By Keith Idec
If Jermall Charlo’s confidence is an accurate indication of how he’ll fight Saturday night, Carlos Molina might just be headed for his first real loss in seven years.
Charlo called Molina a “stepping stone” and referred to himself as an “elite fighter” in advance of their 12-round fight for Molina’s IBF junior middleweight title. The Molina-Charlo clash will be part of the Canelo Alvarez-Alfredo Angulo undercard at MGM Grand in Las Vegas (Showtime Pay-Per-View; $59.95 in HD; 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“This is like a regular fight to me,” Charlo said. “I work hard for every fight. Carlos Molina, he is just a stepping stone and I just have to get past this obstacle. Once my team gets past this, I feel like we’ll be at the top forever.”
The 23-year-old Charlo, the twin brother of fellow junior middleweight contender Jermell Charlo (23-0, 11 KOs), is 17-0 and has knocked out 13 of his professional opponents since he made his debut in September 2008. He has not, however, fought a former world champion or a top 10 contender during his ascent toward this title shot.
Houston’s Charlo did knock out once-formidable Antwone Smith (23-5-1, 12 KOs) in the second round of their Aug. 9 fight in Indio, Calif., but Smith had lost three of his previous eight bouts, including a ninth-round TKO defeat to Detroit’s Lanardo Tyner (31-9-2, 20 KOs).
“This fight is big,” said Charlo, who works with respected trainer Ronnie Shields. “It’s major. I’m 17-0 right now. I haven’t even clinched 20 fights and I’m fighting for a world title. I feel like I’m an elite fighter. I have an elite team behind me. So it’s just a matter of time.”
The Mexican-born, Chicago-bred Molina is 22-5-2, but his lone loss since February 2007 was a disqualification defeat to James Kirkland in March 2012 in Houston. Molina was winning that 12-round elimination match on two of three scorecards, but was disqualified because one of his corner men entered the ring before the 10th round officially ended.
The 30-year-old Molina also is much more proven against accomplished opposition. In addition to his strong performance against the heavy-handed Kirkland, Molina has beaten former world champions Ishe Smith, Cory Spinks and Kermit Cintron in the past 2½ years.
Charlo isn’t impressed. Molina has not been knocked out in 29 professional fights, but Charlo believes he can change that.
“This is like any other fight I’ve ever had,” Charlo said. “In 2013, none of my opponents had been knocked out. I knocked them out. I face top guys and it’s just another day at the office for me.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.