Chicago's "King" finally has a crown.
Carlos Molina, a 30-year-old South Side resident, beat IBF junior middleweight champion Ishe Smith by split decision after 12 rounds Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Two judges gave Molina the nod—117-111 and 116-112—with the other favoring Smith 116-112.
Molina improved to 22-5-2.
As the boxer nicknamed "King" made his way out of the ring, he stopped for every fan who wanted a photo or autograph and every journalist who had a question. His journey, which included reportedly controversial decisions that went against him in previous fights, all became worth it Saturday.
“This is what I’ve been working for my whole career, to bring a world title back to the Chi," Molina said. "It means everything, not just to me but my whole team. All of them worked so hard and have been with me through the robberies [questionable calls].”
At a moment when some might bask in the glory of victory, Molina remained self-critical.
“I’m happy but I feel like I could have done better," he said. "It wasn’t my best fight.”
After the fight, Molina's head trainer, Victor Mateo, was nearly unable to put into words what he had just witnessed.
“It’s a dream come true," he said. "I’m still slapping myself in the face thinking I’m dreaming. Now Carlos is a world champion and they can never take it away from him.”
Looking forward, Molina doesn't plan to stop with this belt. His victory came just before Floyd Mayweather defeated Saul "Canelo" Alvarez in the main event.
“I want all the belts," Molina said. "I want Floyd next. And if I’ve got to earn it first, I’ll fight Canelo or [Miguel] Cotto.”
When asked what he’s learned through his career, Molina merely shrugged.
“Life is rough but no matter what; we have to pick ourselves up,” he said.
Bill Hillmann is a RedEye special contributor.
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