Photos by Sumio Yamada
AMIR KHAN vs CARLOS MOLINA
Meeting a heavy puncher is the last thing that Amir Khan needs after his three-knockdown, fourth-round defeat against Danny Garcia in July, hence the choice of Carlos Molina as an opponent for Khan’s ring return in Los Angeles tonight on Showtime.
Molina (not to be confused with the junior middleweight contender of the same name) is unbeaten but considered to be unthreatening. He has won 17 of his 18 bouts with one draw — but Molina has stopped only one of his last eight opponents.
Manuel Leyva, a trial horse with five stoppage defeats on his record, went the full 10 rounds with Molina.
So, if any unbeaten boxer can be called a “safe” opponent, Molina is — on paper at least — as safe as it gets.
Still, the 12-round bout (for the WBC Silver light-welter title) has its intrigue.
We don’t know quite what to expect from Khan after suffering the second devastating defeat of his career. Also, this will be Khan’s first fight with his new trainer, Virgil Hunter, after Khan parted company with Freddie Roach.
It is believed that Hunter will address Khan’s defensive flaws, which is all well and good, but whether Khan follows instruction when in the thick of battle is another matter. Khan, it appears to me, has a tendency to forget to keep his hands up — and when a good puncher checks Khan’s chin there will always be a problem.
This is where Molina comes in. Molina is a good, tough fighter with good hand speed and a fighter’s instincts, and he will have the crowd behind him in Los Angeles — but nothing in his record or his recent performances suggests that he is a particularly hard hitter. Khan, then, should have considerable margin for error in this fight.
For Molina, meanwhile, the fight is one of those win-win situations. If Molina simply puts up a respectable showing, his stock rises; if he pulls off the huge upset he will become an overnight sensation.
“I’m excited,” Molina, a 27-year-old father of two, told me over the phone from his home in Norwalk, about a half-hour drive from downtown Los Angeles. “This is an opportunity to shine and make a name for myself. Amir Khan is known worldwide, but I’m going to step in that ring and let the world know who I am.
“Khan’s a good fighter, he has good hand speed, but it doesn’t matter what he does or what he brings to the table, because I’ve trained hard, I’m dedicated, and I know he’s not hungrier than me. He’s going to get another loss on his record.”
These are fighting words from Molina, who will, I am sure, give his all.
“It’s a tough fight, but I think our chances are good,” Molina’s manager, Frank Espinoza, told me over the phone from Los Angeles. “What does Khan have in him right now? There’s going to be a lot of doubt; there’s a new trainer involved. I think we have take it to him, don’t let him think too long and don’t let him build his confidence.”
The tactics seem sound, yet while Molina is capable and expresses self-belief, Khan simply looks the faster fighter with the superior skills — and Khan has fought at a far higher level.
One has to think, then, that Khan will be too talented and too experienced for a boxer who is taking a massive step up in class.
Khan’s career is at stake tonight. Defeat would be a disaster for Khan — and I don’t think it will happen. That said, I’m expecting Molina to give a good account of himself and I will be surprised if Khan blows him out quickly .
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