|Mike “Rocky” Mollo seeks his redemption
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Aug 6, 2013)
Mike “Rocky” Mollo
|On February 1, 2013, heavyweight Mike Mollo experienced a metamorphosis.
Fighting at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago, IL., Mollo became Rocky Balboa.
Yes, that Rocky Balboa, the movie slugger who battled the odds with only a big punch and a bigger heart.
Mollo, a native of Chicago, engaged in 36 minutes of fury with undefeated Artur Szpilka of Poland. The Pavilion roared with each punch. Mollo floored Szpilka in rounds one and four, but also took a battering from his opponent - and referee Celestine Ruiz.
Ruiz, a veteran of numerous fights, went profane on Mollo for pushing. Mollo responded with a look of anger and bewilderment.
Still, “Rocky” Mollo trudged forward. By the end of the first round a head-butt had opened a bad cut over his left eye. Did referee Ruiz say anything about the head-butt?
In round two, a Szpilka elbow opened a cut over Mollo’s right eye. The referee stayed silent. With blood dripping into both eyes, Mollo caught Szpilka with a perfect left hook in round four. The big man went down, but managed to pull himself up and sting Mollo with combinations.
Ruiz deducted a point from Mollo in round five after Szpilka fell to the canvas. Enraged, Mollo tried to end matters in round six. He staggered Szplika again, but was floored by a perfect punch. As he tried to get up, some of the local fans who had booed him at the beginning of the fight cheered his spirited effort.
Szpilka might have won the fight, but “Rocky” Mollo won the hearts. Praise from all quarters rained down on the 33-year-old fighter, but Mollo had only one thought in mind.
He wanted a sequel. Within weeks, all parties agreed.
August 16 is the date, Chicago is the place.
Mollo is thrilled to be fighting at Cellular Field, home of the Chicago White Sox.
“I can sum it up in one word, amazing,” Mollo told this writer during a recent telephone interview.
“It’s a dream come true and a real honor. There’s so much history there.” he added.
During the bout last February, Mollo felt like he was fighting on the road. The cheering was much louder for Szpilka. Some said the arena was divided, others, including Mollo, disagreed.
“It wasn’t so much divided as it was one-sided,“ Mollo said. “I said in my press conference after the fight that if there are twenty-five thousand people there (at Cellular Field) twenty-two thousand will be Polish.
“I’ll be basically a foreigner here in Chicago,” he added.
Mollo is thrilled to have former heavyweight contender Darnell Nicholson working his corner.
“He makes everything make more sense,” Mollo said. “He reminds me to shorten my punches. He’s taught me how to be more dynamic. People would have seen more in the first fight, but after I got cut the frustration set in.
“I threw all caution to the wind and went for it.” he recalled. “There was no point. I couldn’t see, so what was I going to do?”
Mollo explained what it was like to have blood distorting his vision.
“Everything had a really dark yellow to it,” said Mollo. “Looking through the blood everything was really smeared and shadowy like a bloody yellow. At first I could wipe my eyes. People probably saw that who watched the fight, but by the fourth round my gloves were saturated with blood.
“When I wiped the blood all I was doing was smearing it into my eyes. It was like the sponges were full, you know what I mean?”
Referee Ruiz, who did such a poor job during the first fight, won’t be back for the rematch. Mollo had this to say about the third man in the ring.
“I asked about the referee, but nobody got back to me,” he said. “I can’t see how they could ever let him work a fight again”
Mollo has watched the first fight dozens of times. What can he do in the rematch to achieve a different outcome?
“I’m not going to follow him around as much,” Mollo said. “I’ll have my eyes. I’ll be able to see more. I’m going be a little sharper and smarter. I’ll use my feet and get in there and fight.”
When asked if the Szpilka bout is the most significant of his 13-year professional career, Mollo pulled no punches.
“It’s absolutely my most important fight,” Mollo said. “I’ve been absent from boxing for a long time because of contract and legal problems. It was basically B.S. That robbed me of a number of good years of fighting.
“I came out of nowhere to fight this upcoming heavyweight, “he said. “I almost had him out there. I would have had him out of there if certain circumstances didn’t happen.
“It opened a lot of eyes,” said Mollo. “Now, I really have some attention. I need to capitalize on this and catapult up the heavyweight division. It’s my chance to get in the elite of the heavyweight division.
“This kid has a whole country behind him,” he added.
In the sequel to Rocky, the “Italian Stallion” got off the canvas to win.
Mollo is grateful for a second chance and determined to deliver. Once again he’s the underdog heading into the rematch, but odds are discussed in papers and public forums.
Fighting is done in the ring.
The Artur Szpilka versus Mike Mollo rematch will be shown on ESPN Friday Night Fights.
John J. Raspanti responds to all his emails. Please send all questions and comments to John at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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