by David P. Greisman
Boxing trainer Eddie Mustafa Muhammad sees the fight between his fighter, Ishe Smith, and junior-middleweight titleholder Cornelius “K9” Bundrage as one that will show a difference in technical ability.
To him, the fight will see the boxer in Smith (24-5, 11 knockouts) pick apart the brawler in Bundrage (32-4, 19 knockouts and 1 no decision).
He’ll soon find out whether his analysis is correct. Bundrage will defend the International Boxing Federation belt this Saturday on “Showtime Championship Boxing,” headlining a card at the Masonic Temple in Detroit.
Muhammad spoke with BoxingScene.com on Feb. 20, just three days before the bout.
BoxingScene.com: What do you think of Cornelius Bundrage as a fighter?
Muhammad: “Listen, I think he’s a rough and tough guy. I think he should more in the MMA than in actual boxing, or even in professional wrestling.”
BoxingScene.com: Do you see him as a basic fighter? Awkward? What is Ishe going to be contending with, along with him the rough and tough tactics that you mentioned?
Muhammad: “A lot of wide punches. I mean, he’s not a classical fighter. We have more technical skills than he has. He bases his attack on strength and what punching power he has.”
BoxingScene.com: And how is his punching power, in your opinion?
Muhammad: “Well if he winds up, anybody can knock you out if you wind up and put his all into the punch. Listen, Ishe is a better tactical fighter, and he’ll see all of that coming. He throws punches wide and will throw those wild shots. Ishe’s a much better fighter than that. He’s a lot more experienced than that.”
BoxingScene.com: How do you think Bundrage has improved, compared to what he used to be back when he was on “The Contender” and when he was a younger fighter?
Muhammad: “I don’t think he’s improved at all. I think he’s regressed instead of improved. When you improve, that means you can close your shots, close your elbows and punch much shorter. He doesn’t punch short. Everything is wide. He has the Henry Aaron Syndrome. He tries to knock them out of the ballpark every time he comes to the plate.”
BoxingScene.com: What do you do to prepare a fighter for an opponent who is not technically proficient, not orthodox with his technique?
Muhammad: “Hands up, chin down, and listen to my instructions. I’ve been there and done that with these type of fighters. So I’m not too worried about that. All Ishe has to do is listen. We’ve had guys as far as sparring that put more pressure than K9 does, and are younger and stronger and harder punchers than K9. We did real good with these guys. We trained well for this fight. We did what we had to do, and I’m happy as far as how our progress is going.”
BoxingScene.com: Take me through how you see this fight going if it does go completely according to the plan that you’ve developed for Ishe.
Muhammad: “K9 is going to try to be the bully. What you do is you beat the bully up, and then the bully has nothing to do. I just see us beating him however way he want. We can outbox him or we can just beat him up. We can do a lot of things to K9. What K9 is forgetting is that Ishe has pop in his punch also. He’s going to be sharper than K9. Like I said, K9 throws those wide shots, and if we go right down the middle with our shots, we can hurt him and we can stop him.”
BoxingScene.com: Do you think Ishe will stop him, then, or do you think this goes the distance?
Muhammad: “Well, I don’t know the judges out here, so we’re going to take one round at a time. We’ll take him in deep water, and then we’ll drown him.”
BoxingScene.com: How worried are you, if at all, about fighting Bundrage in his home state?
Muhammad: “Listen, I’m very worried. But this is on national TV and everybody’s going to see this fight. … I always say that boxing is corrupt. It’s always going to be corrupt. I believe we’re going to beat K9, but whether we get it is going to be another story.”
David P. Greisman is a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. Follow David on Twitter @fightingwords2 or send questions/comments via email at [email protected]