by Jackie Kallen
Friday night in San Antonio, TX, former “Contender” Ishe Smith will face Erislandy Lara for the WBA Junior middleweight belt. This is an important fight for both men. All title fights are important, but in this case, both men know that a win will elevate their game significantly.
Lara, (19-2), is coming off of a split decision loss to Canelo Alvarez. Nothing to sneeze at. Lara has beaten the likes of Martirosyan, Trout, and Angulo. He also scored an impressive first round KO of Ronald Hearns back in 2012.
Smith, at 36, has been around for a while, and won his last outing against a war-worn Ryan Davis in May. This followed his loss (last fall) to Carlos Molina. The loss was especially disheartening since it was his first defense of the IBF title he won in February 2013 by beating Cornelius Bundrage.
I have a soft spot for Smith. He was on the first season of NBC’s The Contender with Sylvester Stallone, Sugar Ray Leonard, and I. We all saw his potential and felt he’d go far.
He ended up losing to Sergio Mora, who won the whole competition.
For the ten years since, Smith has plodded along: winning some, losing some, and working his way to his title shot against Bundrage. It was a sweet moment for the Vegas-born fighter, who always believed he’d be a world champ.
Beating someone of Lara’s stature would be a huge step for Smith. I especially hope he grabs the title because my middleweight, Dorrell Van Horn, Jr., was one of the sparring partners who helped get him ready. We all know how hard Smith trained and how much this fight means to him.
Unfortunately, Lara is not an easy man to defeat. He’s a tough southpaw who has KO’d half of the men he beat.
Back in 2011, he lost a very close majority decision to Paul Williams. Many fans felt he won. Then came the split decision loss to Canelo. There’s no doubt that Lara is in it to win it whenever he steps through the ropes.
Smith is a true “comeback kid.” He’s battled divorce, financial issues, losses in the ring, and other personal crises. When he went to work as a sparring partner for Floyd Mayweather a couple of years ago, his life changed. Floyd signed him and his career was back on track. “Money” saw his potential and gave him a chance.
Smith would like to show Mayweather that he bet on the right horse. He’d like to show his naysayers that he still has plenty left. And he’d like to be called “Champ” again.
But can he beat Erislandy Lara?
We’ll soon know.