Junior middleweight contender Carlos Molina has persevered over the course of a career that has been characterized by disputed decision losses and setbacks, one of which was a controversial disqualification.
“There are a lot of rated fighters who’ve had twice as many bouts as Carlos Molina and not endured 10 percent of the heartache,” said Tom Gray of RingTV.com. “Split-decisions, majority decisions, draws and obscene referee intervention have left the Mexican stylist with a very deceiving record of 21-5-2 that includes six knockouts.”
On the other hand, there is Ishe Smith (25-5, 11 knockouts), a 35-year-old who has gone from nearly committing suicide to signing with Floyd Mayweather’s promotional company and winning the IBF title in February with a unanimous decision that dethroned Cornelius Bundrage.
“I think that Ishe’s got the momentum now,” said RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward. “He’s the champion, and it seems like his career has been revitalized. Ishe’s got a good team around him.”
On Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Showtime Pay Per View, Smith will make the first defense of his belt against Molina on the undercard of the main event between between Mayweather and RING 154-pound champion Canelo Alvarez.
“In many respects, this is the ugly stepchild of the card,” said ESPN.com’s Kieran Mulvaney of Smith-Molina, part of an event that includes RING junior welterweight beltholder Danny Garcia’s defense against Lucas Matthysse.
“These are two highly-regarded fighters who have dragged themselves to the top the hard way, neither of whom are renowned for an aesthetically pleasing style and who will likely combine for an at times awkward-looking style clash.”
Owing to his rugged, workmanlike style that is pleasing to hardcore boxing fans, Molina scored a resounding unanimous decision over Cory Spinks in his last fight in February, dropping the former welterweight champ in the 11th round and nearly stopping him in the 12th.
Molina had an unbeaten streak of 11-0-1 with two stoppages heading into his fight with James Kirkland in March of last year, a run that included a draw with then-unbeaten Erislandy Lara in March of 2011 and a unanimous decision over former welterweight beltholder Kermit Cintron in July of 2011.
Against Kirkland, Molina was ahead on two judges’ cards when, in the 10th round of the 12-round title eliminator, a member of his corner stepped into the ring before the bell. Molina was disqualified as a result.
Molina also endured a 2005 draw and a six-round majority decision loss in 2006 against former WBC middleweight beltholder Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., as well as an eight-round majority decision setback against current WBO junior welterweight beltholder Mike Alvarado in 2007.
“It’s hard not to feel bad for Carlos Molina,” said Jeffrey Freeman of KO Digest. “In the ring, he does most everything well, but nothing spectacularly.”
As pointed out by Ward, however, Smith has been fighting with an intensity reborn, having won four straight bouts, two of them by stoppage, since falling by consecutive unanimous decisions to then-undefeated prospects Danny Jacobs and Fernando Guerrero in August of 2009 and July of 2010. A Las Vegas resident, Smith floored Guerrero in the eighth of their 10-round bout.
“I’m not expecting a thriller with this matchup of crafty technicians,” said RingTV.com’s Doug Fischer. “Ishe Smith will land the cleaner, harder punches, but Carlos Molina’s greater activity will win him rounds. They’re both awkward in their own way, and they might neutralize each other en route to a toss-up decision.”
RingTV.com polled 24 boxing insiders for their thoughts on Smith-Molina, the results of which are below.
Ishe Smith UD 12 Carlos Molina: I think that Ishe Smith should win. Ishe’s got a better skill set. Carlos Molina, he’s rough and rugged.
But I think Ishe should be able to win with the better skills and the better boxing ability. I think that he should be able to win a 12-round unanimous decision.
Ishe Smith MD or close UD 12 Carlos Molina: I’m not expecting a thriller with this matchup of crafty technicians. Ishe Smith will land the cleaner, harder punches, but Carlos Molina’s greater activity will win him rounds.
They’re both awkward in their own way, and they might neutralize each other en route to a toss-up decision. I’ve got to figure that Smith, the hometown guy and the Mayweather Promotions fighter, will get the benefit of the doubt on the scorecards.
Record: 10-5 [Last pick: Cleverly UD 12 Kovalev]
Ishe Smith SD 12 Carlos Molina: A draw wouldn’t be a surprise. It’s a toss-up, except for a hometown edge possessed by Ishe Smith, who trains in Las Vegas and is promoted by Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Carlos Molina will score often with his busy style. On the power side, Smith has the advantage. At a neutral site, it’s probably a draw. In Vegas, it’s Smith in a narrow victory that will have the crowd screaming for a rematch.
Record: 13-5 [Arreola TKO 7 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina SD 12 Ishe Smith: It’s hard not to feel bad for Carlos Molina. In the ring, he does most everything well, but nothing spectacularly. By all accounts, he should be able handle the 35-year-old Ishe Smith to claim his first world title. The question is, can he do it without the controversy and bad luck that seems to follow him around the sport? Yes and no.
From a political and promotional standpoint, the Las Vegas native, Sugar Shay Smith, brings more juice to the ring than his win-loss record would indicate, and Molina will have to perform conclusively if he doesn’t wish to again wind up on the wrong side of a close decision.
Much tighter on the judge’s score cards than it looks in the ring, Molina finally wins the big one but has to settle for a split-decision.
Record: 9-7 [Mitchell TKO 7 Arreola]
Ishe Smith UD 12 Carlos Molina: There are a lot of rated fighters who’ve had twice as many bouts as Carlos Molina and not endured 10 percent of the heartache.
Split-decisions, majority decisions, draws and obscene referee intervention have left the Mexican stylist with a very deceiving record of 21-5-2 that includes six knockouts.
I rate Molina highly, but new IBF junior middleweight champion, Ishe Smith, has sacrificed so much to achieve his goal, and I can’t see him losing in his first title defense.
I think he can outwork Molina over the distance and win a close but unanimous decision. Still, it’s great to see Molina get his chance to claim a world title. Sometimes, this sport actually does deliver fair play.
Record: 5-3 [Arreola TKO 4 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina SD 12 Ishe Smith: Though Ishe Smith is the more skilled boxer and will perform well, I think Carlos Molina has shown himself to be a viable contender at 154 pounds.
The judges will favor his aggression against Smith’s style, and Molina will eke out a controversial split decision that will lead into an immediate rematch.
Carlos Molina W 12 Ishe Smith: It helps Ishe Smith’s cause that the fight will be in his birthplace of Las Vegas. While he’s not the main attraction, the enormous and energetic crowd will lift his spirits. But Carlos Molina is coming in with a winner’s mindset because after starting his career 8-4-1, he has gone 13-1-1 since.
A good argument can be made that he should be on a 15-fight winning streak given the controversial disqualification against James Kirkland and the draw against Erislandy Lara, which many observers thought Molina deserved to win. Just as Smith was hungry to beat Cornelius Bundrage, Molina will be starving to beat Smith.
Molina doesn’t care that he’s the “B-side” of the equation, because that’s pretty much where he’s been pegged for most of his career. I believe that an inspired Molina will outwork and out-hustle Smith, who tends to fall into mid-fight funks, and win a closer-than-merited unanimous decision.
Record: 10-6 [Arreola KO 8 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina SD 12 over Ishe Smith: Carlos Molina is underrated, has a diverse skill set and has lost just one fight — a disqualification defeat to James Kirkland — since dropping a majority decision to Mike Alvarado in February 2007.
The determined Mexican contender comes into this fight much the way Ishe Smith did against Cornelius Bundrage.
At 30, he’s hungry to win his first world title and aware that these championship chances cannot be squandered. He’ll find a way to out-work Smith and win a decision in what should be a close fight.
Record: 9-3 [Arreola TKO 5 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith SD 12 Carlos Molina: I think under normal circumstances or at a neutral site, I might have gone with Carlos Molina on this. Their records are similar, skills are close and Molina has faced an outstanding array of opponents.
I just think the intangibles are with Ishe Smith. Finally, after getting a title after years of trying, having endured through severe ups and downs in and out of the ring, Smith will be desperate to hang on the crown.
It will be an awkward match at times, perhaps not aesthetically pleasing, but with the backing of a hometown crowd, Smith will prevail, by decision, barely.
Record: 12-5 [Arreola KO 4 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith UD 12 Carlos Molina: In many respects, this is the ugly stepchild of the card. These are two highly-regarded fighters who have dragged themselves to the top the hard way, neither of whom are renowned for an aesthetically pleasing style and who will likely combine for an at times awkward-looking style clash.
It’s hard to see either man clearly getting the upper hand here, but Ishe Smith – even after all this time in the game – feels like his is the star that is on the ascendant. He’ll prove the classic case of a fighter being improved by having a belt.
Working with Floyd Mayweather has improved his conditioning issues, and he’ll carry a confidence in his attack that has sometimes been missing. That will be enough to take him to a points victory in front of his home crowd.
Record: 1-0 [Mayweather KO 10 Robert Guerrero]
Ishe Smith W 12 Carlos Molina: Both man are of the gate-keeper variety. But since we have a plethora of world titles out there, somebody has to own one.
Nevertheless, Ishe Smith’s win gives him new confidence, and I think it will carry over in this one. Carlos Molina offers nothing surprising and Smith has seen these type of guys before.
Record: 9-6 [Arreola KO 4 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina MD 12 Ishe Smith: Ishe Smith’s first defense of his junior middleweight belt against Carlos Molina probably won’t be aesthetically pleasing, but it can’t be any worse to watch than his title winning victory over Cornelius Bundrage.
I expect a tough to score fight that Molina edges if the judging is fair. I think he’ll be able to frustrate Smith with his
style, it’s just a matter of how much the judges will discredit him if he holds too much.
Smith has looked very sharp in the gym sparring bigger guys and I wouldn’t be surprised if he held onto the title. In the end, I’m leaning Molina by majority decision.
Record: 8-1 [Arreola KO 9 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith W 12 Carlos Molina: This is truly a pick-em fight. Ishe Smith and Carlos Molina have similar skill sets. They jab and defend well, but haven’t registered many knockouts.
Smith is the older of the two by eight years, but he’ll have the advantage of fighting at home, something that Molina is worried about. I see a tactical, hard-to-score fight, with Smith winning via a close and controversial 12-round decision.
Record: 2-1 [Arreola TK 6 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina W 12 Ishe Smith: Ishe Smith hasn’t looked too good lately, while Carlos Molina is on a somewhat hot streak — referee and judges scorecards not included.
Molina should be able to win this fight, but against a Floyd Mayweather Jr.-promoted fighter on a Mayweather under card, I have my concerns.
I’ll nervously put those concerns to the side, though, and assume that Molina wins clearly enough that he can’t be robbed this time. Molina by split decision in just a so-so fight.
Record: 12-6 [Arreola KO 4 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina W 12 Ishe Smith: This has controversy written all over it. Carlos Molina should win this pretty solidly, but he has been unlucky with officials — both striped and pencil carrying.
In a fight closer on the cards then in the ring, Molina’s better overall game and more consistent volume of shots should see him through to victory over Ishe Smith.
Record: 12-6 [Arreola KO Mitchell]
Carlos Molina UD 12 Ishe Smith: Ishe Smith was fortunate to outlast Cornelius Bundrage and win his first major title in an ugly fight in February.
Carlos Molina isn’t fun to watch either, but he is an extremely crafty fighter with a great deal of experience and underrated toughness.
Smith will fight with passion but will become frustrated in the face of Molina’s superior skills, which will be the difference in the fight. Molina by a unanimous decision.
Record: 8-5 [Arreola KO 8 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina W 12 Ishe Smith: I like Carlos Molina in this fight. I think that Molina is awkward enough to give Ishe a really hard time.
Ishe has been inactive for a lot of his career, and I think that in this fight, Molina has an edge, in my eyes, anyway. I think that it’s a decision.
That’s because I don’t see either guy being a big puncher. So I think that it’s going to go the distance, and that Molina’s awkwardness will prevail.
Carlos Molina KO 9 Ishe Smith: Carlos Molina outboxes Ishe Smith. I feel Molina has been in with better fighters than Smith, preparing him for this stage.
Record: 15-4 [Arreola KO 4 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith W 12 Carlos Molina: That’s a tough one for me. I like Ishe Smith, and I think that he may have grown up with winning his championship.
For a guy like that, having a championship gives him an extra gear. So in a fight like this against Carlos Molina, I like Ishe by decision.
Record: 2-0 [Golovkin TKO 10 Macklin]
Ishe Smith MD 12 Carlos Molina: I’m picking Ishe Smith by majority decision. I think this will be a tough fight, and Molina is a very worthy challenger. It’s a pretty even match, I just like Smith in a close, ugly affair.
I think it goes down to how well can Smith press the fight against a guy who is at his best when he’s frustrating his opponents. In a close fight, champion gets the benefit of the doubt.
Record: 7-3 [Arreola KO 3 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith D Carlos Molna: This fight will end in controversy much like the J’Leon Love–Gabriel Rosado fight did back in May. Ishe Smith has been outworked in almost every one of his notable fights, and this one will look pretty much the same.
Molina will seemingly control the action most of the way in a less than thrilling fashion by throwing and landing the champ by a considerable margin. However, the judges will see it differently and Smith will keep his title despite having been clearly outworked.
Record: 6-1 [Arreola KO 5 Mitchell]
Carlos Molina W 12 Ishe Smith: I’m going with Carlos Molina by decision. This matchup of two boxers will leave fans yearning for action — and likely getting it — heading into the Danny Garcia-Lucas Matthysse fight.
Molina will outwork Ishe Smith and should earn a decision. But remember, this is Vegas.
Record: 9-5 [Arreola KO 5 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith W 12 Carlos Molina: I’m intrigued by this one. I don’t see it as an all-out action fight, but rather, a chess match, some spoiling. At times this maybe a little awkward to watch.
Both guys are seasoned over the distance and neither is a noted puncher. I see Ishe Smith winning a close but clear decision over Carlos Molina.
Record: 5-3 [Arreola KO 7 Mitchell]
Ishe Smith W 12 Carlos Molina: I think that this is a fight that Ishe Smith is going to win. I think that Ishe’s got the momentum now. He’s the champion, and it seems like his career has been revitalized.
Ishe’s got a good team around him, so I think that Ishe’s going to rise to the occasion against Carlos Molina, being on the undercard of a Floyd Mayweather fight and being in the Money Team’s camp and all of that sort of stuff.
This is a fight that Ishe can not afford to lose, and I think that he understands that. So I’m sure that he’s well prepared and I definitely see Ishe getting his hand raised. I definitely think Ishe is going to retain his title.
By the narrow score of 12-11-1, the experts give IBF titleholder Ishe Smith the edge toward retaining his belt against Carlos Molina.
[Note: Martinez-Burgos was a draw, meaning all who selected otherwise received a loss]
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Photo by Chris Cozzone, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]