By Chris Robinson
The past two years have definitely been a test of junior middleweight contender Ishe Smithís patience.
In the summer of 2010 I kept tabs on Smith as he trained in Las Vegas for a Showtime-televised fight with then-unbeaten southpaw Fernando Guerrero. Sparring with former light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, amongst others, Smith was training with a definite sense of purpose and the hopes were high heading into the fight.
Moving up to face Guerrero at 160 pounds, Smith waged a tremendous war inside inside of the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Mississippi, pushing his younger foe to the limit while also scoring an eighth round knockdown. And while analyst Steve Farhood had Smith winning after ten heats, the panel of judges sitting ringside would award the decision to Guerrero.
It was a hard loss to take but the following months would prove to be even more difficult, as Smith simply couldnít land a meaningful fight at 154 or 160 pounds despite his most ardent efforts. Smith wasnít shy, calling out everyone from Peter Quillin to Alfredo Angulo and several others in between, yet the reality is that Ishe plays the role of a dangerous fighter who isnít worth the risk in the eyes of many.
Finally, however, things are starting to look up for Smith, who is tentatively penciled in for a May 4th assignment against Ghanaís Ayi Bruce at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. Training out of the Mayweather Boxing Cub and getting great sparring with the likes of Floyd Mayweather Jr., who Smith is helping get ready for his upcoming bout with Miguel Cotto, as well as JíLeon Love, Badou Jack, and Luis Arias, there is a special kind of feeling surrounding Smith as he savors the chance of getting his career back on track.
Crossing paths with Smith on a weekly basis within this particular camp, I have gathered some sound bites from him over the past few weeks, including his thoughts on his return, his history with Floyd Mayweather, and his thoughts on some fighters near his weight class, including James Kirkland, Saul Alvarez, and Sergio Martinez.
This is what Smith had to shareÖ
Getting help from Floyd Mayweather and Leonard Ellerbe, CEO of Mayweather PromotionsÖ
ďI love it. I thank God for the opportunity. I thank Floyd Mayweather for the opportunity. Leonard Ellerbe, theyíre just great individuals. They kept their word. They told me they were going to do I something if they could and a few days later they texted me and told me they were going to get me a fight. Iím happy; you donít see that a lot in this game.Ē
A long, tough roadÖ
ďItís been a long, tough road, because the object of people not wanting to fight me is what sucks. Because Iím almost too good to fight but also too good to lose to. That was frustrating and something I talked to Floyd about and something I talked to Leonard about. They said they were going to get me a fight and here we are six weeks later and I have a fight and Iím really excited.Ē
The game is what it isÖ
ďI never count whatís in another manís pocket. I think some of these fights hurt the sport more than anything. But Iíll never discredit a boxer for making a living, because this is how he takes care of his family, but at the same time I think the sport needs to put together interesting fights and give the fans something great, rather than give them something bad. The game is what it is. Weíve got to live with the beast. This is what I was blessed with and Iíve got to live with it.Ē
A history with the Mayweather familyÖ
ďIíve been knowing Floyd since I was ten. We came up through the amateurs together. I grew up watching Jeff and Roger out here, training at the Golden Gloves gym. And Floyd used to come out here occasionally and when we were real young we used to spar and it was crazy. He remembers that and we were just talking about it last week. Me and Floyd have always had the utmost respect for each other. Iíve always had the utmost respect for him and Iím happy for his success.Ē
Not worried about his recent spell of inactivityÖ
ďNo, Iíve been boxing for 25 years. Itís just about fine-tuning things and reshaping things and thatís what a good coach does and I have a great coach in Eddie Mustafa Muhammad. Heís good at fine-tuning things and bringing out the best in you. Iíve been in the gym, Iím a gym rat. Iíve been sparring Badou Jack, Iíve been sparring JíLeon Love, Iíve been sparring those guys. I havenít just been completely off. Iíve been getting good work. Now, Floyd Mayweather, whenever youíre sparring guys like that you just got to take advantage of your opportunity. Iím just hopeful to fight on May 4th and get a chance and hopefully, before I step away from this game, Iíll be able to say I had a title shot or won a title. And thatís everybodyís ultimate dream, is to win a championship.Ē
In camp at the Mayweather Boxing ClubÖ
ďItís a great thing to be a part of. Floyd is the hardest working man in boxing business and show business. Iíve been in camp with De La Hoya, ĎSugarí Shane Mosley, Vernon Forrest, Iíve been in camp with a lot of fighters and Floyd, by far, is the hardest training athlete that Iíve ever seen in my life, as far as boxing-wise. He definitely puts the time in at the gym, three or four hours a day. And thatís amazing.Ē
Getting in peak shapeÖ
ďItís been good. Just get trying to get the rust off. The main thing is, just fighting myself to get back in shape. Thatís the main thing, getting in the peak shape that I want to be in. But I feel like itís coming, itís getting there. Iíve been sparring JíLeon Love as well and Luis [Arias] and theyíre great work. I sparred Luis when I fought Guerrero and he gave me great work. Iím just getting in shape, thatís the major thing, making sure I can go the rounds.Ē
Not high on James KirklandÖ
ďIíve always said that about James Kirkland. Iíve always said heís a basic fighter. People always looked at me like I was hating on him. No, heís a tough kid, big heart, nice power, and thatís pretty much it. Thereís no special effects to him at all. I was actually disappointed the way the fight ended. I thought Molina definitely had a good game plan going and Iím still not high on Kirkland. He may get an opportunity to be a world champion just because of the way his handlers match him and stuff like that, but I feel if he fought Molina again it would be the same outcome. Molina would just be beating him to the punch. Molina had a great game plan working and itís unfortunate that it ended like that. Molina, heís not a big puncher and if he was a big puncher he probably would have knocked James Kirkland out. He was getting hit with everything.Ē
Unfinished business in the junior middleweight classÖ
ďI would like to go back to 154. I feel like we had unfinished business there. Thereís some good fighters there, I would like to go back there. 160, I just got opportunities there I wasnít getting at 154. I went up and showed the fans and the people of boxing that I can fight at 160 as well. I was able to do that. I was able to give Danny Jacobs all he could handle. And many people thought I beat Fernando Guerrero. 160 was just something I was experimenting with and if something big came up at 160, I would do it again.Ē
Thoughts on WBC junior middleweight champion Saul ĎCaneloí Alvarez and his May 5th bout with Shane MosleyÖ
ďI think heís another guy thatís being groomed, sort of taking it slow. He hasnít really had no defining fights to me. No fights that make him jump out. Cintron, thatís my boy, but he had lost to Molina, it wasnít like the same Cintron. I donít think this is going to prove much either, because Shane is on the downside as well. You donít know what youíre going to get with Shane. I think the Shane that fought Margarito, if this fight was made, would be different. But Shane, the way he looked against Floyd and against Manny, I just donít know what he has left.Ē
Reflecting back on his camp with Shane MosleyÖ
ďWhen he fought De La Hoya the second time. It was good. I definitely learned a lot. I didnít have as many fights as I have now but I definitely learned a lot and it was great work. Real good work and that Shane would beat Alvarez. I think Alvarez is a good fighter, but I personally havenít been overly-impressed with him yet because he hasnít really fought anybody to make me say ĎThis kidís got the goodsí.Ē
Middleweight champion Sergio Martinezís predicamentÖ
ďI think Sergio Martinez is a good champion, heís a good fighter. I just think the overseas extravaganza has got to stop with the middleweights. People are tired of seeing that. I know he wants a big fight, I know he wants Manny Pacquiao, I know he wants Floyd Mayweather; he wants big fights but theyíre not going to happen because heís just too big. I donít think nobodyís going to fight him at 154. Floyd may fight him; I donít think Mannyís going to fight him. Hopefully he gets Chavez. But still, thatís not going to define his career. He needs a big name and heís in a situation where, that division, just donít have no big names right now.Ē
Chris Robinson is based out of Las Vegas, Nevada. He can be reached at Trimond@aol.com