Pic by author
By Sean Waisglass: After a tumultuous year that saw Steve Molitor leave his long time trainer/manager, undergo eye surgery to correct his vision, wait out an eight-month layoff, and go through another trainer switch just weeks before a serious fight, things are finally back on track for the undefeated Canadian junior featherweight.
And that's a good thing, since he's at the crucial and precarious point in a young pug's career when it's time to take on the kind of challenges that'll evolve his label from 'prospect' into 'contender'.
Molitor, 21-0 (7 KO), who will see action tonight in Toronto, Canada, at the Kool Haus nightclub against Argentinean journeyman Pedro Javier Torres, 39-21-9, is glad to finally have his new team properly aligned, well-oiled, and up and running. "It's a whole new atmosphere, and I'm rejuvenated to fight again," said the 25-year old this week, his mood noticeably upbeat compared to earlier in the year.
Molitor boxed the whole of his pro career under the tutelage and management of respected Toronto trainer Adrian Teodorescu, who worked with Lennox Lewis during his amateur days, and also trained current middleweight prospects Ian Gardner and Kingsley Ikeke early in their careers. But after a career-best win over dangerous bantamweight gatekeeper Hugo Dianzo in April '04, Molitor felt it was time to move on after personality clashes with Teodorescu began to sap his focus.
Molitor eventually hooked up with a new manager in James Jardine of Orion Sports Management, and moved just outside of Toronto to Mississauga to work with former 175 lb NABF title-holder turned trainer Chris Johnson. After a rusty-looking tune-up win with Johnson in February, scheduling conflicts caused Molitor to seek out another respected local trainer in Dewith Frazer just weeks before the first serious match of the new phase in his career.
Molitor faced off against former Nepalese Olympian Depind Thapa, then 20-3-1, in his opponent's adopted hometown of Atlantic City in August. It was a stiff test so soon after the eight-month layoff that preceded his February tune-up. Thapa, like Molitor was a southpaw, and awkward as hell to boot, but Molitor stepped up, dominated the jr. featherweight contest, and became the first man to knockout Thapa when the fight was stopped in the eighth round.
"I couldn't have asked for anything more," said trainer Frazer of his new charge, whom he describes as the hardest working boxer he's ever seen. "He took advice very well, and he was very confident. It shows the difference between him and everybody else because no one's stopped (Thapa before), and it was not competitive."
Frazer was also happy Molitor was able to tame the herky-jerky style of "The Nepal Tiger". "The best thing he did was control the fight," said the trainer, "he never allowed the guy to dictate."
The win boosted the Canadian in the alphabet rankings, securing him the 9th spot at 122 lbs in the WBA, and 11th by the WBC. His highest ranking is 3rd by the IBF in his former division of bantamweight. He also gleaned valuable TV exposure on the Canadian channel TSN's weekly boxing news desk show "In This Corner".
Molitor was just happy to add another knockout to his relatively small KO stat, something he attributes both to the North American style adaptations Frazer has added to compliment the European style Molitor learned from his former trainer, and to the move up from 118 to 122 lbs. "It's a weight I feel comfortable making. 118 was way, way too hard for me. Even 122 is a bit of a test because my body is filling out more, but I feel a lot stronger."
Molitor hopes to show off his newfound heavy hands against Torres tonight, in what will serve as a useful measuring-stick: it's a rematch of their June '04 bout that went the ten round distance. Molitor plans on making it a shorter night this time around. "For that fight I was still with (Teodorescu) and fighting in the European style. I wasn't sitting down on my punches. I put him down once and I hurt him a few times, but this time -- knockout only."
Molitor and his team are planning on regular activity inside the ropes now that things are settled, and are using tonight's match to fine tune things before taking on another solid stepping-stone bout some time in the next month in New Jersey, where the fighter has new promotional connections. "It feels good," the hungry young boxer says of the chance to ply his trade on a regular basis once again. "To be a good fighter, you gotta be busy."