By Cliff Rold
It’s as quiet a title fight as one could ask for. It’s been as quiet a reign as anyone’s in the sport. Cornelius Bundrage, an alumnus of the second season of the “Contender” winning a belt in his late 30s had the making of a feel good story but inactivity and lack of access to big fights has meant a long time with a belt and few fights to show for it.
All he can do is keep winning and hope, someday, to cash in on what used to be a lottery ticket (a major title) and now often is just a guarantee to get some steady pay.
His opponent this weekend came to prominence first as a highly touted sparring partner for Fernando Vargas and then as a surprise early exit in the first season of the “Contender.” Ishe Smith has long been a fighter who has obvious strong traits. He’s pretty quick, he has good reflexes, and he defends well.
It’s never come together. Here, in his first and maybe last title fight, Smith has a chance to turn a whole career around in an instant.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Title: IBF Light Middleweight (2010-Present, 2 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 152.8 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 153.15 lbs.
Hails from: Detroit, Michigan
Record: 32-4, 19 KO, 2 KOBY
BoxingScene Rank: #8 at Jr. Middleweight
Record in Major Title Fights: 3-0, 2 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 5 (Steve Forbes L5; Kasim Ouma UD10; Zaurbek Baysangurov TKO5; Yuri Foreman NC3; Cory Spinks TKO5, TKO7; )
Title/Previous Titles: None
Weight: 152.6 lbs.
Average Weight – Last Five Fights: 157.05 lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada
Record: 24-5, 11 KO
BoxingScene Rank: Unrated
Record in Major Title Fights: 1st Major Title Fight
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 2 (Randall Bailey UD12; Sergio Mora L5;)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Bundrage B; Smith B
Pre-Fight: Power – Bundrage B+; Smith C+
Pre-Fight: Defense – Bundrage C+; Smith B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Bundrage B; Smith B-
Once upon a time, Bundrage was a terribly stiff, awkward fighter with decent pop. He’s still a lot of those things, but he’s gotten much better at it. Working with the late Emanuel Steward, and working through years of the game, Bundrage has improved greatly. He makes himself small, wings shots with authority, and comes forward. He’s made himself tougher to hit and hasn’t been stopped since facing Joel Julio in 2007.
Smith has never been a huge puncher but he hasn’t been stopped either. His biggest problem has been letting his hands go. Smith has occasionally tightened up in the ring, making guys miss in spots but failing to make them pay. Over rounds, the end result saw the punches start to land and no way to dig out of the hole.
Against Bundrage, Smith will need to set his mind to being more offensive than has been the case in the past. Bundrage has a style that can win rounds on sheer will and he makes it hurt as rounds go by.
Smith just has never shown he can win when he really needs to. Bundrage has improved, avenging a loss to Sechew Powell and twice blasting through Cory Spinks. His aggression will be enough to handcuff Smith and earn a decision over twelve rounds, continuing his reign at 154 lbs. and the dream of making that title pay out big time before he’s done.
This won’t be the only notable fight on Saturday. Two Heavyweight fights of varying quality are also set….In Liverpool, emerging Heavyweight contender David Price (15-0, 13 KO) gets the best test to date in his career from two-time Heavyweight title challenger Tony Thompson (36-3, 24 KO). Thompson enters off a nasty knockout loss to Wladimir Klitschko, but has only lost in those title fights since mid-2000. Price should add to the loss column for Thompson. It will take some rounds, but ultimately Price gets the knockout sometime around the eighth…Of lesser quality but still intriguing, Malik Scott (35-0, 12 KO) finally has a chance to move beyond just being some guy on the undercards in eight rounders. Opponent Vyacheslav Glazkov (14-0, 10 KO) was a decorated amateur. Scott is quicker and longer. Glazkov is more offensive minded but, watching both guys, Scott should have the tools to win. Will he supply the offense behind his excellent jab to do it? The thinking is Glazkov does enough to win on sheer work rate in a distance affair.
Report Card Picks 2013: 5-1
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transanational Boxing Ratings Board, the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel, and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org