By Derek Bonnett: The house came tumbling down on Steve Molitor in November 2008. After successfully defending his IBF super bantamweight title five times and running his record to 28-0 (11), Molitor did something out of the ordinary. He lost. And he lost badly.
Not that there is any shame in losing to Celestino Caballero, who is perhaps the best 122 pounder on the planet, but the manner in which Molitor lost was the real surprise to many. It was supposed to be a solid match-up between two of the four best fighters in the division, but it didn’t look that way at all as Molitor was stopped in the fourth round. The defeat left Molitor with a heavy heart and in need of a substantial rest.
"For some strange reason, the occasion just got to me and I never got going," Molitor explained. "Caballero is an awkward, offensive fighter with a strong punch. I give him his due; he was the better man this time around. It is always a shock for any fighter to lose for the first time. Until that point, you think you are invincible. Becoming a new dad did take my mind off the loss, but the memory lingers and the lesson was learned. The fans have been terrific. I recently brought my family into the ring at an Orion Sports event and their support was overwhelming."
So, now Team Molitor is on to phase two of a career that is likely far from over. While some management teams would favor the slow road to rebuilding a fighter, Molitor’s manager Allan Tremblay has different ideas.
"We have to get him back to the top ASAP," Tremblay asserted. "That means he will have to compete at the highest levels in the division starting with his first fight back. That will take place on June 26 against Heriberto Ruiz at Casino Rama. I never fielded any other offers as this was the strategy from the outset and was always our "Plan B" if you will."
Ruiz, 41-7-2 (23), is a battle proven veteran of the sport with plenty of experience against world class opposition. This is no easy comeback fight for Molitor as Ruiz is in the midst of a hot-streak after winning decisions over Rey Bautista and Mauricio Martinez in his last two bouts.
" I staged a contest between Mauricio Martinez and Ruiz with the winner to face Steve for the number two ranking in the I.B.F," Tremblay explained. "I had to secure two top fifteen contenders to satisfy all parties and thus the contest with Ruiz."
Many fighters are rarely the same after a high profile defeat. Once the aura of invincibility is shattered, some fighters find it difficult to regain their footing in their division. After the Ruiz fight, we will all know a whole lot more about Steve Molitor is made of than we do right now.
"Being at that Orion Sports event I referred to earlier felt strange," Molitor conceded. "I have always been the main attraction at Casino Rama and I was on the outside looking in. It did, however, stoke the competitive fire within me and I am hungry to get back. You will see the old Steve Molitor on June 26."
The old Steve Molitor fought with a confidence and poise that allowed him to dominate his opposition with smart, technical boxing skills. Molitor will need to recover this form if he is to rise to the level he once attained. However, the division is very different now. Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez have been missing from the ring for over a year and will likely return at higher weights if at all. In their absence Juan Manuel Lopez and Bernard Dunne have made considerable noise in positioning themselves just below Caballero.
"I saw the Dunne-Cordoba fight. Great fight, big upset. Good for Dunne," Molitor stated. "I would have no problem traveling to Ireland to fight him. I have had a lot of success in the U.K. and am a well known figure in boxing circles in that area of the world. It would be up to Orion Sports to conclude that deal, but first things first and that’s Heriberto Ruiz."
Molitor was too focused on his next assignment to expound too much on the future, but he was pretty clear on what he felt would transpire in the upcoming 122 pound bout between Lopez and Gerry Penalosa, which directly impacts the future of the division.
"I would have to favor Lopez. He’s too young, too fast, and too strong," Molitor made clear.
Will defeat be enough to refocus The Canadian Kid? Can he put his bad moments against Caballero behind him enough and move forward with his career. Can Molitor be world champion again? These are questions that will only begin to unfold after June 26.
The super bantamweight division is among the best in the sport and it’s only going to be better with Steve Molitor back on track.
April 6, 2009