Nov. 23, 2008: Questions arise after Molitor pounded

Morgan Campbell
Sports Reporter

RAMA, Ont.–Seconds after a right uppercut from Panama’s Celestino Caballero snapped his head skyward, then sent him crashing to the canvas, Steve (The Canadian Kid) Molitor rose on unsteady legs.

He managed a crooked grin, hoping to show Caballero, referee Luis Pabon and everyone else at Casino Rama that he wasn’t really hurt, that he could continue fighting, and possibly even win Friday night’s title unification bout.

But over in Molitor’s corner, trainer Stephane Larouche knew better.

Even as Pabon sent Molitor back toward ring centre, Larouche had climbed the apron, towel in hand. By the time Caballero landed a one-two combination that splayed Molitor across the ropes, Larouche had tossed the towel into the ring.

The Star's Rene Johnston captures the elation and heartbreak of Celestino Caballero's fourth-round tko win over Steve Molitor at Casino Rama Nov. 21, 2008.

Pabon stopped the bout 52 seconds into round four.

Yesterday morning, Caballero returned to Panama with the WBA and IBF 122-pound titles and the clout to make bigger fights in 2009.

Molitor, now 28-1, left the ring with his health – and plenty of questions about his future.

“He’s young and it was not his best night,” Larouche said, explaining why he moved to stop the fight even before the referee did. “Why get abused more? I get paid whether we win or lose.”

Promoter Allan Tremblay said Molitor’s priority is to take a vacation, pointing out that with six title defences in two years, he has been one of boxing’s busiest champions. But he promised that pro boxing would return to Casino Rama even if Molitor doesn’t have a belt.

“We’ll sit down and plot a way to go,” Tremblay said. “You haven’t seen the last of Steve Molitor, believe me. Steve’s (got) opportunities. The stage is set.”

But for what?

Win or lose, a competitive fight against Caballero would have kept Molitor in line for big-money bouts in 2009. But after a four-round beatdown in his U.S. cable TV debut, it’s not clear how marketable Molitor will remain.

Still, Tremblay said he already has dates booked and needs only to work out the details of Molitor’s fight future.

Friday’s bout was the most important to take place in Canada since Roberto Duran – who watched the fight from ringside – defeated Ray Leonard at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in 1980.

Before Friday, no Ontario venue had ever hosted a title unification fight. And when the cable network Showtime signed on to broadcast the bout live in the U.S., the stakes rose a little higher.

In the days before the fight, Molitor said he welcomed the pressure and promised to out-think and outbox the 5-foot-11 Caballero over 12 rounds. Caballero leaned close to Molitor at Thursday’s weigh-in and vowed to break his face.

Only one man followed through on his pre-fight prediction – it wasn’t Molitor. Half an hour after the final bell, he entered the news conference with his nose pounded crooked and his left eye swollen.

Despite his midweek talk about performing under pressure, Molitor hinted that the weight of the occasion wore on him. “Under the big lights, I couldn’t get off as well as I wanted to,”Molitor said. “I got caught up trying to trade with him.”


Caballero’s thudding body blows sapped Molitor’s strength and spirit and just before the end of round three a right uppercut nearly dropped Molitor. “I knew I almost had the knockout,”Caballero said of that shot. “I saw his legs go.”

Early in round four, another uppercut sent Molitor sprawling to the canvas, starting the sequence that ended the fight.

“Steve has never been hit before,” said Caballero, who has had 22 knockouts in 31 career wins. “I told you I was going to come here and break him down and hit him.”

Copyright 2010 Toronto Star

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