KITCHENER—Three days after his knockout loss to Celestino (Pelenchin) Caballero, Steve Molitor stopped by promoter Allan Tremblay’s place in Brampton to select up his paycheque. Over the earlier two years their Monday meet-ups had grow to be a post-fight ritual.
Win or lose, the title unification combat was set to pay Molitor a career-high $175,000 U.S.
Molitor chatted with Tremblay and picked up his cash. Then he disappeared.
He entered Nov. 21, 2008 an undefeated junior featherweight champ in his athletic prime, and thought an enormous win would result in mainstream fame and $600,000 paydays. However he left with a loss and shattered confidence, and spent the subsequent three weeks cocooned in his Mississauga apartment, crushing OxyContin tablets into mud and snorting them like cocaine.
Tremblay referred to as Molitor’s then-fiancée, Tiffany.
Molitor was sober sufficient to listen to the frustration and worry in Tiffany’s voice as she described his situation. Their first baby was due in a month, and he or she didn’t understand how she’d deal with each a new child and a companion hooked on painkillers and self-pity. Later he rose from the sofa for what felt like the primary time in weeks and gathered his medication — $6,000 value, Molitor estimates.
He kicked his Oxy behavior that night time, he says, as a result of his son’s imminent beginning pressured him to focus. Metal Molitor was born Jan. 5, 2009.
A decade later, Molitor remembers two turning factors in 2008.
One value him his title.
The second helped him regain the belt, and extra.
“My son saved my life,” says Molitor, now a 39-year-old divorced father of two. “I simply had sufficient. I used to be being such a (wimp) about not being a world champion. I stated, be a f—–g man. Get it again. Win a world title for him.”
In November of 2006, Molitor crushed Michael Hunter to win the IBF 122-pound world title. From there, the Sarnia native turned one in every of boxing’s busiest champions, defending his belt 5 in simply 13 months.
Molitor’s backers at Orion Sports activities Administration used the fights to headline the Rumble at Rama collection, a franchise that aimed to revitalize boxing in Ontario. In addition they purchased airtime on TSN, spreading Molitor’s fame throughout Canada.
These early defences earned Molitor a repute as an correct counterpuncher, and left him with a pair of aching fingers. The success solely made him extra marketable. As for the fingers, he says a health care provider equipped him with painkillers — first Percocet, then OxyContin.
Although he began the medication to uninteresting ache, Molitor acknowledges his painkiller use shortly turned leisure. If he didn’t have a combat scheduled he’d use the meds like he did cocaine and liquor — simply to get excessive. When he signed a contract for a combat he’d give up chilly turkey and head straight into coaching.
But when the medication affected his coaching, neither promoters nor long-time coach Chris Johnson observed.
“To at the present time, I’ve by no means seen anybody practice like him,” Johnson stated. “That’s one factor about Molitor, he works laborious and he’s f—–g disciplined.”
In the meantime, every successive win pushed Molitor nearer to a reckoning with the 122-pound division’s ruling class. By March 2008, Mexico’s Israel Vazquez held the WBC title, whereas the WBA belt belonged to Caballero, a five-foot-11 Panamanian bruiser.
In Vazquez, Tremblay noticed alternative.
Vazquez stood simply five-foot-four and appreciated to commerce punches at shut vary. The five-foot-seven Molitor was a sharp-shooting counterpuncher who might pepper Vazquez from distance.
Past that, Tremblay says, three brutal bouts in opposition to Rafael Marquez had left Vazquez drained and weak. However Vazquez additionally acknowledged his deep-seated fatigue, and made clear in March 2008 he deliberate to take a sabbatical.
That call left Molitor to take care of Caballero, whose size and aggressiveness made him a tricky matchup. By the spring of 2008, the fighters’ administration groups had reached an settlement in precept to fulfill the next fall.
“It was time to money in for Molitor on a a lot bigger scale than he’d been receiving,” Tremblay says. “He might have stated no. He had no qualms in any respect. That’s the time you roll the cube.”
The matchup didn’t trouble Molitor. After a late-night coaching run he referred to as Johnson and volunteered his ideas.
“I can beat Caballero,” he advised Johnson, “as a result of I’ve you, and he doesn’t.”
Molitor was already 19-Zero when Johnson, a bronze medallist within the 1992 Olympics, took over as his coach. His activity was to spice up Molitor’s confidence and unleash his punching energy. 4 fights later, he was IBF champ.
“Me and Chris have been untouchable,” Molitor says. “Did anybody get near us? By no means.”
By 2008, Johnson was incomes a month-to-month retainer from Orion, plus a share of Molitor’s purses. Most trainers obtain one or the opposite, however Orion paid a premium as a result of Molitor saved bettering. Nonetheless, Johnson lobbied for a elevate, arguing that coaching Molitor was a full-time job that drained power from different fighters in Johnson’s secure. He reasoned that Orion ought to pay extra or threat harming their flagship fighter.
The events can’t agree on what occurred subsequent. Tremblay says Johnson organized Molitor’s defection from Orion. Johnson blames cutman Lenny DeJesus, whom he says linked Molitor with New Jersey-based promoter Murad Muhammad. Both manner, in June 2008, Molitor introduced he was leaving Orion for Muhammad, who Molitor and Johnson stated promised a steep pay elevate, regardless of a protracted historical past of not paying payments.
However every week later, the fighter reversed course, issuing a joint information launch with Orion detailing a long-term dedication. With out Johnson.
“As soon as they found out the cash that was being provided to them was Monopoly cash, Steve got here crawling again,” Tremblay says. “There was no extra arguing after that. We went ahead.”
Molitor spent the summer season of 2008 in Montreal, coaching with new coach Stephane Larouche, and put a constructive spin on the setup. He advised reporters he began to develop stale in Johnson’s camp, and felt refreshed among the many different world champions Larouche skilled. In late August, he defeated Argentine Ceferino Dario Labarda through TKO.
Up subsequent: Caballero.
Trying again, Molitor says the massive and small adjustments surrounding the Caballero bout put him off. Not the cash, after all. The $175,000 practically doubled Molitor’s latest paydays and was roughly six instances Caballero’s normal pay fee.
However Molitor says the schedule and stakes disrupted his combat week routine. After 5 straight Saturday night time fights, this bout was scheduled for a Friday. As a substitute of the same-day weigh-ins Ontario guidelines stipulate, this combat would additionally require him to weigh within the day earlier than.
Even the pre-fight information convention moved from the Delta Chelsea Inn to the Westin Harbour Fortress. When photographers posed the fighters, Molitor regarded tense. He sought eye contact with Caballero, who gleefully refused to reciprocate, figuring out it bothered Molitor.
At Thursday’s official weigh-in Caballero lastly stared Molitor down, and uttered the one phrases he’d converse in English all week.
“I’ll break your face,” he stated.
TSN and Showtime have been oblivious to the behind-the-scenes drama. The Showtime broadcast crew anticipated an intriguing 50-50 matchup.
“(Molitor) is both going to get overrun or he’s going to field superbly to a victory,” stated analyst Steve Farhood. “I actually don’t see any center floor.”
Molitor can’t clarify what occurred subsequent. He can’t keep in mind something in addition to feeling tense.
He nailed Caballero with a counter left within the first spherical, however 30 seconds later Caballero landed a proper and left that made Molitor’s knees go delicate. Caballero utilized extra stress every spherical, touchdown stiff jabs and clubbing proper fingers to Molitor’s physique. After spherical three, an exasperated Larouche begged Molitor to alter gears.
“Simply keep off the f—–g ropes,” he pleaded. “It’s not Steve Molitor right here tonight. It’s not you, man.”
Thirty seconds into the fourth, Caballero dropped Molitor with an uppercut. When Molitor rose, Caballero saved pounding him. By the point referee Luis Pabon intervened to cease the combat, Larouche had already climbed the ring apron to give up.
Within the post-fight interview, Caballero referred to as out the division’s greatest different champs.
“Inform the Mexicans to place their pants on and are available see Pelenchin,” he stated.
And play-by-play man Nick Charles addressed Molitor’s predicament.
“The query is,” Charles stated, “the place does Steve Molitor go from right here?”
When a battered Steve Molitor returned to his lodge suite he discovered an OxyContin pill on his pillow. A pal had left it. “Simply to assist me sleep,” Molitor says.
From there the binge began and, with no title and no combat on the horizon, Molitor noticed no cause to cease. Not till Tremblay referred to as the apartment, and Molitor heard the despair in his pregnant fiancée’s voice.
Her due date was lower than a month away. Molitor says he handled it like a binding deadline and give up medication for good that night time. He collected each tablet, dumped all of it down the trash chute, and hasn’t touched laborious medication since.
“It was robust, nevertheless it was simple as a result of my son got here,” Molitor stated. “January 5.”
Ultimately Molitor and Johnson reunited and the fighter regained the IBF crown, nevertheless it felt completely different. Molitor’s velocity remained however his confidence had eroded, together with the timing that made him so efficient.
Molitor misplaced the title for good in 2011, then cut up with Johnson once more. He went 1-1 in his ultimate two fights and retired in 2012.
“I didn’t watch these fights. I didn’t wish to see it,” Johnson says. “I didn’t wish to see him drift. I simply needed to maintain the reminiscence of how good he was in my head.”
Two years into his retirement, Tremblay helped Molitor get employed at Triple-M Metals, a Kitchener-based scrap steel recycling firm. Molitor oversees a crew of 15 staff. Lately he shares his enterprise card as eagerly as he as soon as displayed his championship belt.
The place the world titles signified Molitor’s elite standing even amongst world-class fighters, the enterprise card symbolizes what Molitor has come to cherish since leaving the ring.
“I’ve no regrets. I don’t want the celebrity, the belts and all that,” Molitor stated. “If I modified one thing, that might mess up what I’ve now. I’ve a superb job with a superb firm, and two wholesome youngsters who love me.”