Carlos Molina said he will be fighting for his life when he defends his IBF junior middleweight belt against mandatory challenger Cornelius Bundrage likely on Sept. 6 in Cancun, Mexico.
Released early last month following two months of incarceration, Molina spoke to RingTV.com during an interview from Mexico City on Monday.
"It's been difficult because I miss my family, and I miss my friends, and where I lived all of my life. For 20 years. It's just rough, but I'm going to defend my title, no matter what," said Molina, who signed with powerful advisor Al Haymon soon after his release.
"So I'm in Mexico, and I'm fighting for my life, here. But there can never be too much pressure. Pressure is good, I don't see it in a bad way. I do want pressure. I like it. Look where I'm at. So it's good, though, because it pushes me even harder."
Molina was arrested in Las Vegas on March 4, just four days before he was to defend against unbeaten Jermall Charlo, for a 2007 warrant in Wisconsin for failing to register as a sex offender in that state.
A Mexican citizen who resided in Chicaco until immigration issues prevented him from staying in the U.S., Molina won his belt by dethroning Ishe Smith last Sept. 14.
"I understand that a lot of people are going to judge me, and that's their opinion, and that's the way that it is. But the thing is, this is something that happened when I was 18 years old. I was immature. But I'm 31 right now, so that was 13 years ago," said Molina.
"I ended up doing nine months for that, and I've learned from that. Now, I'm mature. I want to move forward and move on with my life from that point. Now, I have my own family, and I know what I'm doing. I never want to be in position to go to jail for any reason."
One of the most difficult conversations Molina has had regarding his imprisonment was with his 10-year-old son, Christian.
"That was rough, because he was wondering why I was in jail, you know? He was wondering, 'Well, what did you do?' I told him that it was something that happened in the past before he was born, and that it was something that I have learned from," said Molina.
"But he's got his passport, now, so I think I'll be seeing him pretty soon, and I'm just looking forward to seeing him. I haven't seen him in four months, but now that he has his passport, I should be seeing him — if everything goes good — by the end of this week. I'll be seeing him and my wife, Sarah."
Although Molina still is hopeful of resolving his immigration issues through handlers Leon Margules of Warriors Boxing and manager Luis DeCubas Sr. and returning to American soil, he remains focused on making his first successful defense.
"One of the good things a about boxing is that, when I'm boxing, I focus and I'm able to get away from any kinds of distractions that I have," said Molina. "So I'm in Mexico City, training really hard, and trying to fix everything up and trying to get back to the United States. I train harder now because I'm hungrier, and because I have to be hungrier because I have to keep winning to keep my title."
Molina will have been out of action for nearly a year if he fights on Sept. 6 against Bundrage, a 41-year-old who was last in action for a unanimous decision over Joey Hernandez in January to rebound after being dethroned by Smith following a majority decision in February 2013.
Molina has persevered over the course of a career characterized by disputed decision losses and setbacks, one of which was a controversial disqualification.
Before facing Smith, Molina unanimous decisioned Cory Spinks in February 2013, dropping the former welterweight champ in the 11th round and nearly stopping him in the 12th.
Molina had an unbeaten streak of 11-0-1 with two stoppages heading into his fight with James Kirkland in March 2012, of last year, a run that included a draw with then-unbeaten Erislandy Lara in March 2011 and a unanimous decision over ex-beltholder Kermit Cintron in July 2011.
Against Kirkland, Molina was ahead on two judges’ cards when, in the 10th 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 opposite former titleholder Mike Alvarado in 2007.
"I feel that whatever the obstacle, you just have to still go through it. For all of the different route that I had to take, I'm still champion. That's what has made me even work harder and continue to have faith is that fact that for me, there never has been any other way," said Molina.
"Right now, I'm still champion, and I wasn't stripped of my title. I'm thankful for that. I thank God for that every day for that. I'm still here, the champion, and I'm ready to defend my belt. I have fought every guy out there, and hopefully, the fans see that. So I feel that nothing can stop me. I'm not going to be deterred by anything."
Although Molina will have been out of action for nearly a year if he meets Bundrage on Sept. 6, he said the inactivity won't be a factor.
"This isn't my longest lay off. I fought Lara after being out of the ring for almost two years without fighting because of a contract dispute with Don King," said Molina. "Being out for almost two years, I still got that draw, so it doesn't matter. I'm in the gym, sparring, running and doing everything that I should be doing, so that's not going to affect me."
Does Molina have a prediction?
"I think that you are going to see a knockout, and I think that I do need a knockout. I really think so. I think that you do need to look exciting. I'm still going to work my defense, but there are a couple of other things that I've been working on because, unfortunately, people don't get excited by defense, nowadays," said Molina.
"I'm still going to put on a little more pressure, but when I see the opportunity, I'll put even more pressure on him and try to take him out. At the same time, I'm going to watch my defense, because you don't want to get hurt or get caught. You want to hit, but not get hit. That's the main goal. That's what I try to do every fight."