By Chris Cella
Leading up to Showtime’s main event between IBF champion Cornelius “K9” Bundrage (32-5, 19 KO) against challenger Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith (25-5 11 KO), fans expected a showdown which on paper had the potential to be an early fight of the year candidate.
Photo: Tom Casino/Showtime
Through use of social media platforms, the press conference and the weigh-in, K-9 and Smith showed that there was no love lost between the two warriors. But when the bell sounded to commence the 12-round contest, it seemed that both pugilists exhausted themselves leading up to the fight and came in with an empty tank.
Utilizing his herky jerky style, Bundrage established his jab within the first two rounds, able to get off before Smith. But in the second round he was deducted a point for hitting Smith when he was on the ground from a push down.
From there out Smith seemed to take control of the fight, landing more powerful and forceful combinations, though at no time put Bundrage in any trouble.
Each time it seemed Smith was coming alive and was going to finish off Bundrage, he gassed out and took a step back, allowing Bundrage to hang in there. Smith has been known for his tentativeness within the squared circle, and tonight he lacked the killer instinct to earn the stoppage.
Still though, he stayed persistent through each round, and although Bunrdage did his best to land various shots through the rounds, Smith was able to control the majority of the fight en route to earning a split decision victory.
Ishe Smith showed that hard work, perseverance and an unrelenting desire to reach your dreams is attainable.
In the post-fight interview, Bundrage expressed his interest in fighting again, but following his lackluster performance he needs to evaluate where he is at in his career and what he can bring to the table going forward.
For Smith, there are a handful of junior middleweights out there who will be salivating for the opportunity to exchange leather with the new IBF junior middleweight champion.
“Thirteen years, man. That’s all I can say,” said an emotional Smith fighting back tears of joy immediately after the bout. “It means everything. Five years ago I was about to kill myself and I thought about my children growing up without a dad and I didn’t do it. I don’t know what to say. I didn’t think I’d be here. I’m so happy for the opportunity.
“I got hurt in camp and Floyd asked me if I wanted to pull out, but I knew I couldn’t give up. This was my chance to become a world champion.”
In the undercard of the fight undefeated middleweight J’Leon Love (15-0, 8 KO) defeated Derrick Findley via unanimous decision. (100-90, 99-91 twice)
“It was a tough learning experience,” Love said. “Derrick Findley is a tough fighter, but we asked for Derrick Findley. We asked for a tough fighter. I’d rather have a tough fighter on my resume than some slouch.
“He was very, very aggressive. He gave me some close rounds. but keeping your composure and sticking to the game plan is what I learned.”
The 25-year-old Love had his promoter Mayweather also working as his trainer between rounds in the absence of his usual trainer Roger Mayweather for what proved to be the toughest fight of his career.
“He knows the experience and he knows what I’m going through so there’s nobody better than that,” Love said.