World super bantamweight boxing champion Steve Molitor knew that he wouldn't be checking into the Ritz when he travelled to Montreal last month to work with his new trainer, Stephane Larouche.
But he did expect that his new digs would include, at the very least, the basic necessities of modern-day living. Which they did. Barely.
"When I drove up to my street, it was: 'Nice house, nice house, nice house ... crack house. Oh s--- that's my house,' " Molitor said of his initial trip to Montreal. "The house was a rat hole. Grass a foot long, racoons out back digging around the garbage. It was just brutal.
"But it had a bed, a fridge, a washer-drier and a shower. That's all I needed," the Sarnia native said.
Actually, Molitor, who defends his IBF title tomorrow night at Casino Rama against Argentine challenger Ceferino Labarda, felt that he also needed something to occupy his time during those few hours between sparring and sleeping. So he went out and bought a TV with a CD player.
They were his only luxuries. But, really, Molitor had no complaints of his time in Montreal and, in fact, pronounced his physical and mental state yesterday the best it ever has been.
"The training was just awesome," he said. "It was pure training, no outside distractions. Just boxing and sleeping, Kind of like when I first turned pro (in 2000), when I was living in the gym."
Tomorrow's fight is key in a number of ways.
A win against the undefeated Labarda (18-0, 7 KOs) will set up a lucrative unfication bout with WBA champion Celestino Caballero of Panama, likely on Nov. 21. It also will be interesting to see how Molitor (27-0, 11 KOs) responds in the ring after switching to Larouche.
Following his previous fight, a unanimous decision over Mexico's Fernando Beltran Jr. on April 5 at Casino Rama, Molitor split up with his manager James Jardine and promoter Allan Tremblay, on the advice of his then trainer, Chris Johnson. The plan was to sign with controversial American promoter Murad Muhammad.
But after a few days of reflection, Molitor decided to go back with his management team. He then walked away from Johnson, and signed on to work with Larouche, considered one of the best young trainers in Canada.
Larouche also trains IBF super-middleweight champion Lucian Bute and former world lightweight champion Leonard Dorin.
Molitor, 28, said the change to Larouche has worked out well.
"He's a real professional. There was no screwing around," Molitor said.
"All my life I've always wanted someone who wants to work as hard as me. With other trainers, I had to push them. Stephane's just as hungry as me,"
For his part, Larouche said yesterday that he would be remiss to overhaul Molitor's boxing style, adding that he just has been fine-turning the southpaw's skill set in preparation for Labarda, a member of the 2000 Argentine Olympic team.
"The pressure's on Steve's shoulders (for tomorrow night)," Larouche said. "The other guy has nothing to lose."
"My message to Steve has been: Fight your fight, don't do any stupid mistakes," Larouche said.
"Set the guy up, throw your combinations, use angles, side to side ... a boxing lesson, a clinic. And if a knockout comes, it will come naturally. Don't look for it."