There has been a constant companion
alongside Carlos Molina in the lead-up to his bout versus Amir Khan this
Saturday night at the L.A. Sports Arena (Showtime, 10:30 p.m., ET/PT). He takes
it everywhere he goes. To the gym, to the dinner table, when he runs
errands around town or when he's on the sofa watching television. He even goes
to bed with it. No, this is no Glenn Close “Fatal Attraction” thing going on
here. What Molina has almost attached to his hip is a large jug of water.
Throughout the day, he sips
big and small. It's part of his regimen instilled by his
strength-and-conditioning coach, Luis Garcia, and it's emblematic of the
changes he's made in this camp.
But yeah, Molina's taken on
more water than the Hoover Dam.
“I've got to be constantly
drinking and drinking water,” Molina explained on an early morning a few weeks
back at Garcia's home in El Monte. “I carry this thing around everywhere I go.
So this will be something you'll be seeing a lot from here on out.”
So why all the H2O? Easy,
not just to hydrate but to flush out and clean your system. And yeah, all this intake
has Molina urinating...a lot.
“I'm constantly going in and
out of the restroom. They explained to me how you get all your lactic acids and
toxins out of there through pissing,” said Molina, who was more prone to drink more
Bud Light in the past than water. Garcia, who had Molina drinking between a
gallon and a gallon-and-a-half through much of this stretch (and then will work
that down to a half-gallon this week as they hit the scales), says, “We've been
told since we were little kids, ‘Eat your vegetables; drink your water,’ and it
becomes such a redundant thing - but nobody ever stops to think and tell you
why. And once you start to understand the value behind it, then you're sold on
And Garcia doesn't just have
Molina drinking Sparkletts but a water with a certain pH balance and fortified
Drinking water. Yeah, it
seems like such a small thing in the grand scheme of things but it’s actually
huge because knowledge is power. What Molina has gotten from Garcia is really
an education on how the human body works. Once that is mastered, things such as
cutting weight become much less strenuous. “At first, I was just listening to
whatever he was telling me, just doing it and doing it, said Garcia, “but then
after awhile, it all makes sense. You start feeling your body adapting to all
these changes and your performance and it's getting better and better with the
water, the stretching, the eating, just everything.
In the past, Molina - a
career lightweight who is facing Khan at 140 pounds - did everything he could
to make weight. And yes, all the primitive methods were used.
“We get the water and we'd just spit it out,” Molina recalled, laughing. “‘Hey,
don't swallow that water!’ But everything is changed now since being with Luis.
We're always hydrated throughout our whole workout and I feel a lot better.” He
admits that sort of stuff was... well, dumb. “I wish I would've known Luis a
lot sooner. I mean, it would've helped me out a lot but I'm happy now that
we're working together and I think it's going to be a big influence come fight
night, all the hard work we put in. Not just the eating and all that but the
different kind of workouts we've been doing with the sand-training and all
that. I feel that's getting me really, really strong.”
As you see the chiseled physique
of Molina, you’ll notice he's been transformed from the pudgy lightweight he
was not too long ago. In fact, you don't even know who this guy is anymore.
Molina, who is going through his second camp with Garcia, states, “I'm a lot
better because initially I couldn't get through the workouts in the beginning
and it was just tough. Now being on the water for so long, that's helped me out
a lot and staying with him right at his house, he gives me the exact
proportions of food that I need to eat and the vitamins. We're only getting
During their first run together,
Molina trudged to a 10-round verdict over Marcos Jimenez, as they struggled to
come in at 135 pounds. It didn't help that they had to lose over 30 pounds.
Again, no one is a miracle worker and Molina admits of his past, “I don't think
I was very disciplined. Now, being with Luis, he just puts that in you and he
educates you. So you're not starving yourself. So it makes it a lot easier.”
He should make the junior
welterweight limit with ease on Friday but in the past, the battle of the
scales would be problematic. “The night before, I just wouldn't even sleep
thinking about a sip of water and getting in the sauna, all that old-school
method,” he recalls. He called this process of shaving the last few pounds “torture.”
He adds, “I was never thrilled to make weight that last week. I wouldn't want
anyone around me. I'm not a cranky guy but at that time, I was like, ‘Nobody
talk to me.’”
His manager, Frank Espinoza,
who had been frustrated by the inability of his fighter to consistently stay in
good physical condition, tells Maxboxing, “This is the best I've ever seen
Carlos look. You can just tell, not just with the way his body looks, but how
lean his face is and how healthy it looks. In the past, when he didn't come in
shape to fights, it affected his performance and our ability to move his
career. I'm really pleased with his commitment and the work of Luis.” His longtime
trainer, Clemente Medina, concurs, stating, “Carlos is in very, very good
Molina isn't the only client
of Espinoza who works with Garcia. The first was two-time world champion Abner
Mares, who began working with him two years ago.
“You could just tell right
away just how good he's been with me,” said Mares, the current WBC 122-pound
beltholder, “because I started training with Luis for the first [Vic]
Darchinyan fight and in that fight, obviously my conditioning, my strength is
what got me through that fight and like I've said, I've been learning more and
more with him.”
But the key is that this is
an ongoing process. Like Rome, a fighter’s health and performance will not be
built in a day.
“It's a process,” agreed
Mares. “We do different things every fight. It's not like you get stuck with
the same routine camp after camp. With Luis, it's a process. He knows where
your body's at. We step it up a little bit more; we do different things and it
varies on what type of fight you're going to have.” The biggest lesson Mares
has learned from Garcia is that even during the process of dropping weight, he
still must eat to provide energy throughout the day. “It's a process,” repeated
Garcia, who adds, “and even as so much a physical process, a tactical process
and even a mental and emotional process that these fighters have to go through
because when you sit down with the fighters and you tell ‘em, ‘Everything
you've done in the past is wrong and do it my way.’ They look at you like
you're some nut, like you're from outer space or something. So you have to make
small changes, constant changes and accountability changes along the way.”
On this morning, after waking
up around 5:30, everyone is out the door of Garcia's home in El Monte and a
short drive is taken to the local LA Fitness. Because they had done a sand
workout two days ago and sparred the previous day, this was a relatively light
session. Garcia has Molina run on the treadmill for about a half-hour (he
dislikes his clients running on hard pavement, believing that all it does is
put wear and tear on the knees). After that, they do some abdominal exercises
and stretching, which Molina is now accustomed to. But in the beginning, “I
felt like I was being put into a submission. I was always tapping out.” Other
days, Molina will be put through cross-fit training, resistance work and other
assorted drills. “It's tough but it's fun,” says the 27-year old native of
Rosemead, who climbed ropes for the first time in his life.
One of the keys is gradually
stepping up the work and adjusting to the capabilities of the fighter. The
reality is that Molina simply could not have worked this hard back in May.
“Well, the first camp was
earlier this year and I think it was just laying a lot of groundwork for this
camp and I think he was able to see a level of professionalism and learn around
that more than anything else. I mean, there's such a huge disconnect into which
the stuff boxers commonly do and the old-school mentality and to what all the other
facets are. Whether it be diet, nutrition, boxing, strength-and-conditioning,
recovery in-between and some of the other aspects of it and learning how to
fine-tune those aspects and be accountable for it. That's what's been the
biggest difference,” said Garcia, who understands he won’t make Molina a better
fighter but instead, a better athlete who can use that work to improve his
skills inside the ring. Vince Lombardi once famously said, “Fatigue makes
cowards of us all.” Perhaps what it really does, at least in this sport, is
cause fundamental breakdowns.
“My thing is to take these guys out of the box and really just make them better
overall athletes so that they can have that range of motion. They can have that
mobility so they can do that much better in the boxing ring and you can only do
a certain amount of boxing in your life before it takes a toll on your body
because it is an impact sport,” he explained. He cites basketball and football
players who play a full schedule of games but their off-season training
consists of physical work that conditions their body for games.
But Garcia - a one-stop shop
for his fighters as he also cooks for them (on this morning, he cooked omelets
for everyone) - doesn't subscribe to the theory of training at full throttle
every day or even training six days a week at the gym, done for years in
boxing. Rest and recovery is every bit as essential as the hard work.
“Having them understand the toll it takes on your body and really just putting
it into words that they can understand,” states Garcia. “Like they only
understand how they feel most of the time and it has to be that basic of a
conversation, 'In the past when you have done this, have you felt this way? OK,
so let’s do it this different way and tell me how you feel.’ And then later on
implement it. ‘This is why you feel this way and that's what we're doing to
Part of his regimen is
stretching which starts the recovery process.
"They don't understand the importance of recovery between the workouts and
how much of a role that plays within their performance and their output on a
day-to-day basis and a lot of times, if you can't perform or produce the work
output that we need to at that level, don't even come into the gym because
you're more likely to do more harm to your body than good,” says Garcia, who is
constant contact with Medina to see just how much work can be done on a given
day. “Luis makes a great conditioner, an old-school trainer who is open to new
ideas. Me and him make a great team for this fight.” Without this cooperation,
this union simply will not function effectively. “It's extremely important,”
continues Garcia, who has a degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly Pomona. “There's
gotta be a balance and in the work that we do. Like if we're both burning the
candle on both ends, as they say, there's no cohesiveness in the training and
the results will show.”
Most trainers are loath to
have their boxers miss a day at the gym. But the reality is, taking just one
day off a week, means they are probably still overtraining. “Definitely; the
fact of the matter is that the reason they feel they can't take those days off
is because they haven't honed in on all the other aspects, which is like
dieting. And because they don't take days off, they feel like they haven't
pushed their body far enough in a particular workout. They're not truly getting
the benefit. So it's just like, the only way to do something is to do it over
and over again till you get good at it. But your body needs that recovery.”
So why don't more fighters
take a Wednesday or Thursday off during the week? Probably because they have
gotten so out of shape between fights that they simply can't afford to. This then
becomes an issue of maintenance.
Garcia says, “That's hugely
important because when you're taking in an eight-week camp and let’s just say
you have a pre-genetic disposition, a window of opportunity into which on fight
night you fight at 80 percent - because I think fighters very rarely function
at 100-percent of their pre-genetic disposition as an athlete - they take that
fitness level down to like five or 10 percent or even blow health standards for
natural walk-around adults or human beings, a sedentary person and then they
expect to get back to that 80-90 percent of their overall pre-genetic
disposition. It's impossible.
“You can only get a certain percentage better in eight weeks and if you try and
take it beyond that, that's when you start getting injuries. You will not peak
out properly. But if they maintain a certain level of fitness and really
working on different things because in the off-season we can work on maybe
building certain strength or maybe some of the explosive muscles that they
The days of Molina packing
on the girth as he waits for fights to be signed are over.
“[Luis] is always telling
me, ‘After this fight, maybe a week off but let’s go right back. Let's start
doing it. It doesn't have to be hard training; just stay right there. Keep that
condition and that diet in check,’” says Molina, who has a record of 17-0-1
with seven knockouts.
In late September, as
Espinoza was mulling his next move with Molina, he received a call from the
Golden Boy Promotions brass. The question was simple: Would he put his guy in
there with Khan on December the 15th? “I thought it was a great
opportunity for Carlos but I knew he had to get in the best shape of his life
and just being around him, I know he is. I really like what I've seen this
camp. This is the type of shape we've always wanted him to be in,” said the
respected manager. There is that old cliché spouted by almost every boxer about
being in the best shape of their lives. Well, with Molina, it isn't really a
stretch because, quite frankly, he was never really in that good of shape. Yeah,
it was a pretty low bar and he freely admits it.
“I don't think for any fight, I've showed the true ability that I have and I
think for this fight, I think it's going to show. We've had a great camp; we've
been working very hard. We've been doing everything right,” Molina says.
They are well aware of why
they were tabbed for this assignment; Molina is perceived as a light-hitting,
soft-bellied lightweight. It's the reason why Molina is a heavy underdog on
Saturday night. But he's looking at it as an early Christmas gift.
“This is my opportunity of a
lifetime,” says Molina, “Amir Khan, he's known all over the world. So me
beating him, it's going to open the doors and people are going to recognize who
And that will be more than
just being that guy always carrying water.
Garcia has a day job in the
banking world but his passion is the “Sweet Science.” He has strong feelings on
the testing protocol currently existing in professional boxing.
“I say it's a complete
irresponsibility that not till somebody ends up hurt or dead and someone tests
positive, will there ever be a major change in that. But there's no
accountability to it at this point and it's really, really sad because it's
just bad for the sport because you're not dealing with hitting a ball further.
You're not dealing with running faster; you're not dealing with a time clock.
You're dealing with an actual impact and the long-term effects of these
This edition of “Behind the
Ropes” from Sky TV shows some of the sand workout that Garcia has Molina go
says a bout between Selcuk Aydin and Jesus Soto Karass and another fight will
be on Showtime on January 26...Please tell me
HBO can do better than Adrien Broner facing Richie Abril on February 16th...Look
for the Devon Alexander-Kell Brook fight to move to either late February or
early March...Elvin Ayala and Curtis Stevens will face each other on the
January 19th edition of “Fight Night” on NBC Sports Network...Arte
Moreno doesn't play around; does he?...Al Golden is not going to leave Miami
for Wisconsin. The new rumor is he will face “Canelo” Alvarez on May 4th and quit the Miami job to focus on the fight...