Kid gambles on Rama ring

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:39 AM ET

Boxers are always talking about sacrifice; the early morning runs, the brutal sparring sessions, the drastic weight losses.

Steve Molitor has been there and done all that.

But for his world title fight on Saturday against South Africa's Takalani Ndlovu, the Sarnia fighter is making what many people in professional sport would consider the ultimate sacrifice.

In order to fight at home, he has agreed let Ndlovu, known in boxing as The Panther, have the lion's share of the purse, even though he beat Ndlovu by TKO in their first fight three years ago.

Neither Molitor nor his promoter, Allan Tremblay, would say exactly how much more Ndlovu stands to make for the IBF world junior featherweight clash Saturday, compared to Molitor. But it's substantial. "The other guy's getting paid twice as much as Steve," Tremblay admitted.

(An educated guess would be a $75,000 difference).

The most astonishing part of the purse differential is, Molitor actually had a choice. He could have refused to take the short money, but that would have meant fighting in Ndlovu's backyard, South Africa, instead at the friendly confines of Casino Rama, where Molitor's last nine bouts have been fought.

When Tremblay put the choice to Molitor, The Canadian Kid decided that home ring advantage was much more important than a bigger payday. (Remember, unlike professional sports leagues, there are no guarantees down the road for fighters and there are no retirement plans. A loss on Saturday against Ndlovu could mean the end of the road for Molitor, who turns 30 next month). In boxing, every dollar is crucial.

"But you're investing in yourself," said Tremblay, of the decision to fight at home for less. "It's taken us a year and a half of repositioning Steve, (matching him against) the right opponents, building him back, getting him in the rankings, making all the politics happen to get him to this point for another title shot. So why not take that extra step, and go all the way?"

Since losing to Panama's Celestino Caballero for the IBF and WBA belts in 2008, Molitor, 31-1, has climbed back to the No. 2 contender position in the IBF with three straight wins. Ndlovu, 30-5, has fought four times since losing to Molitor in 2007 and is currently ranked No.1 by the IBF. The bout Saturday will be for the vacant IBF title, given up by Caballero.

But it's more than just fighting at home. The big thing, Molitor said on Tuesday prior to a workout at Clancy's Gym in Mississauga, was NOT fighting in South Africa. He had a bad experience there in 2006, when he was supposed to fight Gabula Vabaza for the IBF title. That fight fell through at the last minute when the South African failed a pre-fight medical, marooning Molitor and his trainer Chris Johnson for an extra week, with little cash and less to do.

"We were there, all told, for about 20 days, and it was a nightmare," said Molitor. "We had no gym. We had to train in the lobby of a hotel, and the hotel was $#%^!@ loud, with people screaming all night. I had to make weight, and the food wasn't great. There were a lot of problems."

Tremblay said there were also security concerns.

"When you're in that environment, you're worried about your safety. You're in a compound with guards all over the place. You're on edge all the time, the food's not right, there's the time change, the altitude, the brutal travel. And then we got hit with blood testing two days before the fight, which we weren't expecting, which wasn't in the rules. I flew off the handle. But we finally compromised ... and then the other guy failed the medical," Tremblay said.

Tremblay said Ndlovu is not happy to have to fight at Rama again, where, in Molitor's words, he got "spanked" the first time they met in 2007. But that was the compromise.

"I think we made the right decision," Tremblay said.

The proof of that will come on Saturday.

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


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