Junior Middleweight

Canelo vs. Angulo Undercard: Preview and Prediction for Molina vs. Charlo

Briggs SeekinsFeatured ColumnistMarch 4, 2014

Canelo vs. Angulo Undercard: Preview and Prediction for Molina vs. Charlo

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    On the undercard for Saturday night's Saul Alvarez vs. Alfredo Angulo pay-per-view in Las Vegas, IBF light middleweight champion Carlos Molina will defend his belt against undefeated rising star Jermall Charlo. Both these fighters could be future opponents for either of the headliners. 

    The 154-pound weight class is full of talent, and Molina and Charlo represent two ends of the spectrum.

    Molina is a crafty veteran who has endured setbacks and injustices while continuing to climb. Charlo, by contrast, is a gifted phenom who has been targeted for stardom since his amateur days. 

    Here is a breakdown of their undercard bout.

Tale of the Tape

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images
    Per Boxrec     Carlos Molina      Jermall Charlo
    Record     22-5-2, 6 KOs      17-0, 13 KOs
    Height     5'9"      6'
    Reach     70"      73.5"
    Weight     154 pounds      154 pounds
    Age     30      23
    Stance     Orthodox      Orthodox
    Hometown     Chicago, Illinois      Houston, Texas
    Rounds     215      63

    Jermall Charlo is tall light middleweight with very good reach, and his boxing style maximizes those advantages. But Molina has handled longer opponents in the past. 

    Although Molina lives in Chicago now, he is a native of Mexico. As his low KO percentage indicates, he generally wins with guile. 

Main Storylines

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Carlos Molina won the IBF light middleweight belt from Ishe Smith on the undercard of last September's Floyd Mayweather vs. Saul Alvarez pay-per-view. It was a richly deserved triumph for the longtime battler.

    I can think of few current fighters who have gotten more raw deals than Molina. As an 8-1 prospect in 2005, he was served up to 23-0 Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. for a six-round fight.

    Molina came away with a draw, but he should have gotten credit for giving the son of the legend his first professional loss. Chavez won the rematch two months later by majority decision, but in my opinion, Molina deserved to win that one, too.

    I also think Molina should have gotten the nod in his March 2011 draw with Erislandy Lara. In March 2012, he was thoroughly outboxing fearsome James Kirkland when referee Jon Schorle bizarrely disqualified him at the end of Round 10, because his corner supposedly entered the ring too soon.

    Molina won't have things easy in his first title defense. Jermall Charlo is the slightly taller Charlo twin. He and his brother Jermell are two of the most promising young fighters in the sport.

    Charlo is extremely gifted physically and has been tutored in the sweet science since he was a small child. He's trained by the highly respected Ronnie Shield and managed by the influential Al Haymon. The future looks bright for both him and his twin brother.

    But nothing is going to be handed to him this Saturday. Molina has spent most of his career being the guy whom everybody looks past. He's become a world champion despite it and will not relinquish that status without a tough fight.

Strengths

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    Carlos Molina is an experienced veteran and a skilled ring general. He does a very good job of controlling the tempo of a fight and disrupting his opponents' offense.

    He is a durable fighter. He has been in the ring with physically imposing fighters like Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and James Kirkland and avoided being pushed around.

    Jermall Charlo has exceptional reach, great footwork and a quick, aesthetically pleasing jab. The package allows him to practically toy with people from the outside, setting them up for his powerful straight right.

    In the video included here of Charlo sparring with Erislandy Lara, you can see how effective he is, even against a true world-class professional. It's a sparring session, so it shouldn't be viewed like a fight.

    But Charlo's ability to make a fighter as smart and experienced as Lara slow down and study him is a good indication of the kinds of problems he presents.

Weaknesses

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Carlos Molina has just six KOs in his career, giving him one of the lowest KO percentages among current world champions. A lack of serious punching power isn't a deal breaker, but it makes life tougher.

    He has a tendency to lunge and often settles into a predictable, forward-backward pattern of movement. This could make him vulnerable to a jolting right hand or lead hook.

    Jermall Charlo has fought just 17 times and never against a world-class opponent like Molina. To be a star, a young fighter has to work his way past more experienced veterans.

    But until he manages to do it, there are legitimate question marks hanging over him, no matter how great he has looked in the gym and against lesser opposition.

Carlos Molina Will Win If...

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    To beat Jermall Charlo, Carlos Molina is going to need to get inside of his range. Charlo's reach advantage is substantial, his jab is quick as a piston, and his lateral movement is outstanding.

    So Molina is going to find it difficult to time Charlo's jab and move into range from behind it as the jab is returning. Charlo is quick enough and has good enough footwork to pump another jab or shoot a blistering straight right before Molina can get close enough to hit him.

    Likewise, Molina will have little luck slipping or parrying Charlo's jab. He's likely to eat lead hooks with that strategy.

    What he needs to do is stay in the safe zone beyond Charlo's range and draw the younger fighter forward. Once Charlo is pursuing him, Molina should lead with a power shot, either a left hook or an overhand right, and let his own momentum carry him into range.

    Once he's inside, he needs to throw multiple-punch flurries and make things ugly and uncomfortable. He needs to force Charlo to cover up in order to move out of the challenger's range without getting hit by the longer fighter.

    Once Molina has had some success crashing inside on Charlo, he should mix in feints. Molina is very good at controlling the pace of a fight, and that will be essential here.

    He needs to spend a lot of time outside of the range of engagement and make it difficult for Charlo to determine when he is going to move in and when he is merely feinting.

Jermall Charlo Will Win If...

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    Paul Beaty/Associated Press

    Jermall Charlo is an undefeated young fighter with tremendous natural talent and first-rate training. He's well-connected promotionally and has the path to stardom at his feet.

    But he has to actually walk that path, which will mean continuing to execute against increasingly difficult competition. Carlos Molina might not dazzle, but he is a legitimate top-five junior middleweight.

    Nobody gave him that status. He earned it the hard way and won't just hand it over to Charlo because a bunch of promoters and boxing writers think the twins look like the second coming of Terry Norris and Winky Wright.

    Charlo has the physical advantages over Molina, and he looks to have the technical skills to exploit those physical tools.

    But he'll need to stay cool under the pressure of a much tougher and smarter opponent than he's ever faced. So far he has only had one scheduled 10-round fight in his career. This world-title shot is a major step up.

    Charlo will have to resist getting drawn into Molina's fight. When Molina manages to crash into range where they can both land, Charlo should stay smart and box back out of Molina's range behind his jab instead of listening to his adrenaline and trading flurries.

    He can't let Molina set the tempo. When the champ is trying to speed things up by crashing inside, Charlo needs to negate his offense and slow things down.

    When Molina is trying to regroup on the outside, Charlo needs to press the action and cut off the ring.

    Charlo has most of the advantages in this fight. If he can make control of terrain and tempo at least a push, he should be able to win with relative ease.

Prediction

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    This fight reminds me of the lightweight title fight between Ricky Burns and Terence Crawford last month in Scotland. Burns was a legitimate world-class professional with years of experience.

    But Crawford was a young fighter with next-level talent. And he left Scotland with the belt.

    Carlos Molina rarely gets the respect he deserves, and he'll take Jermall Charlo into his first real trip out in the deep waters. At times, Molina will manage to frustrate the young phenom and win some rounds.

    But Charlo will make the necessary adjustments and keep the fight at a range where he is relatively safe and Molina is relatively vulnerable.

    If the fight does get truly close and compelling, it will happen in the championship rounds, when Charlo may fatigue from lack of experience in long fights.

    But I don't anticipate that. Charlo's ability to pile on more damage will give him the edge late.

    I'm predicting Charlo by decision, 116-112. In 2014 and beyond, the Charlo twins should make an already packed division even more interesting.  

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