March 1, 2014

KO Digest Interview: Carlos Molina - "I’m a boxing technician"

Carlos is finally King
Often times, the most ferocious fighters in boxing turn out to be gentle giants outside of the ring, away from their hyped personas and promotionally fabricated facades of grandeur. We’ve heard that story so many times that it’s almost become cliché. IBF junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina is different—he behaves the way he fights. To many fans, a quick round of word association about Molina would lead to adjectives like “boring, dull, and unpolished.” But before you read into that comment any further, let’s dispel these all-too-common fallacies about the Mexican-American champion, who was born in Mexico but now resides in Chicago. For bloodthirsty fans that long for haymakers and who focus interest and attention on merely one facet of the sport, Molina’s KO percentage of 20.69% can be a turn off.

However, what Molina may lack in sheer in-your-face power, he makes up for with a calculated approach that flies under the radar both in and out of the ring. Molina is a family man, and he likes to lay low away from the spotlight, electing to stay out of trouble. While some cry “dirty,” he simply does what it takes to win, having been through far too many controversial decisions to leave anything on the table. And while a résumé featuring only seven amateur fights certainly gives the impression of being unpolished, Molina overcomes with will-power. When he sees something he wants, regardless of how far down the road it lies, he sets his sights on it and meticulously maps out the best avenue to get there. Ahead of his March 8 showdown with Jermall Charlo in Las Vegas, Molina admits he isn’t satisfied.

“A lot of people didn’t think I was ready to fight as a professional, but I did and I was winning. A lot of people didn’t think I was going to beat certain guys, but I did. A lot of people didn’t think I would be a world champion, but I am. A lot of people don’t think that I can defend this title, but I will.  I’m not satisfied just winning the championship. This is the beginning of a new chapter for me—I want it all,”  he said, lacking flamboyance but sounding firm and totally confident. Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KO's) might not be the flashiest fighter in the talented junior middleweight division, but setbacks be damned, he’s determined to get the job done, no matter how many years, fights, or rounds it takes.

Molina grew up around boxing
KO Digest's Joel Sebastianelli: You’re Mexican by birth but you reside in Illinois, and started your amateur career at the relatively advanced age 18. How do the cultures of Mexico and boxing tie into your family and your upbringing?

Carlos Molina: I was born in Mexico, but I lived most of my life here in the U.S. I started boxing here, so I think my Mexican heritage is still an important part of who I am. Growing up, I was into boxing because it was one of the biggest sports. Even though I wasn’t participating in boxing at the time, I was still around it and watching it. Every time there was a big fight, the family would get together and have a good time, so it directed me towards boxing.

KOD: Early on, there were tough fights against guys like Mike Alvarado and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr.  Did fighting top notch talent from the get-go, even in defeat, help you to grow as a fighter as opposed to taking the slow and easy road to the top? Were you more prepared for guys like James Kirkland and Erislandy Lara when you did recently face them?

CM: Yes, I think so. Those kinds of dangerous fights can either ruin your career or help you out in your career. I always worked on my defense, and it ended up helping me. I was beat up and got hurt, I got damaged, and had fights I thought I won that were close. Learning from those fights and those mistakes mentally prepares you for any fight.

KOD: Should other fighters try to go the same route you did, scheduling more challenging fights early on?

CM: I don’t think so. I did it because I didn’t have a promoter or manager for most of my career, so I just had to. I didn’t have the luxury or the privilege of fighting in my own hometown or building up an undefeated record but it made me a better fighter and I wouldn’t change it in any way. Some of them fighters who have promoters are having easier fights and an easier route to get to the top, but some guys still come up the hard way because some people don’t see them or believe in them and what they’re capable of doing. This is all I have. This is the best thing I know how to do.

Molina thought he beat Chavez Jr
KOD: You fought Julio Cesar Chavez Jr twice; first was a draw in 2005, and the second bout you lost by majority decision in 2006. However, both of those fights were surrounded by controversy. How did you see the circumstances and results of those fights through your eyes?

CM: The first fight I won. I won the first fight, and the crowd also thought I won—they were chanting my name! The second fight was closer and could have been a draw, but it was still a close enough fight that it went his way and it happened to me again. But, you move on from that. I try not the think about it anymore. It’s in the past, and I want to keep moving forward.

KOD: Often times, a controversial decision leads to a rematch. About eight years have passed, and although you both are prominent fighters in your respective divisions, Chavez Jr. has bulked up and is a much larger fighter, meaning that another rematch would not be possible. Does it bother you that you’ll probably never get that chance again?

CM: I always thought that a rematch would be there for me down the line in a few years later and settle it with a third fight. But, like you said, he’s two weight classes away from me now. Anything is possible, and I might move up one weight class, but two? I’m not so sure about. I wish it would have happened, but it doesn’t bother me.

KOD: You were involved in another close decision against Mike Alvarado in 2007. 
Was there any controversy surrounding that 8-round majority decision loss?

CM: That was a close fight. Alvarado came and put pressure on me. I felt like the first four rounds were his, and maybe one of those was mine, but the last four I felt like I won. I was gaining momentum at the end of the fight, and I still feeling good. That was a fight that I wish was longer, like a 10 or 12 rounder. The distance really decided who won. Everything is stacked against you if you aren’t the favorite fighter. They’re the undefeated fighters. In all of these fights we’ve talked about, they have promoters, they’re the favorite, and all of that’s against you. Going in, you’re down two rounds already before the fight even starts. That’s just it.

Molina was handling Kirkland until the DQ
KOD: The James Kirland bout was another in the long line of controversies. You were disqualified by referee Jon Schorle after your corner entered the ring following a flash knock down in a fight you were winning. Take us through the night, the circumstances as you remember, and the aftermath.

CM: I thought I was winning the fight. Kirkland was still Kirkland. He was a dangerous fighter through the whole fight. When I lost my balances, he landed a punch at the same time in the tenth round, so it was officially a knockdown. As far as me being hurt and him winning the fight simply because of that? My corner man went in because he thought that the round was over. No, it wasn’t fair. I don’t think about it at all though. It happened already, I learn from every fight, and obviously it was a bad disqualification because the bell shouldn’t have rang. The referee wasn’t trying to help me out in any way, and it should have continued.

KOD: Who has been the toughest fighter you’ve faced?

CM: At the time, the toughest fight was Wayland Willingham, after the Chavez Jr. fight. He was a pretty tricky southpaw, the first time I ever fought a southpaw like that. It made for a hard fight, and in the third round, he dropped me with a right hook I didn’t see coming at all. That’s the one time in my career that I’ve been hurt, but I got up. In the final rounds, I almost got him out, but it was too late and I lost the fight by decision. It was one of my toughest fights, given the experience that I had.

The dream comes true for King Carlos
KOD: Last time out against Ishe Smith, picked up the IBF junior middleweight title, the first world title of your career. How emotional was that breakthrough for you?

CM: It was satisfying. Everything that I’ve been working for, everything that we’ve been through, I just kept saying “move on, move on” after controversial fights, but finally my time came after putting in the work. It felt great.

KOD: The next target is Jermall Charlo on March 8th. What are some of your opponent’s strengths and weaknesses, and how do those tie into your game plan?

CM: I think his weakness is that he’s inexperienced as a professional, and his strengths are his height and reach. I’m usually the shorter guy, so my game plan will be pretty much the same: get on the inside and work him on the inside. Our plan is to always be in top shape, the best physical shape possible and go in there with a plan after all the hard work.

KOD: I want to read a quote to you that Charlo said the other day. "This is like a regular fight to me, like any other fight I've ever had. Molina is just the stepping stone. Once my team gets past this, I feel like we'll be at the top forever. I'm 17-0 right now. I haven't even clinched twenty fights and I'm fighting for a world title. I feel like an elite fighter." Having heard that, do you think he might be looking over you and that maybe he is overconfident about this fight, not anticipating you to be as big a challenge as you really are?

Molina prefers to do his talking in the ring
CM: Definitely. I feel like he’s making the same mistake as a lot of fighters have made in the past. They think it’s easy to go against what I do in a fight, but once they step in there, it’s different. There are things I do to adjust that he doesn’t see. For him, it’s just another regular fight, as compared to the opponents he fought in the past—not to talk bad about them, but he hasn’t fought top ten guys. It’s going to be different when we go into the ring.

KOD: There is a pair of criticisms about you that I’d like to give you the opportunity to respond to. The first comes from another quote by Charlo on the KO Digest Facebook page. He said “Molina will have to find ways to use his dirty tactics without getting hit with KO punches.” What do you have to say about that?

CM: Dirty fighter? (laughing) Is that like a compliment? I don’t know. They’ve been saying that for the last two or three fights. I don’t know where that comes from. Maybe everybody is judging me from the fight against Kirkland, where I clinched him, but they say I use my head and I don’t. I’ve never head-butted anybody. I just keep my head down so I don’t get head-butted. I’ve been cut many times before, and I just learned to keep my head down.

KOD: The other knock on you is more common among fans, who say that you’re a “boring fighter.” Now, they say that about a lot of guys, including Floyd Mayweather, who is the greatest fighter in the sport. How do you respond to that?

CM: Every fight that I’m in, I’m always throwing punches, I’m always the aggressor, I’m always bringing the fight, but they want to see the knockout. They don’t appreciate my boxing in there. I’m a boxing technician. That's the way I learned how to fight. I throw a lot of punches, but all I can do is perform at my best.

Mayweather is the goal for Molina
KOD: Certainly, you don’t want to overlook your opponent, but in the event that you win and defend your title for the first time, what would be the ideal next step? What are some of your goals in the sport that you’ve yet to achieve?

CM: We’re not looking past him, we’re taking it fight by fight. Before, the goal was to win the world title, but now that I’ve won the title, my goal is to keep it. In order for me to keep the world title, I need to focus on the fight ahead of me. I’m happy winning my fight right now—I’m not even thinking other fights. I couldn’t get Canelo and obviously everyone wants to fight Mayweather. That’s my main goal before he retires. All I can do is control what I’m doing. If I win my next few fights in a row, then I’m right there for a Mayweather fight.

KOD: What’s your prediction for the Charlo fight next weekend?

CM: I’m going to take any opportunity I can to take him out. In the later rounds, I’ll push for the stoppage. I need the stoppage because I can’t afford another controversial decision. I feel I can get Charlo frustrated and work him real good.

KO UPDATE (3/7/14 - 4PM EST): Carlos Molina was arrested in Las Vegas on Tuesday March 4th, just five days before his scheduled bout with Jermall Charlo on the Canelo-Angulo "Toe To Toe" undercard. Molina was jailed for failing to register as a sex offender in Wisconsin, this having to do with a sexual relationship he allegedly engaged in with a 14 year old girl when he was himself just 18. Molina is now 30 years of age. There were also immigration issues complicating matters and efforts to free him in time to weigh in today at 3PM PT for the fight were unsuccessful. As of this writing, Molina is still behind bars and his title fight with Charlo has been scrapped. Molina's current status as IBF junior middleweight champion is now in question but it seems doubtful that he'll be allowed to keep his title.   

Molina was finally released from jail in mid-April and returned to Mexico City.
The IBF junior middleweight champion has since signed with boxing powerbroker Al Haymon.

The Future of Boxing
KO Digest Interview conducted by Joel "The Future" Sebastianelli
Joel joined KO Digest in January 2013 and has been a fixture on press row in the New England area for three years. In 2012, he served as the host of “The Boxing Fix” on Leave it in the Ring Radio. Sebastianelli is the future of boxing journalism and broadcasting. 

Joel can be found Tweeting on Twitter @JJSebastianelli