When Steve Molitor laces up the gloves on Saturday night in Quebec City, everything will be familiar for him again.
And he hopes he looks familiar to boxing fans, too.
“We’re not trying to reinvent Steve Molitor, we’re trying to get back to the old Steve Molitor,” said the former two-time IBF 122-pound titleholder.
Molitor (33-2, 12 knockouts) will take on Sebastien Gauthier (21-2, 13 KO) in a 126-pound clash on the undercard of the Lucian Bute-Glen Johnson event. The bout will not be part of the Showtime broadcast, but is a selling feature for the Canadian pay-per-view broadcast.
The rejuvenation process for Molitor began after the loss of his IBF strap to Takalani Ndlovu in March of this year. Gone is former Canadian amateur star Chris Johnson as head trainer, and returning is Billy Martin, who guided Molitor back to a title shot after the 30-year-old southpaw lost to Celestino Caballero in 2008.
Ironically, the Sarnia, Ontario native left the then-untested Martin for a more experienced trainer in Johnson after just one fight in 2009. However, experienced trainers can often come with baggage—sometimes too much of it for a fighter to handle.
“Billy spreads his time out better,” Molitor told RingTV.com. “Chris had a big stable of amateur fighters, a big stable of pro fighters. Chris would come to the gym at 3:00, and he was the only trainer there, so it was really hard for him to spread his time around. Or at all, to be honest.”
Molitor, one of the most decorated fighters Canada has seen in decades, wasn’t exactly used to competing for time with his trainer, or space in the gym.
“When it’s Steve Molitor’s time, it’s Steve Molitor’s time,” he said of Martin’s dedication to his star pupil.
The limited training environment with Johnson produced similar results in the ring. Molitor remained in the win column aside from the Caballero and Ndlovu follies, but didn’t do so with the ease that most would have expected of the man who knocked Michael Hunter out in five rounds for the vacant strap back in 2006.
In particular, there was the tune-up against diminutive journeyman Jose Saez, whom Molitor was expected to knock senseless, that wound up a dull eight-round decision. “The Canadian Kid,” fighting in his adopted home of Casino Rama in Rama, Ontario, Canada, boxed uncharacteristically passively, puzzling fans—and the pugilist himself.
“I got kind of lackadaisical, kind of doing the (Floyd) Mayweather style, rolling, throwing a counter shot here, one counter shot there. That’s not what brought me to the highest level I was at before,” said Molitor. “In and out, throwing three-, four-, five-punch combinations. That’s what me and Billy are getting back to.”
To ensure that he’s comfortable in the pocket, Martin has Molitor sparring former 130-pound standout Monty Meza Clay in an undersized ring in the basement of the HUF gym in Mississauga, Ontario, and almost exclusively calling for combinations of four or more punches while working the focus pads.
He’ll have a chance to show his aggression once again on Saturday against Gauthier, who has been stopped twice, including once on Molitor’s undercard.
“I’m looking for a spectacular knockout. If I want to be a candidate for a world title in my next fight, I’ve gotta go out there and put on a devastating knockout performance,” said Molitor, whose new manager Cameron Dunkin has been angling for bouts with WBO titlist Jorge Arce and WBC titlist Toshiaki Nishioka.
But in the spirit of familiarity, Molitor hasn’t forgotten about avenging his loss to IBF kingpin Ndlovu, a man he has beaten twice before.
“He’s not a better fighter than me. Any day of the week, he’s not a better fighter than me. 99 times out of 100, I beat him, and that was the one time that he won,” said Molitor.
As with any good machine, sometimes it just needs to be restarted, and it will run like it used to.
“We’re trying to hit the refresh button on the old Steve Molitor.”
Follow Corey Erdman on Twitter @corey_erdman