After suffering disappointing outcomes in several fights that most believed he won and getting side-stepped by multiple junior middleweight titlists, Carlos Molina (20-5-2, 6 KOs) hopes to improve his luck. And where better to do it than in his hometown and over the airwaves that have broadcast some of his most notable successes?
Molina, 29, will take on former 154-pound titlist Cory Spinks (39-7, 11 KOs), 34, on Friday in Chicago (ESPN2/WatchESPN, 9 p.m. ET) in an elimination bout that theoretically lines up the winner to face belt holder Cornelius "K9" Bundrage.
ESPN Deportes recently caught up with Molina to discuss the aftermath of those controversial decisions, Friday's bout with Spinks and what the future holds.
What does Friday's fight mean to you?
All fights are important, but this is more so because it will mean a shot at the IBF title at 154 pounds.
Do you think Spinks fits your style? How did you prepare to face him?
He has a lot of experience, he's a former world champion, and he knows very well what he does in the ring. We have seen his fights and -- like me -- my trainer, Victor Mateo, studied him very well and has a good plan to face him. We have even worked on sparring with his same style, and it has been very helpful for our strategy.
Are you excited to return to fight in your city for the first time in nearly four years?
Yes, that motivates me. I'll have friends and family watching me fight on ESPN; that's very good. Remember that whoever wins this fight will be the No. 1 mandatory of the IBF and in less than six months would be fighting for the title.
Your recent past in the ring reads like a novel. You have been avoided by champions and have suffered polemic defeats and controversial draws. Is it just bad luck?
It's difficult to fight against rivals and against promoters -- everything is against you. But all that has helped me grow as a boxer. I've learned that I must win in another way, because I felt I won every fight but the result came out differently.
Will we see a different version of you Friday?
What we're working on now is to end the fight and to not leave the results in the hands of the judges. I feel that with every fight I'm growing more, and that's the idea in this next one and all future fights.
The fact that you've never been knocked out suggests a pattern of solid defensive work. Will taking more risks in search of a knockout greatly affect your style?
I don't think so. You'll see that my changes are very smart, with a lot of strategy. The difference will be in exploiting opportunities in a different manner, because usually I'm hitting while balanced on my legs. Now I'll break from that when it's appropriate to punish; I will use more power in my combinations -- especially when I have my opponent against the ropes.
So you'll plant and punch more often to tap into your power?
Yes, it will be like that -- but when it suits me. The style is the same, but I will be more aggressive in putting on pressure. Looking back on the videos of fights like the James Kirkland [loss, a controversial 10th-round disqualification], I always say that if I had used that option, I could have knocked him out.
Have you turned the page after draws against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Erislandy Lara? Do you sleep well or does it still bother you?
No, it doesn't affect me -- and I'm glad for it. What already happened happened, and I can't change that.
After the first fight with Chavez -- the draw -- you lost three in a row. Did the result affect your concentration and performance?
Depends on how you look at it. When I lost those fights, my record dropped to 8-4, and I admitted to myself that it looked terrible. I vowed that someday it would be 30-4. The defeats gave me motivation, and I haven't lost since -- except for that disqualification against Kirkland.
Did you consider the disqualification an error on your team's part? Did you have any conflicts for that reason?
No, I'm always on my team's side. That day the bell rang and they entered the ring to perform their functions during the minute they got to work on the cuts. It wasn't their fault. That's done already.
Have you ever felt persecuted by the judges?
I don't let anything affect me, because if something bothers you, you don't train well. Everything that happened happened. My only thought is on the next fight -- win and go for the title.
Which fight helped advance your career furthest?
The fight that helped me most was Erislandy Lara, because I was coming off being inactive for almost 18 months. I wanted to come back and fight one of the best. Everyone thought that I was going to be out of condition and said that Lara would be the next champion. But in the end, everyone agreed that it made him look bad and that I won that fight. After that, I got another fight, I beat Kermit Cintron, and somehow I ended up on a higher level.
Have you ever thought about going back to 147 pounds?
I feel very comfortable at 154. When I was at 147, I was offered, six days in advance, a fight with Danny Perez at 154 and I took it. And I stayed here because it's one of the best weights, has great talent and is where I want to be.
Beyond Friday's fight and getting a shot at the title, do you have an opponent in mind whom you'd like to face?
I would like a rematch with Lara or Kirkland, but more than those rematches, I want a fight with Canelo Alvarez. When I beat Kermit Cintron, as a winner, I should have fought Canelo, but they avoided me and chose the loser [Cintron]. That was no good. Another one I hope to face before retirement is Floyd Mayweather Jr. When I started, I dreamt of being the one who gave him his first loss.
Have you thought about retirement and the years you have left in boxing?
I want to get to age 35 as a professional boxer. There are six years to go, during which I'll try to consolidate my growth, to be champion and make my mark in boxing.
Have you had a chance to meet your namesake from California, lightweight Carlos Molina?
I don't know him, but I know he exists thanks to an anecdote with Everlast, the company that supplies my boxing uniforms. Before the James Kirkland fight, I asked if they had finished my uniform, and they said yes, that they had already sent it. Then I asked where it was, because it hadn't arrived, and it turns out that they'd sent it to the other Carlos Molina.
What sort of support do you receive from your family?
My father, my mother, my wife and my son are everything in my life. They support me a lot, I fight for them, and hopefully I can buy my parents' house for them to retire and rest like they deserve after working all their lives. That motivates me to work hard and give a good future to my son. When things are tough, these things give me momentum.