By Jackie Kallen, Ringside
It was an emotional end to a Detroit-flavored fight night that brought out all the boxers (past, present and future) with Motown ties. From Thomas Hearns to Bronco McKart to Tarick Salmaci to Tom “Boom Boom” Johnson, they were all on hand to show support for the Showtime card that highlighted two local fighters.
Photo Hogan Photos/GoldenBoy
J’Leon Love, who now fights out of Las Vegas, opened the TV portion of the card by facing last-minute substitution Derrick Findley. He was originally slated to fight Bronco McKart, but the Monroe, MI southpaw injured a rib in sparring and was forced to pull out.
Love got a lot of love from the crowd and although he had a tougher-than-predicted 10-round outing, he surely learned a lot from the experience. He is a young 25-year old fighter with a bright future and he will use this bout as a gauge. It showed him what he needs to work on if he plans to mix it up with the top names in the middleweight division.
The Ishe Smith/Cornelius Bundrage title fight was the draw that brought over 3,000 fans out on a cold, wintry night. Bundrage is a bit of a local hero, having been featured on”The Contender” TV series and having beaten Cory Spinks to bring the belt home to Detroit. It would have been hard to find a dozen Smith fans in the house. He was booed loudly when he walked into the ring to the sound of Eminem’s “Lose Yourself.”
Surprisingly, Bundrage did not deliver what his fans came to see. For some reason, he just couldn’t put it all together. Smith was calm, focused and determined. He boxed his way through the rounds and seemed unaffected by K-9’s punches. He hurt Bundrage a few times, but seemed a bit short of the punching power needed to KO his opponent. Still he prevailed.
Poor judging has plagued boxing for years and there was the unspoken opinion that Smith would need a knockout to get the decision in Bundrage’s backyard. But fortunately, at least two of the judges scored accurately and Smith got his win. I am not sure what fight Dave Hess watched.
Even Bundrage admitted after the fight that it was not his most sterling performance. “Smith was the better man tonight,” he admitted. He did not run around the ring proclaiming that he actually felt he won. He was gracious and smiling. His gentlemanly behavior kept the local fans from acting crazy. In fact, they seemed to sincerely give Smith his respect. And they obviously still love their K-9.
It was watching Ishe Smith after the scores were announced that had me tearing up. After many years of ups and downs in his career and a close call with suicide five years ago, Smith at last got his redemption. He had thougt many times of giving up entirely, but thanks to Floyd Mayweather’s help and support he persevered. Now he is a world champion.
Stories like Smith’s touch the hearts of people everywhere. He came into K-9’s hometown and was ridiculed, yelled at, and called out in every possible way. Yet he remained cool and contained and let his boxing skills answer the critics.
The tears that he shed after having the belt strapped on his waist were sincere and heart-felt. His religious beliefs and his positive attitude had carried him to victory. And far from being cocky and boastful, he was the picture of gratitude and humility.
Much respect to Ishe for the way he fought, the way he conducted himself, and for all the hard work that he put into this opportunity. His story should inspire a lot of other fighters who sometimes get the urge to just hang up the gloves.
Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager who has been in the business for over three decades. Her life inspired the Meg Ryan film “Against the Ropes” and she was a part of the NBC series “The Contender.” www.JackieKallen.com, www.facebook.com/JackieKallen