Wherever He Lay His Belt, That’s Carlos Molina’s Home…
It has been more than a year since the International Boxing Federation’s version of the junior middleweight title has been put on the line. The holder of that belt, Carlos Molina will finally make his first defense since winning the title in September of 2013. Not only will he be introduced for the first time as a champion but he will also do so in his native home. However, the term “home” in Molina’s case, is to be used rather loosely.
Although tonight will be his first defense, it is not the first one scheduled for him. Fresh off winning his first world title from Ishe Smith on the undercard of the Floyd Mayweather-Saul Alvarez pay-per-view, Molina found himself back on the biggest of stages yet again, slated to defend his crown against Jermall Charlo on the March 8 PPV undercard of Saul Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo. However, upon his arrival in Las Vegas, Molina was jailed just days before the fight was scheduled to take place. Unable to free himself from behind the steel bars, his fight between the ropes was canceled on the day it was scheduled.
Turns out Molina’s arrest was from a 2007 warrant issued in Wisconsin because he failed to register as a sex offender following a 2002 no-contest plea to statutory rape (a felony). In that case, Molina was charged because he, an 18-year-old at the time, had sex with his girlfriend, who was 15 or 16 years old. He posted bond for the warrant but that’s not what kept him in jail for close to a month after showing up to Las Vegas for a title defense. Another red flag popped up; he was also an illegal alien.
That issue started in 2006 after a fight with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. in Mexico. Upon trying to return to Chicago, IL, which had been the place he called home since he was four years old, Molina was flagged for that same felony in 2002. He wasn’t let back into the States as a result and Molina didn’t fight the deportation at the time. Instead, he re-entered the U.S. illegally, which best explains his failure to turn himself in for the warrant that got him thrown in jail in the first place.
Now that you have regained your collective breaths after absorbing the reasoning of that fiasco, Molina is back in the ring. This time around, he will be making his official debut as the IBF 154-pound titlist in his country of origin, Mexico, and I guess you can cynically say, his new “home.” Since going through that debacle, one positive Molina has comes in the form of his new adviser Al Haymon, certainly good for him from a financial perspective. Normally fighters performing under those advising wings of Haymon have their fights hand-picked by the mysterious manager but tonight, Molina is set to fight a mandatory opponent determined by the IBF.
An old dog in the fight game, 41-year-old Cornelius “K9” Bundrage, 33-5 (19), is no stranger to the IBF junior middleweight title because he once held it for a two-and-a-half years. After winning the belt from Cory Spinks on a fifth-round TKO in 2010, he successfully defended it twice before running into Ishe Smith, coincidentally: the same guy Molina won it from in Smith’s first defense. Since losing the title in February of 2013, Bundrage has only had one fight this past January against Joey Hernandez. Inexplicably, that unanimous decision victory for Bundrage catapulted him into top contention from the IBF’s 15th ranked fighter at 154 pounds. Obviously, the junior middleweight division isn’t very deep in the talent pool.
Aptly named “K9,” Bundrage is in for a dog fight against a dirty fighter in Molina. Carlos is far from the exciting style typical when talking about a Mexican fighter (that said, he didn’t really learn to box there). Rather than knock an opponent out, Molina tries to frustrate his opponent to make them look bad in the eyes of the judges. Although it’s not a style that comes with the satisfaction of the crowd, the game plan does work on some occasions. Molina hasn’t really lost since 2007 (against Mike Alvarado) if you don’t count the awful disqualification he received against a tough James Kirkland in a bout he was winning (his cornerman entered the ring as the referee was administering a count that resulted in the DQ). You can rest assured that he will try and fight his fight because Bundrage hasn’t been a serious threat for a knockout. Quite frankly, neither is Molina, 22-5 (6).
Despite the makings of a match-up prospected to be an ugly contest and the fact it features a convicted felon who shows no signs for obeying U.S. law, ESPN (a Disney company) decided to buy the rights to the title bout just days leading up to tonight. ESPN Deportes will carry the telecast and the card will begin at 9:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. PT (if you would like to catch an English-language broadcast, you can tune in to ESPN3.com). In these days of boxing, the decision for ESPN to make this move doesn’t surprise me but what would shock me is hearing any boxing fan clamoring for a chance to watch this fight. Nevertheless, the IBF junior middleweight title is finally being hung in the balance.
That same IBF title has been held by the likes of Terry Norris, Raul Marquez, Luis Ramon “Yori Boy” Campas, Fernando Vargas, Felix Trinidad and Winky Wright. In that order, from Norris’ defeat of Paul Vaden in 1995 to Wright’s vacation of the title in 2004, the IBF junior middleweight title was a prized possession held by esteemed prizefighters. Since then, it has been held by a cavalcade of anonymous pugilists, unrecognizable when compared to the aforementioned names (unless you want to count a guy with a very recognizable boxing name in Cory Spinks). Much like the fighter who wears the strap around his waist today, the IBF junior middleweight belt needs a solid home. Tonight, we will see if Carlos Molina can do that by starting a reign that can overshadow the past 10-year history of the crown, as well as his recent stumble out of the gate since becoming champion.