By Jackie Kallen
The press conference at Detroit’s Masonic Temple for the February 23 Showtime card was a rousing success. The crowd was enthusiastic and stacked with local celebs like Thomas Hearns, Lanardo Tyner, promoter Joe Donofrio, and dozens of local boxers. The media was out in force and the mood was one of positivity and hope for the city of Detroit.
Once a major hub of boxing activity, the past few years have found the city in economic ruin and the number of gyms and boxing shows has decreased. It is every Detroiter’s prayer that this show at Masonic will give the entire city a boost and will refresh the boxing scene.
Headlined by Devon Alexander facing Kell Brock for the IBF welterweight belt, the undercard is packed with local favorites. It is an interesting line-up with lots of angles and twists.
IBF Junior Welterweight champ Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage puts his title on the line against Ishe Smith. Both men are alumnus of the TV show “The Contender.” Smith was on Season One and Bundrage was on Season Two. Both men are devoted Christians who have engaged in a social media war that makes this match-up even more compelling. K-9 is promoted by Oscar de la Hoya and Smith is promoted by Floyd Mayweather.
Bundrage is 32-4 with losses against Sechew Powell, Grady Brewer, Steve Forbes and Joel Julio. Smith is 24-5 and has also lost to Julio and Powell. K-9 is five years older. Smith is four inches taller. The Detroit crowd will be barking their heads of in support of their dawg, but Ishe says he doesn’t care.
“They can make all the noise they want to, but they can’t get in the ring and fight for him.”
K-9 entertained the crowd was a lot of humor and energy.
“I could have fought other opponents, but I want to give Ishe this chance. I am going to beat him on the 23rd and I will look great. After all,” he said, flashing a bright smile, “I just had all of my teeth fixed and I am looking good!”
The third bout on the card is an 8-round test for up-and-coming Mayweather protege J’Leon Love. He is now 14-0 with 8 KOs and is on a roll toward a world title. He will face local favorite Bronco McKart (who I used to manage) who is 54-10-1. Bronco has more KOs than Love has total fights. He is a seasoned southpaw who has clocked 414 rounds in the ring. At 41 years old, he is admittedly in the winter of his career. But he feels he has one more big win in his body.
“I still feel young and fresh and fighting in front of my hometown fans will be great. I realize that Love is from Detroit and this is also his hometown, but I have been performing for the fans here since 1992. I hope they will come out and support me,” said McKart.
“Hey, I’m not a fool. I realize that Love is a great prospect. I hope to one day watch him win the world title and be able to say, ‘I beat that kid on his way up.'”
A modest and humble Love was just as much a gentleman. He expressed respect for McKart’s years of experience, but feels it is time for the young turks to force the older journeymen into retirement.
“It’s MY time,” he smiled.
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