The Epiphany of Carlos Molina
By Steve Kim, MaxBoxing (March 17, 2012) Doghouse Boxing
Carlos Molina
Last August, Carlos Molina was held to a draw by journeyman Juan Montiel over eight rounds. Montiel came in with a record of 5-4-2 that night at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. As a prospect, you're expected to handle this caliber of opposition with relative ease before moving on to bigger and better things. Instead, on this summer night, he looked much more like a suspect than prospect. Coming in at a pudgy 143 pounds, Molina looked soft and listless.
It was a horrible night. There's no other way to put it; he took two giant steps backward.
“That was probably my lowest point,” said Molina at the Maywood Boxing Club on Tuesday before one of his final training sessions prior to departing for Pharr, Texas, where he faces Angino Perez on this week’s edition of “Solo Boxeo” on Telefutura. “I felt it was a draw but I felt like I let everybody down. I let myself down. I was just disappointed in myself and after that, I told myself, ‘Never again.’ So ever since then, we've been in the gym, working hard and getting ready for every fight.”
That fight moved his record at the time to 14-0-1 but it just felt like a loss.
“I haven't lost before but the feeling I had. It was like I lost,” admitted Molina, “because I was disappointed with myself because I expect me to perform at a level every fight and that fight, I was nowhere near where I want to be.” One of the key issues leading into that bout was that Molina had been hampered by a hand injury, leading to a protracted layoff. During this nine-month period of inactivity, he put on weight, which was more difficult to shave off than he imagined. “It was because the time that I was off, I think I let myself go too much and to lose that weight, I think I struggled a little more and that affected me in the fight.”
The lesson learned was clear: to become a world-class prizefighter, the commitment has to be 24/7/365.
“Oh, definitely. We're athletes just like every other sport. You don't see other athletes in other sports get fat; they're always working,” said Molina, pointing out one of the great ironies- boxers are in the most dangerous of professions yet too often, we hear of them having to round themselves into physical condition. Nowadays, most professional athletes have off-season regimens they adhere to. Molina continues by saying, “With us, it's the same thing...actually, it's worse because we're getting hit in the face. So you gotta be ready all the time.”
His manager Frank Espinoza told Maxboxing, “I hope that draw was an eye-opener for [Molina]. That's not what we expect from any of our fighters. Bottom line is that we can only provide the opportunities for him but we can't prepare or fight for them. But honestly, I liked the way he looked against Manuel Leyva. I think that was a very good bounce-back fight for him.”
Against Leyva in early December, weighing 137.75 pounds, he looked much sharper and energetic in winning a 10-round verdict. “I felt a whole lot better,” said Molina. “I went in with a pretty tough guy in Manuel Leyva; he had a lot of fights. We went all 10 rounds and I felt good going the 10 rounds. I was in shape; I felt strong. I was focused; I was ready. I felt really good that fight.”
At his best, Molina is a quick-handed, busy fighter who makes up for his relative lack of power with activity. He can be a fun and entertaining T.V. fighter but at around 5’6”, he's much more effective as a lightweight. That's something everyone involved agrees with.
“I think he has to be at 135,” said Espinoza, who also handles the likes of Abner Mares, Daniel Ponce de Leon and Antonio Orozco among others, “He's not really big enough to deal with junior welterweights right now and it's been proven: the lighter he is, the better he is. He can make noise at lightweight.” Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez agrees, “He's so much better at that weight and he's proven it and he's looked good at that weight because he's not a tall fighter and he's handicapped when he goes up in weight because he gives up so much.”
Molina says bluntly, “I have to [be at lightweight] or else I'm going to be fighting giants.”
A few months ago, during the holiday season before the fight was scheduled, he was in the gym getting his work done. One day Molina joked to this reporter that the toughest fight for him during Christmas season was tamales and Bud Light. So how did that battle go?
“I had a few, here and there,” said Molina, laughing. “But yeah, after that, we've been working hard this whole time, so we'll be ready come Saturday.”
Like some of his other young prospects like Ronny Rios and Luis Ramos (also under the Golden Boy banner) this is a key year for this Espinoza client. They're at that juncture where they have to make that leap from young, fledgling prospect to becoming at least a fringe contender. “This year, we're going to move him up steadily and by the end of 2012, get him into a significant fight,” said the respected manager. “We still have very high hopes and expectations of Carlos; it's up to him, though.”
Gomez states, “He's been injured a little bit, so it's going to be very important for him. He's one of our prospects but he's been hampered by injuries so we got to get  him started off on the right track and get him going because he's falling behind some of our other prospects who are passing him by. So I think this year’s going to be a breakout year for him. He should have some sort of important fight this year, either a regional title or a meaningful fight.”
When asked about that draw versus Montiel, Gomez believes the time away from the ring while not exactly living his life like Bernard Hopkins played a huge role.
“It's just that long layoff, being out. He struggled to make weight, so that was a little bit of a problem. I think that a lot of that had to do with his performance but he's better than that. He's a better fighter than that and we're just going to have to throw him in something meaningful this year. See where he's at, see what he's capable of doing.”
Molina seems to understand what's at stake now; he's 26 years old and in the prime of his life. However, youth cannot be wasted on the young- not in boxing.
“Every year, I'm like, ‘Man, I'm already getting older. I'm not that young guy anymore.’ So I'm ready this year; hopefully, we have a big step up and I want to be known as a contender and hopefully, this year and the beginning of next year, we accomplish that.”
Like many other Golden Boy prospects on the way up, Molina fought on their “Fight Night Club” series at Club Nokia. So what happened to that series?
“We are trying to finalize a TV deal,” explained Gomez, who said that it will now take place at “The Velasco” in downtown L.A. “Soon as we finalize a TV deal, then we can get going with it.”
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