After consecutive losses, the British ex-champion claimed a victory Saturday night that fostered confidence in his new trainer and restored faith in his prodigious ability.
Khan (27-3, 19 KOs) simply battered the overmatched Molina, who began bleeding from cuts in the middle rounds. Referee Jack Reiss stopped the bout on the advice of Molina's corner before the 11th, and Khan celebrated with new trainer Virgil Hunter, who replaced Freddie Roach in Khan's corner after losses to Lamont Peterson and Danny Garcia.
"Virgil is a great trainer, and I'm getting better at boxing and at being a complete fighter," Khan said. "He's teaching me boxing, speed, patience, and picking the right shot and when to throw it. Sometimes I'm too brave for my own good, but now I know it's better to stick to the game plan."
Hunter, the mastermind of Andre Ward's career, has worked to instill a more thoughtful approach in Khan, saying the former British Olympic star had never been taught how to box. While Khan said he would still be an exciting fighter, he aimed to avoid brawls in favor of a complete game plan emphasizing a strong jab and intelligent exchanges.
The plan got a solid trial run against Molina (17-1-1), who just didn't have the ability to disrupt it.
"I thought I stuck to my game plan, which meant sticking to my jab," Khan said. "Carlos took some really good shots, and he was still coming forward, and that's when I thought to myself, 'I'd better stick to this game plan.'"
Middleweight Alfredo Angulo also earned a unanimous decision over Jorge Silva at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, and unbeaten heavyweight Deontay Wilder knocked out his 26th consecutive opponent, stopping Kelvin Price in the third round. The two-part show began in the early afternoon with Leo Santa Cruz's decision over Alberto Guevara, defending his IBF bantamweight title.
Molina is smaller than Khan and relatively stationary, making him a well-selected opponent for Khan's return. Khan won every round on every judge's scorecard while landing 312 of his 679 punches, including 56 percent of his power shots. Molina connected with only 87 total punches in 10 rounds.
Khan reddened Molina's face from the opening round, pushing him back with shots too swift to dodge. Molina landed a few clean punches early, but they weren't fierce enough to test Khan's much-questioned chin.
Khan cut Molina near his right eye while unleashing multiple combinations in the fourth round. Molina wasn't mobile enough to fight at Khan's pace and level, and Khan steadily wore down his opponent until the finish.
"I wanted to pull the trigger, but for some reason I couldn't get my hands to go," Molina said. "I had a lack of precision. He was fast in his jab, and I was hesitant in trying to get in because he has a long reach. I didn't do my job. I need to work harder."
Molina was born and raised in the Los Angeles area, and the little-known fighter was the hometown crowd's favorite—but a vocal section of British and Pakistani fans was much happier to see the new-look Khan's workmanlike, smart performance after his recent setbacks.
Garcia floored Khan three times on the way to a fourth-round stoppage five months ago, claiming Khan's WBA 140-pound belt. Peterson started Khan's self-evaluation a year ago when he won a debatable decision that ended Khan's eight-fight winning streak since joining Roach, who had been his trainer since shortly after his first career defeat in 2008.
Angulo (22-2, 18 KOs) led 97-93 on all three cards after a methodical win over Silva (18-3-2). The victory was the second straight for Angulo since he was released from 7 1/2 months of immigration detention and resumed his career under Hunter's direction.
"I asked for a fighter that would make me work, because I wanted to see where I really was," said Angulo, a former 154-pound champion. "I think I'm a lot better than I was before."
Wilder (26-0) is a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist who has progressed deliberately in his four-year pro career, building the 6-foot-7 former college basketball player's experience. He started tentatively against Price (13-1), barely throwing punches in the first two rounds, but a single overhand right put Price halfway through the ropes and unable to continue.
"I know when people come to see heavyweights, they want to see knockouts," Wilder said. "I'm not sure when it's going to come, but when it comes, bam."
Garcia, Ward, Robert Guerrero, Canelo Alvarez, Abner Mares, Sugar Shane Mosley and Peter Quillin all attended the show at the Sports Arena, the venerable building that opened its doors in July 1959 with a bantamweight title fight between Jose Becerra and Alphonse Halimi. Muhammad Ali fought in the arena three times in 1962 alone, and Sugar Ray Robinson fought Gene Fullmer to a 15-round draw here in December 1960.