said during a press conference to help promote the fight. "He just wants people to know that you can dream the dream and it can come true."
This Saturday, the southpaw defending world champ will be taking on tough Covina, California native, John Molina (24-1, 19 KOs), in what many say will be the show-stealer on the Andre Ward-Chad Dawson HBO card at Oakland's Oracle Center. In an era where soft touches and "gimme" defenses are more common than real world title challenges, this one is as legit as they get and hardcore fans have been buzzing ever since the bout was first rumored.
DeMarco came up through the ranks the hard way, fighting in small clubs for small pay until his skill rose to the level of his fighting spirit and all the right people started taking notice.
Eventually, he would find himself face to face with the late Edwin Valero in 2010 in a bid for Valero's WBC lightweight title. Despite a valiant effort in the face of the Venezuelan's frenzied fury, he would come up short, losing via corner stoppage between rounds nine and ten.
After two solid victories over veteran fringe contenders, DeMarco found himself back in the championship picture. This time, he would be challenging for the recently vacated WBC lightweight title, facing the highly-regarded Jorge Linares, a fighter being carefully groomed for stardom by Golden Boy Promotions.
Linares boxed superbly and seemed on his way to a solid, unanimous decision victory, but DeMarco never stopped pressing, never stopped coming forward. Finally, a tired and bloody Linares succumbed to the pressure after a blistering offensive surge from DeMarco in the eleventh round.
The homeless kid from Tijuana, in just a decade's time, had become world champ and a blue collar hero among fight fans.
In his last bout, DeMarco crushed an undersized, overmatched Miguel Roman in five rounds to make the first defense of his title, but his challenger this Saturday is by no means the same type of pushover. War is expected and challenger, Molina, will not go down easy.
Molina, just entering into his prime at 29 years of age, has scored quality victories over the likes of Henry Lundy and Robert Frankel while capturing several regional titles. Most knowledgeable observers give Molina a good chance at grabbing the belt this weekend, but he has never faced anyone as driven or as hungry as the defending WBC titlist.
In times of stress and pressure, DeMarco can call on the hunger and despair in his past, something that could make all the difference in this expected toe-to-toe war. For Molina, boxing is sport. For DeMarco, boxing is life.
"John Molina is a tough fighter, and it's going to be a war," DeMarco told the media. "But I will die in the ring to keep my WBC title."
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The BoxingTribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Robert Morales, BOXING: No fight's too tough for DeMarco, Inland Valley Daily Bulletin