By John J. Raspanti:
Mike Mollo defines a fighter. He’s taken on all comers despite encountering multiple injuries, biased judges, and an unhinged referee during the course of his 16-year-career.
Mollo, a Chicago native, has been victorious in 20 of his 25 professional fights, with 12 wins by knockout. Things looked promising in 2006 after he knocked out Kevin McBribe in two rounds.
A year later he stopped prospect Art Binkowski.
Mollo lost close decisions to contenders Andrew Golota and Jameel McCline.
He boxed twice in 2010 before vaporizing into “The Invisible Man.”
Managerial problems sidelined him for almost three years. Mollo returned to the ring in 2013 and engaged in 36 minutes of fury with heavily-favored Artur Szpilka.
Mollo floored Szpilka, twice, but also took a battering from his opponent - and referee Celestine Ruiz. Mollo lost a rematch to Szpilka six months later in another give-and-take war.
After the fight, Mollo pondered retirement.
“I went through some dark times thinking about my career and how it might be over,” Mollo told this writer via email. “But I got a fighters heart through and through and it’s hard to keep me down. I feel I got more in the tank and this opportunity will show it.”
The opportunity he’s referring to will happen on the other side of the world when Mollo travels to Legionowo, Poland to face undefeated Polish heavyweight Krzysztof Zimnoch on February 20.
Does he feel his several years of inactivity could hurt him?
“I don’t pay mind to ring rust,” said Mollo. “I’ll shake the rust off in sparring. I spar like I fight, and even when I got nothing coming up, I still go in the gym and spar once a week at least.”
For one of the few times in his boxing career, Mollo, 36, is healthy.
“Injuries have plagued my career,” Mollo said. “I’ve broken both hands multiple times, dislocated joints in my hands, and have four bone fusions in both hands. I’ve torn my bicep, had elbow surgery, and two knee operations. Injuries have caused a lot of wasted time in my career.”
With down time came introspection and contrition.
“My biggest regrets in the Spilka fights was my training,” said Mollo. “Both fights I had a broken right hand in both camps. I broke it before the first fight in a sparring session, and the very last sparring session before the fight. I had surgery, but the surgery didn’t take.
“I fought the second fight with the failed surgery and in agonizing pain,"he said. “I also regret not having certain people in my corner that could have helped me out.”
Zimnoch has won all 17 of his fights. The biggest name on his resume is former heavyweight champion, Oliver McCall. Zimnoch won a close decision over the 45-year-old McCall.
Mollo is aware that he’ll likely have to knock out Zimnoch.
“He’s a solid fighter who actually beat (heavyweight champion Deontay) Wilder in the amateurs. I’m gonna do what I do and apply the pressure, and we will see what happens.”
As usual, the odds will be stacked against Mollo when he steps into the ring in a few weeks.
Win or lose, no one will question his resolve.