Faith and focus are perhaps the words which best describe the demeanor of Carlos Molina.
Molina has persevered over the course of a career that has been characterized by disputed decision losses, one of which was by controversial disqualification.
“I talk to God every day. I mean, every single day, and then I just go in there and I do what I do,” said Molina, who has remained high in the junior middleweight rankings despite a modest record of 21-5-2 with 6 knockouts, thanks to a rugged, workmanlike style pleasing to hard-core boxing fans.
“I always remember to thank God every time. Like when I go for a run. That’s when I focus and thank him for everything. I just thank him for being alive, and for being healthy, and for giving me this opportunity and for putting good people in front of me. That’s why I feel as if everything is happening for a reason.”
Molina insists that his confidence never wavered after having been among those considered for the Oct. 5 return of Miguel Cotto, only to have the Puerto Rican star select 154-pound stalwart Delvin Rodriguez for the assignment.
And when a scheduled July 19 clash with IBF beltholder Ishe Smith (25-5, 11 KOs) was postponed due to a cut on the titleholder’s right eye suffered while training, the 30-year-old from Chicago fighter simply continued to believe that the best was yet to come.
“I just knew that, sooner or later, I would get my opportunity, and that I would take advantage of my opportunity,” said Molina. “So every time out, and for every fight, I would visualize fighting for the title so that when that times comes, I’ll know what to do.”
Barring any further mishaps, that time will come on Sept. 14, when Molina faces Smith on the undercard of the Showtime Pay Per View main event between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Taking place on Mexican Independence Day weekend, the event will mark Smith’s first defense since the 35-year-old dethroned Cornelius Bundrage by unanimous decision in February.
“Let’s just say that I’m looking forward to Sept. 14,” said Molina, who scored a resounding unanimous decision over Cory Spinks in his last fight, flooring the former titleholder in the 11th round and nearly stopping him in the 12th.
“Cory Spinks was at the end of his career, but he’s a veteran and a solid southpaw. He had his moves and knows what he’s doing in there,” said Molina. “So I tried to get the stoppage, or, at least the shutout, but I was happy with that. I just pretty much proved that I’m ready for the belt.”
“This is like a reward for everything that you’ve worked for. What kept me focused is getting that title shot. That belt. Getting that belt around you. That’s what kept me focused. For every fight, I’ve continued to train hard and I continued to fight as if I was fighting for the title. That was always in my mind, and I’m really looking forward to this fight.”
Molina’s enthusiasm is shared by his 9-year-old son, Christian, who will be at ringside on fight night.
“My son, he’ll be there with his computer, so he can study,” said Molina, who will be accompanied by Christian’s mother and his fiancee, Sarah Anaya.
“My son, he knows that part of a big reason that I’m doing this is for him, and he’s a real fan of mine. He wants me to win that belt. He’s like, ‘Oh, I know you’re going to win that belt.’ He’s really confident and so am I.”
Molina had an unbeaten streak of 11-0-1 with two stoppages heading into his fight with James Kirkland last year, a run that included a draw with then-unbeaten Erislandy Lara in March of 2011 and a unanimous decision over former welterweight beltholder Kermit Cintron in July of 2011.
Against Kirkland, Molina was ahead on two judges’ cards when, in the tenth round of the 12-round title eliminator, a member of his corner stepped into the ring before the bell. Molina was disqualified as a result.
Molina also endured a 2005 draw and a six-round majority decision loss in 2006 against former WBC middleweight beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as well as an eight-round majority decision setback against current WBO junior welterweight beltholder Mike Alvarado in 2007.
“I feel like I’ve had one of the toughest roads, if not the toughest road to get to the title. But I like that, though, because I feel as if that has made me a better fighter. It’s like it made me the fighter that I am now. Having the experience of going through those home-town decisions,” said Molina.
“Having some of those fights come down to the judges’ scorecards, and all of the adversity and everything has been like a learning experience, so I’m ready right now. I just turned 30 years old in May, and I feel as if this has happened at the perfect time. I’m entering the prime years of my career right now.”
Molina said that he never lost faith that he would get his shot at Smith, despite the postponement.
“It was frustrating at first, because that was two and a half weeks or so before the fight, and I was ready already. We were just finishing up the last few weeks of intense preparation. From my trainers to my promoters, I have a great team all around,” said Molina, who is trained by Victor Matteo and Lou Askenette, and promoted by Leon Margules.
“My promoter, Leon Margules, just told me that I was the mandatory and that the fight was going to happen, and that made me feel better. I took maybe the fourth of July off and a couple of days off after that. But I pretty much trained all the way through. I feel like I’m in even better shape now than I would have been on July 19.”
Molina said he studied Smith’s win over Bundrage, an exhausting fight for both participants.
“Ishe Smith was more active than I thought he was going to be against Bundrage, and he pulled it off. He’s a good all-around fighter who tries not to make too many mistakes, which is important in boxing. He’s more of a counterpuncher who wants to make you make mistakes and try to capitalize on that,” said Molina.
“My plan is to be in the best shape possible, go in there and work him from the first round to the whatever round it goes. If I see the chance to go for the stoppage, then I’ll break him down. I’ll just do what I do, but I’ll just do it more intensely. I can go every single round like it’s the first round. I’m happy that Ishe won the title, but now, it’s my turn to take the title. Vegas, MGM Grand, Mexican Independence Day, it doesn’t get any better than that.”
Photos by Javier Quiroz
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org