- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Carlos Molina's junior middleweight title win against Ishe Smith on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on the Floyd Mayweather-Canelo Alvarez undercard was an exercise in frustration if you were a viewer trying to make it through the fight.
Let's be perfectly honest: It was a bad, bad fight. The styles of Molina and Smith went together about as well as fish and peanut butter.
But for Molina it was nothing less than a thing of beauty and the fulfillment of a dream.
"I knew I had reached one of the goals I set on the day I started boxing," Chicago's Molina said.
Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) has been a hard-luck fighter and sometimes been on the wrong end of a close decision or bad call by a referee. But this time he beat Smith, deservedly so, by split decision -- even though he was fighting in the hometown of Smith, who is promoted by Mayweather, the house fighter.
Now that he has a belt, Molina has put himself in a great position. With Alvarez losing his belts to Mayweather, he surely will be looking for another title when he fights again and Molina could wind up getting the call. That is a fight Molina would love.
"I want to start defending my belt right away, before the end of the year if possible." Molina said. "I want Canelo Alvarez or [Miguel] Cotto next. Beating either of those guys is the fastest way to Floyd Mayweather, so that's who I want to fight."
Warriors Boxing promoter Leon Margules said he will try to get Molina a big fight next.
"Carlos is the only world champion in the 154-pound division right now who is not named Floyd Mayweather," Margules said. "If a Canelo or a Cotto want to leverage a world championship into another Floyd fight, they have to go through Carlos. Only our guy has something for either one of them if they try it. Carlos will use them to get himself to the front of the line for Floyd."
Asked at his post-fight news conference who he thought Alvarez should look to fight next, Mayweather himself suggested that he seek a title fight with Molina.
Besides crediting his team, including Margules, adviser Luis DeCubas Sr., the training team of Victor Mateo, Lou Askenette, Harrison Funmaker and Freddy Cuevas, Molina, 30, also was grateful to the IBF, which elevated him to the mandatory challenger position after his title elimination win against former titlist Cory Spinks in February.
"My sincere thanks to the IBF. If they hadn't made me the mandatory, there's no way I would have had this opportunity," Molina said.
Molina is a very likable guy and it is hard not to be happy for him and his family. DeCubas, who has been around boxing for decades and involved with numerous fighters, including the great Robert Duran, said, "Saturday was one of the most satisfying victories I've been a part of in 30 years in the boxing business. I am so proud to be part of Team Molina and so happy for Carlos. I will always tell young fighters about Carlos's dedication and how badly he wanted it, no matter what they tried to do to him. That's how you become a champion. He's a true inspiration."