By Sam Geraci; Photos by Tom Barnes / Tomba-Images.com
IBF junior middleweight champion “King” Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) makes his first defense this Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas against the #14 IBF contender Jermall Charlo (17-0, 13 KOs). The Molina-Charlo showdown is a televised bout of the “Toe to Toe” pay-per-event featuring Saul “Canelo” Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs) going toe-to-toe with Alfredo “El Perro” Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs). This is Molina’s second consecutive appearance on the undercard of a Canelo PPV. Back in September, Molina captured the IBF crown from Ishe Smith when Canelo faced Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Although Molina is exercising his option for a voluntary defense by taking on Charlo, according to Molina, there wasn’t much of an option as Charlo was the only fighter remaining after Canelo and top rated Erislandy Lara turned down the opportunity to challenge him.
In the following interview, Molina discusses what it’s like to be featured on another Canelo PPV undercard, his thoughts about Charlo and their matchup, some of the fighters who have turned him down, Chicago’s boxing comeback and much more.
It feels good, and this is where I want to be fighting, on the biggest events. I wanna be on the main event, you know (laughs), but nothing gets me down. As long as I’m getting fights, I’m happy.
I know that the two fights you want most are Canelo and Mayweather. Have there been any talks about you fighting either of them?
No, and I just go in there and fight who’s in front of me. I don’t worry about chasing those other fights. As long as I’m fighting, I’m happy. I just want to stay busy. I call out anybody in the top ten, and whoever we get, we get.
The last time we spoke, you stated that it looked like you were going to face Erislandy Lara. What happened?
They told us it was gonna be Lara when we didn’t get the Canelo fight, and we were ready to go and training everyday for southpaws. Then, they called us saying that they didn’t want the fight, and that’s when Charlo stepped in.
So you’re saying that Lara didn’t want the opportunity to fight you for the IBF title?
Another fighter who was rumored to be an opponent of yours a while back was Gennady Golovkin. Can you discuss the rumors of fighting GGG?
Before I fought Ishe, his team said they were looking for an opponent and that they couldn’t find one, so we approached them and we were willing to go up to 160, but then they said they were going somewhere else.
Would you still be willing to fight GGG?
If it’s for a world title, I’m willing to move up or down to fight the best. I’ll fight anyone, and I’ve proven that I’ll fight anyone.
This is your voluntary defense. Besides Charlo, who was offered a title shot?
At first, it was Victor Ortiz, and then we were waiting for Canelo to accept but they went with Angulo. Then, it was Lara, but he turned it down, and then the only guy available was Charlo, and he stepped up.
Despite your experience, being avoided by the division’s best and being the champion, many are still favoring Charlo. Why?
I don’t know. Maybe because he’s undefeated, and he’s the promoter’s fighter, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve been in this situation many times before. It doesn’t matter who he’s fought or what he’s done or what people say, once we get in there, it’s just gonna be me. At the end of it, when we step in the ring, I have control of everything.
Does that motivate you?
I have a lot of things that motivate me. You can just add that on top of it. My main motivation is everything that I’ve been through.
Charlo is very talented but lacks experience against the sport’s elite.
We’re gonna use our experience, and he’s gonna try to use his reach. You really don’t know everything until you get into the fight, but we have a lot of advantages.
You had to fight everyone and many times on short notice to get a title shot. Does it bother you that Charlo is getting this opportunity so early despite his limited resume?
I can’t let anything bother me. Everything that I went through to get the title made me a real champion and a better fighter. It made me tougher. I should have fought for the title years ago when I was with Don King, but it didn’t happen. Everything has made me so much tougher. Just him thinking that he deserves a title this soon without ever earning it just provides more motivation. You know, like I said, as long as I have someone to fight, I’m happy.
What does Charlo do well?
It’s hard to tell. There’s nothing that really stands out other than his reach and jab. He’s not slow, but he’s not lightening fast. You can’t underestimate somebody like that, but we’ll have to wait until we get into the ring to see.
What are Charlo’s weaknesses?
His inexperience is his biggest weakness.
How can experience make you a better fighter?
When you’re in the ring, as soon as you see something, you don’t even have to think about it. You already know; it’s in your brain.
Are you going to be able to show Charlo things he’s never seen before?
I think so, especially in the pro game. I don’t know about his amateur experience or whatever, but this is different. I’m gonna frustrate him with things he’s never seen before. I’m just gonna have a good fight. I like to work on everything. I want him to see my sharpness. I’m excited.
Everybody says that in the gym you look somewhat ordinary, but when you step in the ring, you’re special. Can you elaborate on that?
I think it’s true. The thing is that in the gym you’re just working on certain things, and you’re always going hard, but there’s nothing like a fight. During a fight, the difference is my inner strength. In a fight, I’m going all in, and there’s no way back. Having a fighter like me in front you who’s not going back no matter what makes for a tough fight and it breaks most fighters. In the gym, I’m just working on certain things. And, you can’t always look great in the gym because you are working hard every single day.
How often do you take breaks from the gym?
The only time I take breaks from the gym is after my fight. I take one or two weeks and that’s it. I usually go five days a week all year. I take a weekend for the family, and that’s it.
How long have you been at that schedule?
I’ve been doing that since I started boxing. I feel like I’m still learning. I’ve only had seven amateur fights, so everything is a learning experience. As soon as I stop learning, that’s as far as I’m gonna go.
Chicago boxing is having a comeback with you, Cedric Agnew and Andrew Fonfara all participating in title bouts while ESPN and now Fox Sports are scheduling bouts here. How does it feel to know that Chicago boxing is coming back and that you’re a big part of that comeback?
It feels good. This is what I’ve always wanted. I want to bring more exposure to Chicago. There’s a lot of good potential here, especially with the younger guys who I’ve sparred with like Kenny Sims and Alex Martin and a few other guys. We have some really good fighters here. Chicago is a great sports town, and I hope to bring a big HBO or Showtime card here.
When you won the title, you weren’t given an opportunity to address the fans. Will you be given the opportunity this time?
(Laughs) You know, I’ve made it this far with the ‘I don’t care’ attitude that I have, and that’s because eventually, if I keep doing what I’m doing and keep winning, I’m gonna get my recognition and plus some. If they don’t want to interview me, then that’s fine with me. I’d rather talk to the fans in person anyways. I’m the kinda guy who wants to interact with the fans. I’ve never turned down a photo or an autograph and never will. You know, I just roll with the punches in and out of the ring.
Anything you want to add?
I always say it, but I mean it. I want to be a people’s champ; I want to be Chicago’s champion; and I want to be the type of champion who fights all of the time. As long as I’m getting fights, I’m happy. I’d fight every month if they let me.