The feeling was all-too familiar for Carlos Molina. After controlling the fight and dominating the majority of the rounds, he was announced the loser at the end of the fight. Usually, he found himself on the wrong end of controversial decisions. But in his HBO debut, he was seemingly on his way to victory over James Kirkland when a dubious referee ruling cost him the win.
It was simply the latest in a long line of setbacks for the hard-luck junior middleweight. In two close fights with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in 2005-2006, Molina settled for a draw and then a decision defeat in the immediate rematch. He fought Mike Alvarado to an eight-round majority draw in 2007. The Mexico native drew with Erislandy Lara in a 2011 fight many felt he won.
When you’re not the house fighter, it’s hard to get the nod in a field that is more business than sport. Molina began his professional career at 20 without a promoter or manager. The only experience he had was seven amateur fights (he went 6-1). He wasn’t afforded the luxury of padding his record while fighting journeyman, but feels the experience has molded him into a better fighter. THE RING’s No. 7 junior middleweight has yet to have a title shot, but feels he’s on the cusp of finally catching a break. His 2013 campaign starts on Friday with an ESPN Friday Night Fights main event against former world champion Cory Spinks in Molina’s hometown of Chicago, an IBF eliminator that would bring him one step closer to that elusive title opportunity
“I need to go out there and look the best that I ever have,” Molina told RingTV. “I feel like every fight I am improving. I need to go out there and stop him and show that I deserve to have a title shot.”
Having a record of 20-5-2 with 6 knockouts isn’t exactly sexy when being considered for a fight on HBO or Showtime, especially when you are as tricky an out as Molina. He knows he needs something more to get the big fights.
“Once you’ve got a belt, then fighters are going to start coming out like ‘I’ll fight you, I’ll fight you,’” said Molina, who considers the Lara fight and first Chavez Jr. fight the worst decisions he’s endured. “When you have something to put up on the line, it’s more tempting for fighters to wanna fight you.
“I want anyone in THE RING magazine top 10. I’m ready for a rematch with Lara and Kirkland. I definitely want that Canelo [Alvarez] fight. But I’m not going to sit around and wait for them. Austin Trout says he has trouble getting a fight, I’m there and willing to fight anybody.”
With just seven fights with headgear and big gloves, Molina didn’t have the kind of amateur pedigree other top-level fighters enjoyed. Much like former foil Chavez Jr., his pro career has served as a learning ground and he feels he has yet to enter his prime
“With every fight I feel like I’m gaining so much experience,” said Molina, 29. “I’m growing as a fighter with every fight. I want to see how far I can go. I’m all in to go all the way.”
On that fateful night against Kirkland, the night Molina had been waiting for his whole career, he was robbed of the opportunity to win the fight. Heading into the 10th round, Molina was up on two cards and had just three rounds to last when Kirkland caught him and dropped him to the canvas. Molina was soon up on his feet, but he wouldn’t have a chance to finish the fight. After referee Laurence Cole (a man shrouded in controversy) seemed to signal the end of the round, Molina’s corner entered the ring and that’s when Cole called for the bell, handing Molina the loss by disqualification.
Molina’s trainer Victor Mateo says he thought the round was over and that Cole was protecting the house fighter, but he‘s moved past it. He feels his charge is improving all the time and is excited to see what he believes will be an improved fighter.
“We’ve been working on his power, turning the body more, a lot of good countering,” said Mateo, who has been with Molina since 2007. “We’re working on some good defense as well. I feel Carlos is going to be at a better level for this fight.
“He’s learned a lot. He’s moving more, It’s a completely different Carlos now. He has far better legs and balance.”
Fighting without a manager or promoter, Molina was always taking tough fights on short notice brokered by matchmakers. He would go to his opponent’s backyard as the B-side for four- and six-rounders, knowing he was brought in to lose. The losses didn’t dissuade Molina at first, but one day he saw his record was 8-4 and he thought long and hard about continuing his career. He told himself he wouldn’t lose again.
“In boxing they like that undefeated record. I’m 20-5,” said Molina, a Mexico native. “With all these bad decisions that I’ve had [it’s hard]. The problem is now is about landing that big opponent that HBO will approve. I haven’t had an opportunity or a chance to get the big fights on HBO.
“Every time I fight somebody they say they had a bad fight. I have some part to do with that. The last thing they want is for these champions to look bad. They don’t want to take a risk.”
While Molina hasn’t gotten the breaks and still finds himself on the outside looking in, he has a foolproof plan to right those perceived wrongs in the boxing world.
“All I can do is keep winning and pretty soon there’s going to be no way around [avoiding me]” he said. “I just want to keep fighting and keep working towards that goal of being a world champ.”
Photos / Javier Quiroz
Follow Mike Coppinger on Twitter: @MikeCoppinger