Has Steve Molitor Lost the Eye of the Tiger?

By Ryan Stead: He was around before we knew him, plying his trade, building his reputation and quietly climbing the ranks. Success on the international scene wasn’t handed to the Canadian kid, it was hard earned, and when it finally arrived no Canadian boxer deserved it more. One question has since arisen, is he still hungry?

His first ten fights were against minimal opposition culminating with a victory against faded Scotty Olson. It was a symbol of the changing of the guard in the Canadian lighter weight ranks, and Molitor claimed the Canadian Super Bantamweight title. He conquered the Canadian scene with little to no press, unknown but ready for the international stage. Three fights later he was in England for the first time winning the Commonwealth title from Nicky Booth. Returning home he stepped up his level of competition, a dangerous and necessary step for a fighter with ambition. Still unknown to his own people he remained undefeated and nine fights later he got his shot at glory.

That’s when I first saw him fight. Being an avid Canadian boxing fan I had heard of him through lesser known magazines and second-hand information. I knew he was undefeated, but a world champion? I never heard him billed as that. Up to that point he had earned his shot at a world title, although the title he was fighting for was vacant and both combatants were challengers. Steve was going in to the lion’s den and the raucous Hartlepool crowd was waiting for him. The fight was supposed to be Michael Hunter’s emergence on the big stage, but Steve had a chip on his shoulder and a point to prove. He was hungry.

Right before the opening bell the English crowd was shouting their fight songs and urging their charge on. I was at home watching a back and forth affair, fighting on even terms right up to the end of the fourth round. Then it happened. The Canadian Kid, known then as a slick southpaw without much power, unleashed a dynamite left hand Canadians have been waiting for since Chuavlo vs. Quarry. Hunter dropped like a stone. I couldn’t believe it. Neither could Hartlepool. In the fifth round Molitor showed how hungry a fighter he was. Hunter opened up with a volley, and rather than dancing around the ring Steve fired back combo after combo. When Hunter clinched Steve threw him away and continued his rabid assault. He backed off letting Hunter come forward, and lured his prey in for the kill. Another vicious left and Hunter went down again, shaking his head in submission. With the crowd silenced, Molitor let out a primal scream to the camera like a wild beast. A champion had arrived.

Steve Molitor arrived back in Canada with a title over his shoulder. Boxing was back in Ontario. His next five fights were at Casino Rama, all wins. Steve wasn’t fighting for rent or food money anymore. He was living well as a world champion. Offers from America were suddenly rolling in. Was it the money?

The WBA champion Celestino Caballero dethroned Steve with a knockout loss in his next fight (his first loss). He had switched trainers from Chris Johnson to the renowned Canadian trainer Stephan LaRouche. In this columnist’s eye it was the worst game plan in the world, to fight on the outside with a freakishly tall and powerful fighter, giving Caballero plenty of room to land his big shots. After the fight Molitor and Johnson reunited. Some fighters never get over being knocked out. Was it the knockout loss?

What made the Canadian Kid lose the fire that made him champion?

Less than a year later the talented Steve Molitor was back, but where was the Canadian Kid? After three wins he reclaimed his IBF title with a win over Takalani Ndlovu. This was his second fight with Ndlovu, first time Steve knocked him out in the ninth round. The rematch was much different. The decision could’ve easily gone the other way. I told myself it was an off night for Molitor, but watching his previous three wins before that match I noticed a tentativeness that wasn’t there before. This emerging reluctance was never more displayed than in his fight against Jason Booth. The Steve Molitor I saw was a shell of the fighter I grew to admire. Through the first half of the fight Steve didn’t look interested let alone hungry, only being saved by his talent in the second half of the fight. Two things stood out for me. The commentators said that Allan Tremblay, his promoter, had said that he doesn’t know how much Steve has got left. Not what you want to hear. Secondly, I noticed Steve repeatedly asking his corner if he was winning, as if hoping he was doing just enough. At least he had Russ Anber is his corner telling him not to leave it to chance. Where was the passion? Where was the drive? Where was the chip on his shoulder? Where was the Canadian Kid?

Don’t get me wrong. If Steve retired tomorrow I’d always respect him as the champion he is. A patriot that may have lost his fire, but never his pride. Here’s hoping he can get back that fire, and thrill us like the Steve we saw in Hartlepool. In the immortal words of Apollo Creed, “The eye of the tiger Rock, the eye of the tiger”.