Can Carlos Molina Spoil Josh Kelly’s Coming Out Party?

By Paul Magno on March 16, 2018
Can Carlos Molina Spoil Josh Kelly’s Coming Out Party?
Molina won his first world title when he beat Ishe Smith in 2013. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

He faces an uphill challenge on March 31, that’s for sure. But uphill challenges have been his “thing” since he became a pro fifteen years ago…

Molina got a crash course in being a spoiler in just his 10th pro fight. (Al Bello/Getty Images)

Matched against El Hijo de la Leyenda, Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the unknown kid from Paztcuaro, Michoacan by way of Chicago, took the fight to the second generation star, dominated the action, but walked away with a disputed and wildly unpopular draw. Fans at the Arena Monterrey in Monterrey, Mexico, raged against the controversial decision, pelting the ring with garbage and showering the ringside area with beer. Chavez Jr., the hero, walked away as the villain and Molina left the ring as the unlikely fan favorite.

“It was cool to see the whole crowd turn against him,” Molina said, “because when I went in there they were booing me and by the time I got out, they were booing him…that was a good experience for me.”

Fast forward to 2012.

After a stretch of upsets that saw “B-side” Molina emerge victorious against the likes of Danny Perez and Kermit Cintron and, in between, fight to a controversial draw with Erislandy Lara, Molina met killer KO artist James Kirkland at the Reliant Arena in Houston, Texas in a WBC junior middleweight title eliminator. Molina not only held his own, but he was actually winning.

Firmly ahead on two of the judges’ scorecards after nine full rounds, Molina got dropped at the very end of the tenth. He would beat the count, but then find out that he was disqualified on a technicality when one of his corner men stepped into the ring before the official end of the round. It was an offense that easily could’ve been overlooked by referee John Schorle, as mentioned by Max Kellerman on HBO, but it came as a conveniently-timed ending for the “money“ fighter who was not only losing the fight, but being dragged through the muck while losing.

“It was [frustrating]…I feel like they were doing it on purpose…it was frustrating, but just for a little while…just for that day or so,” Molina would recall. “But what’re you gonna do? I can’t just sit back and let them get the best out of me like that. I’m gonna come back and come back better…and I actually did…It actually opened up the door for me because a lot of people saw that fight…That’s what’s important to me, too…the fans see it…and you can’t trick the fans…They know what they saw and even though they disqualified me, a lot of people gave me credit like I wanted.”

The Kirkland debacle would lead to an upset win over former champ Cory Spinks and, after that, to his first world title, when he beat reigning IBF 154 lb. champ, Ishe Smith in 2013.

Then life got in the way of Molina’s career. Arrest, deportation, relocation to his birth country, Mexico, and even a major earthquake (as chronicled in this accompanying piece on occupied the next four years of his life while he chugged along with any fights he could get in his new Mexican home base.

And then he got the call from quick-rising British welterweight star and “next big thing” Josh Kelly.

Signed to meet Kelly on the March 31 Anthony Joshua-Joseph Parker undercard at Principality Stadium in Cardiff, Wales, Molina once again finds himself playing the underdog role and counting on himself to be the spoiler to a young stud’s great coming out party.

“It’s kind of like when I fought Lara…Lara was fast, had a lot of amateur background. That’s what I’m kind of looking at…you gotta be sharp, like with Lara, sharp all the time because he’s fast…use your defense, take his game away…”

The 24-year-old British prospect comes into the fight with only 5 pro bouts on his ledger, but holding a 10-year age advantage and a considerable edge in speed and overall athleticism.

Molina, however, has been there and done that.

“I’m not [an opponent]…I take care of myself…I’ve always been that guy they call to take the toughest fights. I fought Lara when he was undefeated. I fought Mike Alvarado when he was undefeated. I fought Kirkland after he beat Angulo, Kermit Cintron when he first came back and they didn’t know how he was going to be. It’s always been like that for me…’test them with Carlos and see what happens.’”

Molina has dealt with speed and athleticism before and, unfortunately, he’s also dealt with shady dealings on behalf of the home fighter. An uneven playing field is one of the things on his mind as he prepares for his trip to the UK.

“One of the things that worries me the most is his last two fights, when they stopped the fight real early…like they did with that Mexican dude (Jose Luis Zuniga). He (Kelly) threw two left hooks, one of them was blocked and the other one hit…I mean, it was a nice punch, but to stop the fight? That was too much.”

So what can one do to prevent a premature stoppage?

“You can’t control that,” Molina said, “maybe let it be known about the early stoppages. [But] if we’re mobile, moving around and boxing, I feel [it’s] going to be more difficult to stop a fight like that. People will see what’s going on. But we’re not even gonna let him hit me, not let him do any of his stuff.”

Ultimately, Molina hopes to earn his way into the UK welterweight/junior middleweight scene with a win over Kelly and then move on to bouts with Amir Khan and Kell Brook while working on reclaiming a U.S. visa.

He faces an uphill challenge on March 31, that’s for sure. But uphill challenges have been his “thing” since he became a pro fifteen years ago.

“I’ve never been dominated…I could be working on the outside and boxing or I could be pushing and working the inside…whatever my opponent wants to do, I take that away from him…it’s just my work ethic…the more people don’t think I deserve to be at the top, the more I want to be on the top.”

And that’s the very definition of a spoiler.

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  1. Balaamsass 01:28pm, 03/17/2018

    Physicality! That hard as a rock noggin is the reason that Carlos could end up emptying his bladder in the party punch bowl!

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