By Kieran Mulvaney
When Carlos Molina enters the ring against power-punching James Kirkland in Houston on March 24, he will do so as the underdog. That’s unlikely to bother him; the junior middleweight has been there plenty of times before.
He was the underdog last May against Erislandy Lara, the undefeated and highly-touted Cuban southpaw. That didn’t prevent Molina from taking the fight to the favored prospect, appearing to outwork and outland the Cuban over ten rounds, but ultimately having to share the spoils in a majority draw.
He was the underdog two months later when he faced former welterweight titlist Kermit Cintron. But he dominated from first bell to last, Cintron’s body language betraying awareness of the inevitability of defeat early in the contest, and Molina this time rewarded with the victory he had earned.
And yet, after both performances, a frustrated Molina was obliged to watch: first as Lara was rewarded with a bout against Paul Williams – one which Lara appeared to win comfortably but in which he wound up on the wrong end of one of the most jaw-droppingly dreadful decisions of recent times; and then as Cintron was granted a title shot against Mexico’s Saul Alvarez, only to be blown out inside of five rounds.
Much of the reason for being looked at as an underdog, and then looked over entirely, is Molina’s record: at 19-4-2, it does not scream greatness in the way of, say, Floyd Mayweather’s mark of 42-0 or even Kirkland’s 30-1. But three of those four defeats came in the space of 12 months from February 2006 to 2007, in successive setbacks against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr, Wayland Willingham, and Mike Alvarado; all three of those opponents were undefeated at the time, and Chavez and Alvarado remain so.
Since then, Molina has gone 11-0-1, and now he is getting another opportunity to upset the applecart of a more celebrated foe. The Houston fans will surely be cheering for fellow Texan Kirkland, and the majority of HBO viewers will almost certainly be watching in anticipation of the kind of exciting, heavy-hitting performance that the man from Austin displayed last time out, against Alfredo Angulo.
Molina won’t care. He'll block out the crowd, ignore Kirkland’s favored status, put down his head, get to work, and look to secure another unexpected victory.
After all, that’s what he’s done plenty of times before.