Carlos Molina is on the cusp of his ultimate goal.

Molina, a South Side resident, has finally earned a title shot. On Saturday, he'll battle IBF light middleweight world champion Ishe Smith in Las Vegas. The bout is part of the showdown between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Saul "Canelo" Alvarez; it will air on pay per view via Showtime.

Smith is a Las Vegas resident and a strong favorite according to oddsmakers, but that doesn't bother Molina.

"I'm used to being the underdog and going into other people's hometowns and everyone thinking I won't win," said Molina, 30. "I'm used to dealing with that. I never let anything get me down. I prepare myself mentally and physically for any obstacle."

Molina's career has been sidetracked by what some analysts have called questionable judging and disqualifications. He said those obstacles have only sharpened his focus, however.

"I've been through a lot of bad decisions and stuff, so I'm just staying focused," Molina said. "Besides, I treated all my fights like they were for a world championship. I love the pressure. I feel like it pushes me through camp and keeps me working hard."

If Molina wins, he'd be the first Chicago-based fighter to become world champion since David Diaz in 2007.

The fight card has set a record for the largest live gate in history for a boxing event at $19.9 million, according to promoters.

Bill Hillmann is a RedEye special contributor.

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