Molitor tilts at windmill

Geoff Roberts @ ringside


Molitor tilts at windmill

Caballero-Molitor Analysis

Last Friday night at Casino Rama in Ontario, Canada, IBF junior featherweight champion Steve Molitor found himself, like Don Quixote, in a losing scrap with a windmill. But unlike the windmill that trounced the old knight, this one had two spindly legs that enabled it to move-at least, in one direction-- forward.  Make that fast forward.  The windmill arrived in Canada by way of Panama City, Panama, and goes by the name Celestino Caballero. Before climbing into the ring to face Molitor, Caballero held the WBA’s 122-pound championship.  Not many minutes after stepping into the Casino Rama ring, he had added Molitor’s IBF counterpart to his growing belt collection.
After witnessing the quick, violent destruction of their hometown favorite, the largely Canadian audience grew sullen. Their Canadian Kid had been convincingly defeated and the 32-year-old Caballero was left sprawled facedown on the canvas crying.  They were not tears of remorse for having battered, bruised and practically knocked the Kid unconscious. No. Caballero’s were tears of joy for putting himself in a better position to bring a fortune home to Panama and to further unify the 122-pound championship crown.

From the first bell Molitor endeavored to settle down and fight his usual way. Moving away, backwards, sideways, slipping punches, covering up, then stepping in to unleash short combinations. He would wear his man down this way. But the usual way didn’t work with this opponent. Four inches taller and with a five-inch reach advantage, Caballero requires distance to do his best work. And
Molitor’s constant retreat provided the needed room.  Slamming Molitor’s head and body with right crosses and left hooks, frequent uppercuts, all with no predictable pattern or hint as to what was coming next, Caballero sped into the fray.  The onslaught both hurt and bewildered the Canadian, but he never attempted to change his style.

The end, which came 2:52 seconds into the fourth round, saw Molitor twice knocked to the canvas by left hooks and right uppercuts. Referee Luis Pabon called a halt to the one-sided affair just as Stephane Larouche, Molitor’s trainer, had thrown a towel into the ring. It was clear to all that Molitor was finished for the evening. Caballero’s record now stands at 31-2 with 22 KOs, compared to Molitor’s 28-1 with 11 KOs.

Pouring a little salt into Molitor’s wounds after the short fight, Caballero told Showtime interviewer Steve Farhood that Molitor is not a warrior.  He was a fine champion for the public but not for the fight. Caballero, on the other hand, is a warrior, a real warrior.  Exactly what Caballero meant is open to interpretation. One wonders if he felt Molitor wasn’t really committed to the sport?  If that’s what he meant, Caballero is mistaken. It was the Canadian’s style, not a lack of commitment, that played into the hands of the Panamanian and allowed for such a convincing victory.

Now Molitor and his management are left contemplating a less rosy future. There is hard work ahead for sure. But one loss to a previously undefeated boxer, even by TKO, is not the ten count on a career. Tony Zale, the Man of Steel, back in the 1940s, was knocked out several times before two managers recognized potential in the tough boxer and took him under their wing. They taught him to shorten his punches and to fight in close. The rest is boxing history, as Zale went on to win the middleweight championship of the World, then lost it to Rocky Graziano but won it back.  Joe Louis, the great Brown Bomber was knocked out by Max Schmeling before going on to greater fame. In more recent times, Lennox Lewis reversed knockouts at the hands of Oliver McCall and Hasim Rahman. So there is little novelty in seeing the good ones lose one or two. Learning from the experience and coming back an improved fighter makes for greatness in the ring.
As far as Caballero is concerned, it will take a good inside fighter to deny him the room he needs to fight at his best to beat him. A tough boxer who will stay inside and pound on  Caballero’s long body until he brings the man’s chin down to a level where it can be handily reached.

With exception of the Canadian heavyweight championship bout between Greg Kielsa  and Raymond Olubawale, the Casino Rama undercard was largely entertaining.  At 147 pounds, Phil Boudreault continues to improve markedly.


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