“I’m constantly going in and out of the restroom. They explained to me how you get all your lactic acids and toxins out of there through pissing,” said Molina, who was more prone to drink more Bud Light in the past than water. Garcia, who had Molina drinking between a gallon and a gallon-and-a-half through much of this stretch (and then will work that down to a half-gallon this week as they hit the scales), says, “We’ve been told since we were little kids, ‘Eat your vegetables; drink your water,’ and it becomes such a redundant thing - but nobody ever stops to think and tell you why. And once you start to understand the value behind it, then you’re sold on it forever.”
And Garcia doesn’t just have Molina drinking Sparkletts but a water with a certain pH balance and fortified with electrolytes.
Drinking water. Yeah, it seems like such a small thing in the grand scheme of things but it’s actually huge because knowledge is power. What Molina has gotten from Garcia is really an education on how the human body works. Once that is mastered, things such as cutting weight become much less strenuous. “At first, I was just listening to whatever he was telling me, just doing it and doing it, said Garcia, “but then after awhile, it all makes sense. You start feeling your body adapting to all these changes and your performance and it’s getting better and better with the water, the stretching, the eating, just everything.
In the past, Molina - a career lightweight who is facing Khan at 140 pounds - did everything he could to make weight. And yes, all the primitive methods were used.
“We get the water and we’d just spit it out,” Molina recalled, laughing. “‘Hey, don’t swallow that water!’ But everything is changed now since being with Luis. We’re always hydrated throughout our whole workout and I feel a lot better.” He admits that sort of stuff was... well, dumb. “I wish I would’ve known Luis a lot sooner. I mean, it would’ve helped me out a lot but I’m happy now that we’re working together and I think it’s going to be a big influence come fight night, all the hard work we put in. Not just the eating and all that but the different kind of workouts we’ve been doing with the sand-training and all that. I feel that’s getting me really, really strong.”
As you see the chiseled physique of Molina, you’ll notice he’s been transformed from the pudgy lightweight he was not too long ago. In fact, you don’t even know who this guy is anymore. Molina, who is going through his second camp with Garcia, states, “I’m a lot better because initially I couldn’t get through the workouts in the beginning and it was just tough. Now being on the water for so long, that’s helped me out a lot and staying with him right at his house, he gives me the exact proportions of food that I need to eat and the vitamins. We’re only getting better.”
During their first run together, Molina trudged to a 10-round verdict over Marcos Jimenez, as they struggled to come in at 135 pounds. It didn’t help that they had to lose over 30 pounds. Again, no one is a miracle worker and Molina admits of his past, “I don’t think I was very disciplined. Now, being with Luis, he just puts that in you and he educates you. So you’re not starving yourself. So it makes it a lot easier.”
He should make the junior welterweight limit with ease on Friday but in the past, the battle of the scales would be problematic. “The night before, I just wouldn’t even sleep thinking about a sip of water and getting in the sauna, all that old-school method,” he recalls. He called this process of shaving the last few pounds “torture.” He adds, “I was never thrilled to make weight that last week. I wouldn’t want anyone around me. I’m not a cranky guy but at that time, I was like, ‘Nobody talk to me.’”
His manager, Frank Espinoza, who had been frustrated by the inability of his fighter to consistently stay in good physical condition, tells Maxboxing, “This is the best I’ve ever seen Carlos look. You can just tell, not just with the way his body looks, but how lean his face is and how healthy it looks. In the past, when he didn’t come in shape to fights, it affected his performance and our ability to move his career. I’m really pleased with his commitment and the work of Luis.” His longtime trainer, Clemente Medina, concurs, stating, “Carlos is in very, very good shape.”
Molina isn’t the only client of Espinoza who works with Garcia. The first was two-time world champion Abner Mares, who began working with him two years ago.
“You could just tell right away just how good he’s been with me,” said Mares, the current WBC 122-pound beltholder, “because I started training with Luis for the first [Vic] Darchinyan fight and in that fight, obviously my conditioning, my strength is what got me through that fight and like I’ve said, I’ve been learning more and more with him.”
But the key is that this is an ongoing process. Like Rome, a fighter’s health and performance will not be built in a day.
“It’s a process,” agreed Mares. “We do different things every fight. It’s not like you get stuck with the same routine camp after camp. With Luis, it’s a process. He knows where your body’s at. We step it up a little bit more; we do different things and it varies on what type of fight you’re going to have.” The biggest lesson Mares has learned from Garcia is that even during the process of dropping weight, he still must eat to provide energy throughout the day. “It’s a process,” repeated Garcia, who adds, “and even as so much a physical process, a tactical process and even a mental and emotional process that these fighters have to go through because when you sit down with the fighters and you tell ‘em, ‘Everything you’ve done in the past is wrong and do it my way.’ They look at you like you’re some nut, like you’re from outer space or something. So you have to make small changes, constant changes and accountability changes along the way.”
On this morning, after waking up around 5:30, everyone is out the door of Garcia’s home in El Monte and a short drive is taken to the local LA Fitness. Because they had done a sand workout two days ago and sparred the previous day, this was a relatively light session. Garcia has Molina run on the treadmill for about a half-hour (he dislikes his clients running on hard pavement, believing that all it does is put wear and tear on the knees). After that, they do some abdominal exercises and stretching, which Molina is now accustomed to. But in the beginning, “I felt like I was being put into a submission. I was always tapping out.” Other days, Molina will be put through cross-fit training, resistance work and other assorted drills. “It’s tough but it’s fun,” says the 27-year old native of Rosemead, who climbed ropes for the first time in his life.
One of the keys is gradually stepping up the work and adjusting to the capabilities of the fighter. The reality is that Molina simply could not have worked this hard back in May.
“Well, the first camp was earlier this year and I think it was just laying a lot of groundwork for this camp and I think he was able to see a level of professionalism and learn around that more than anything else. I mean, there’s such a huge disconnect into which the stuff boxers commonly do and the old-school mentality and to what all the other facets are. Whether it be diet, nutrition, boxing, strength-and-conditioning, recovery in-between and some of the other aspects of it and learning how to fine-tune those aspects and be accountable for it. That’s what’s been the biggest difference,” said Garcia, who understands he won’t make Molina a better fighter but instead, a better athlete who can use that work to improve his skills inside the ring. Vince Lombardi once famously said, “Fatigue makes cowards of us all.” Perhaps what it really does, at least in this sport, is cause fundamental breakdowns.
“My thing is to take these guys out of the box and really just make them better overall athletes so that they can have that range of motion. They can have that mobility so they can do that much better in the boxing ring and you can only do a certain amount of boxing in your life before it takes a toll on your body because it is an impact sport,” he explained. He cites basketball and football players who play a full schedule of games but their off-season training consists of physical work that conditions their body for games.
But Garcia - a one-stop shop for his fighters as he also cooks for them (on this morning, he cooked omelets for everyone) - doesn’t subscribe to the theory of training at full throttle every day or even training six days a week at the gym, done for years in boxing. Rest and recovery is every bit as essential as the hard work.
“Having them understand the toll it takes on your body and really just putting it into words that they can understand,” states Garcia. “Like they only understand how they feel most of the time and it has to be that basic of a conversation, ’In the past when you have done this, have you felt this way? OK, so let’s do it this different way and tell me how you feel.’ And then later on implement it. ‘This is why you feel this way and that’s what we’re doing to change that.’”
Part of his regimen is stretching which starts the recovery process.
"They don’t understand the importance of recovery between the workouts and how much of a role that plays within their performance and their output on a day-to-day basis and a lot of times, if you can’t perform or produce the work output that we need to at that level, don’t even come into the gym because you’re more likely to do more harm to your body than good,” says Garcia, who is constant contact with Medina to see just how much work can be done on a given day. “Luis makes a great conditioner, an old-school trainer who is open to new ideas. Me and him make a great team for this fight.” Without this cooperation, this union simply will not function effectively. “It’s extremely important,” continues Garcia, who has a degree in kinesiology from Cal Poly Pomona. “There’s gotta be a balance and in the work that we do. Like if we’re both burning the candle on both ends, as they say, there’s no cohesiveness in the training and the results will show.”
Most trainers are loath to have their boxers miss a day at the gym. But the reality is, taking just one day off a week, means they are probably still overtraining. “Definitely; the fact of the matter is that the reason they feel they can’t take those days off is because they haven’t honed in on all the other aspects, which is like dieting. And because they don’t take days off, they feel like they haven’t pushed their body far enough in a particular workout. They’re not truly getting the benefit. So it’s just like, the only way to do something is to do it over and over again till you get good at it. But your body needs that recovery.”
So why don’t more fighters take a Wednesday or Thursday off during the week? Probably because they have gotten so out of shape between fights that they simply can’t afford to. This then becomes an issue of maintenance.
Garcia says, “That’s hugely important because when you’re taking in an eight-week camp and let’s just say you have a pre-genetic disposition, a window of opportunity into which on fight night you fight at 80 percent - because I think fighters very rarely function at 100-percent of their pre-genetic disposition as an athlete - they take that fitness level down to like five or 10 percent or even blow health standards for natural walk-around adults or human beings, a sedentary person and then they expect to get back to that 80-90 percent of their overall pre-genetic disposition. It’s impossible.
“You can only get a certain percentage better in eight weeks and if you try and take it beyond that, that’s when you start getting injuries. You will not peak out properly. But if they maintain a certain level of fitness and really working on different things because in the off-season we can work on maybe building certain strength or maybe some of the explosive muscles that they lack.”
The days of Molina packing on the girth as he waits for fights to be signed are over.
“[Luis] is always telling me, ‘After this fight, maybe a week off but let’s go right back. Let’s start doing it. It doesn’t have to be hard training; just stay right there. Keep that condition and that diet in check,’” says Molina, who has a record of 17-0-1 with seven knockouts.
In late September, as Espinoza was mulling his next move with Molina, he received a call from the Golden Boy Promotions brass. The question was simple: Would he put his guy in there with Khan on December the 15th? “I thought it was a great opportunity for Carlos but I knew he had to get in the best shape of his life and just being around him, I know he is. I really like what I’ve seen this camp. This is the type of shape we’ve always wanted him to be in,” said the respected manager. There is that old cliché spouted by almost every boxer about being in the best shape of their lives. Well, with Molina, it isn’t really a stretch because, quite frankly, he was never really in that good of shape. Yeah, it was a pretty low bar and he freely admits it.
“I don’t think for any fight, I’ve showed the true ability that I have and I think for this fight, I think it’s going to show. We’ve had a great camp; we’ve been working very hard. We’ve been doing everything right,” Molina says.
They are well aware of why they were tabbed for this assignment; Molina is perceived as a light-hitting, soft-bellied lightweight. It’s the reason why Molina is a heavy underdog on Saturday night. But he’s looking at it as an early Christmas gift.
“This is my opportunity of a lifetime,” says Molina, “Amir Khan, he’s known all over the world. So me beating him, it’s going to open the doors and people are going to recognize who I am.”
And that will be more than just being that guy always carrying water.
Garcia has a day job in the banking world but his passion is the “Sweet Science.” He has strong feelings on the testing protocol currently existing in professional boxing.
“I say it’s a complete irresponsibility that not till somebody ends up hurt or dead and someone tests positive, will there ever be a major change in that. But there’s no accountability to it at this point and it’s really, really sad because it’s just bad for the sport because you’re not dealing with hitting a ball further. You’re not dealing with running faster; you’re not dealing with a time clock. You’re dealing with an actual impact and the long-term effects of these impacts.”
This edition of “Behind the Ropes” from Sky TV shows some of the sand workout that Garcia has Molina go through: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pqKzy40fn5w&feature=youtu.be...Schaefer says a bout between Selcuk Aydin and Jesus Soto Karass and another fight will be on Showtime on January 26...Please tell me HBO can do better than Adrien Broner facing Richie Abril on February 16th...Look for the Devon Alexander-Kell Brook fight to move to either late February or early March...Elvin Ayala and Curtis Stevens will face each other on the January 19th edition of “Fight Night” on NBC Sports Network...Arte Moreno doesn’t play around; does he?...Al Golden is not going to leave Miami for Wisconsin. The new rumor is he will face “Canelo” Alvarez on May 4th and quit the Miami job to focus on the fight... I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and I tweet at www.twitter.com/stevemaxboxing. We also have a Facebook fan page at www.facebook.com/MaxBoxing, where you can discuss our content with Maxboxing readers as well as chime in via our fully interactive article comments sections.