Monitoring Molitor

MURRAY GREIG -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

Undefeated IBF junior featherweight world champion Steve Molitor of Toronto (27-0, 10 KOs) will have a new face in his corner when he defends his title against undefeated Argentinian Ceferino Labarda (18-0, 7 KOs) tonight at Casino Rama in Orillia, Ont. (live on TSN, 8:30 MT).

Stephane Larouche, who was hired as Molitor's trainer after the champ split with longtime mentor Chris Johnson earlier this summer, also trains IBF super middleweight champion Lucien Bute and WBC light heavyweight titleholder Adrian Diaconu, both of whom fight for Montreal's Interbox stable.

"This guy (Labarda) is a tough challenger," says Larouche, who has been working on getting Molitor to relax more and not waste so much energy in the ring.

"He has nothing to lose. He's a good puncher, and he has a good amateur background.

"But Steve is going to be at the top of his game. He's just so strong - much more powerful than most guys at 122 lbs. He just hasn't been able to show it yet. But he's such a great fighter, you don't want to try to change him in five weeks. That would be stupid."

Larouche has watched Molitor for years, and nearly signed the quick-fisted southpaw shortly after he turned pro.

"Steve has tremendous potential, but I still see a lot of room for improvement," the trainer told fightnews.ca

"I'm not looking to rebuild his boxing ability, but I figure he can save energy here and there, be looser and have some more power. At this stage, small details mean everything."

Molitor and Labarda met face-to-face for the first time at Wednesday's final pre-fight media conference.

"Labarda said he felt an illusion earlier that he was going to come over here and win. Well, I'll show he's right - it was an illusion," Molitor said.

"I know he has everything to gain and nothing to lose, but I'm not taking him, or anyone else, lightly."

Labarda, who has never fought in North America before, was nonplussed.

"I'm well prepared for this fight, like all my fights," he said through an interpreter.

"Everywhere I go I put on a good show, and I'm going to win on Friday. I hope everybody enjoys the fight."

BEST AND WORST

Tonight's undercard will feature the best and worst of reigning Canadian champions in featherweight Olivier Lontchi and heavyweight Raymond Olubowale.

The talented Lontchi, who won the title with a KO of Edmonton's Jason (The Troll) Adams two years ago, will put his 16-0 record on the line against Mexico's Eduardo Garcia (18-5).

Meanwhile, Olubowale, a 38-year-old with an unremarkable 6-2-1 record, is looking to avenge last fall's TKO loss to Demetrice King of Flint, Mich. (14-16, 12 KOs).

The fact that Olubowale continues to hold the national heavyweight title while avoiding Western Canadian contenders like Shane Andreesen of Qualicum Beach, B.C. (10-1) and Arthur Cook of Winnipeg (13-2), only underlines the inadequacies of the Canadian Boxing Federation's ranking system.

Olubowale won the title from David Cadieux (now retired) 11 months ago, but the CBF has yet to insist he defend it.

Meanwhile, the likes of Andreesen, Cook and J.F. Bergeron (27-1) of St. Francis, Que., are left spinning their wheels.

Is it any wonder why Canadian boxing is mired in the doldrums?

REHASHED RUIZ

Speaking of ho-hum heavy-weights, John Ruiz will attempt to reclaim his WBA belt in a rematch against Russian giant Nikolai Valuev tomorrow afternoon in Berlin.

Ruiz (43-7-1, 29 KOs) is trying to win the WBA crown for the third time against Valuev, (48-1, 34 KOs), who at seven-foot-one and 335 pounds is the tallest and heaviest champion in history.

Valuev won a highly controversial decision in their first fight in December 2005.

Tomorrow, he'll KO Ruiz.


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