CHICAGO -- If Carlos Molina is a snake-bitten fighter, the only evidence that betrayed it Friday at the UIC Pavilion was a small cut near his right eye -- which he wore, along with a smile on his face, in a cramped locker room after his main event bout.
It was virtually the sum total of damage that Molina suffered -- on a head-butt, no less -- in a start-to-finish beatdown of former two-division titlist Cory Spinks. Ringside judges scored it 119-106 (twice) and 120-105 for Molina. ESPN.com had it 119-106 for Molina.
“He clinched me and he held me, he bought himself a little more time, but he should have given me a little more space,” Molina said of the butt.
It was that sort of fight for Molina (21-5-2, 6 KOs), who did what he could with what he had in front of him. Facing constant pressure from Molina, Spinks countered occasionally, but his stock answer seemed to be to clinch, drop his head or get on his bike. Molina had implied before the fight that he’d be gunning for a knockout, but Spinks did everything in his power not to comply.
“Of course you always want to put on a good show,” Molina said. “Fans love a good show, and I’m a No. 1 boxing fan, too. I’m not just a boxer -- I love boxing. So I try to put on a good show but at the same time come out with the victory.”
So Molina settled for the latter, delivering a withering body attack to take out the 34-year-old Spinks’ legs. He often led with shots downstairs, and he frequently chopped at Spinks’ hips and ribs in the clinch.
The work paid off in the second half of the fight as Spinks slowed down, and Molina added one adjustment that seemed to sap the last of Spinks’ spirit: In the eighth round, he began arcing uppercuts at Spinks’ chin when he would duck into his exaggerated crouch. There was little left for Spinks to do but hold on -- and in the ninth, he was docked a point for doing exactly that. A round later, a bent-over Spinks took a looping right hand across the mouth that punctuated another Molina combination, fell forward and dropped his gloves to the canvas for a knockdown.
“I was working that body,” Molina said, “and I felt him lose his breath a little bit, and then I came back with the right hand.”
Molina had endured a near-Shakespearean run of recent bad luck in the ring, but Friday’s bout proved to be more comic (in its ease) than tragic. Although he didn’t get the decisive ending he’d hoped for -- and the lack of finishing power, especially in a fight where Molina admitted to more aggressively seeking a knockout, has to be considered a mark against him -- he is rewarded a mandatory bout against the winner of the Feb. 23 title fight between Cornelius "K9" Bundrage and Ishe Smith.
After being on the south end of squirrely decisions against Erislandy Lara and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., not to mention a shady disqualification against James Kirkland, it seems a more-than-just reward.
In the featured bout, Jose Luis Castillo (64-11-1, 55 KOs) looked every one of his 39 years, dropping a clear decision to Antwone Smith (22-4-1, 12 KOs). Although Castillo hooked gamely to the body throughout the fight and even had Smith bleeding from the mouth in the later rounds, his legs had long since deserted him by then. A stationary target waving a token guard, he took jab after jab from Smith, who coasted 100-90, 98-92, 99-91.