Smith dethrones Bundrage
Ringside by Lindy Lindell & Sam Geraci
Photos by Robert Ryder
Controlling the action almost throughout, Ishe Smith became the first world champion born and raised in Las Vegas, winning a clear-cut (if not decisive) split decision over junior-middleweight titleholder Cornelius (K9) Bundrage in Bundrage's hometown of Detroit.
The Golden Boy-Mayweather Productions show was held in downtown Detroit in the largest of three auditoria at the Masonic Temple with an enthusiastic crowd filling approximately two-thirds of the 4,500-seat venue.
It was a strange, disjointed fight that was, at times, exciting in a boxer-puncher match up that sometimes saw a "confusion" of roles. Bundrage, the puncher, began the bout with bad-intentions punches, though mostly missed. Ringsiders buzzed at the end of the first, after the fighters' roles had been established, settling in with the anticipation of an exciting boxer-puncher match up.
It wasn't to be. Bundrage tried boxing in the second, but without success. By the third, he was losing the jabbing war; this continued into the fourth, a round notable for Smith's hardest punch to this point, a straight right into Bundrage's kisser.
Then the fight took an unexpected turn. Inexplicably, Bundrage spent approximately two minutes of each of the next two rounds merely dancing from side to side near the ropes, hardly even attempting to throw punches. Boos rang out. Unaccountably, judge David Hess scored both rounds for Bundrage, tipping the balance in the eventual scoring in which he awarded the 114-113 duke to the champion.
Where Bundrage was pulling away on Hess' scorecard at this point (by four points), Smith was pulling away on the cards of messieurs Herb Santos, Gerald White, this correspondent (who had Smith the eventual winner by five, five and nine points respectively), plus everyone else in the pro-Bundrage crowd that I polled.
Ishe Smith controlled the rest of the fight, and even won four of the six rounds on the card of Mrs. Hess. Judges Santos and White both had Smith winning by 116-111.
Floyd "Money" Mayweather, Smith's charge, had "got into it" at ringside with Bundrage's wife, but Floyd boasted that she was silent after round six. "Yeah, we got into it, but she wasn't saying anything after round six," Floyd reported at the post-fight press conference. Perhaps Floyd had reason to gloat a bit: he had his first champion on the eve of his 36th birthday.
For Smith, the fight meant vindication and retribution. He cried unashamedly when the decision was announced. It had meant as much to him as it meant to Jake LaMotta, when he won the world middleweight title in Motown 60+ years ago. LaMotta had said, "I cried because winning the world title meant something." In LaMotta's day, the "world" title that Smith won, in the broken form between four sanctioning bodies, didn't exist
None of this mattered to Smith, who had no "world" at all five years ago—when he contemplated suicide, but hadn't followed through after thinking of his children.
Smith's career had been languishing—four wins in an eight-fight period—when longtime friend and sparring buddy Floyd Mayweather told him 18 months ago that he would get him a title fight. Mayweather reaffirmed his promise last year when incarcerated and Smith read his words from the letter at the final press conference two days before the fight.
At the post-fight press conference, Smith reaffirmed his allegiance to Mayweather when he said, "And Floyd sees to it that I get what is coming to me when I get paid. There are no deductions."
For the 39-year ex-champ Bundrage, there were no excuses. "I didn't follow my game plan." Trainer Javon Hill agreed. "Yeah, he didn't follow the plan. It's that simple." - L.L.
Love still undefeated
Mayweather was in the corner of another winner earlier in the evening's semi-main, in which Detroiter J'Leon Love, another Mayweather Productions pickup, advanced to probable main-event status by warding off the determined slants of Derrick Findley. Love, 15-0, had his hands full for the ten-round distance, shutting out Findley on one card and losing one round on the other two.
But it was hardly easy. Findley, who had kayoed Thomas Hearns' son, Ronnie, in a local appearance last year, never stopped coming. But Love seemed in control much of the way, using superior boxing ability and some sharp punches that, none the less, failed to stop Findley's forward pursuit.
Findley acknowledged Love's generalship, and had no specific complaints with the decision, but maintained, "He can't punch at all. That's why I kept coming all night. He was a better man tonight."
Love was happy with his performance on the biggest stage of his career to date: "I felt great and felt that I dominated the fight. He was trying to smother me. I couldn't get in my uppercut, like I thought I was going to be able to, but I went back to the other shots that worked." -- L.L.
Jack defeats Mouton
Rising super middleweight prospect Badou Jack (13-0, 9 KOs) of Stockholm, Sweden, now fighting of the Mayweather Gym in Las Vegas, NV, remained undefeated by scoring a unanimous decision over Dan Mouton (11-5-1, 9 KOs) of Houston, TX, with three scores of 78-74. - S.G.
Arias stops Perez
Super middleweight Luis Arias (3-0, 1 KO) of Milwaukee, WI, scored a TKO at 2:23 of the first round over an undersized Edgar Perez (5-3, 3 Kos) of Puerto Rico. Arias scored two knockdowns. The first was scored with a right hook to the body and the second, which ended the bout, was scored with a left hook to the body.- S.G.
Gausha outclasses Byfield
Super middleweight Terrell Gausha (3-0, 2 KOs) of Cleveland, OH, defeated a rugged but outclassed Lekan Byfield (2-4-2) of Tarrytown, NY, by unanimous decision with three scores of 40-36.- S.G.
Bonas TKOs Witt
Joseph Bonas (1-0, 1 KO) of Detroit, MI, made his pro debut by scoring a TKO at 55 seconds of the first round over Coy Witt (2-3, 1 KO) of Pounding, VA. Bonas scored two knockdowns.- S.G.
Santos TKOs Walker
Junior lightweight Braulio Santos (9-0, 8 KOs) of Carolina, PR, scored a TKO at 1:19 of the first round over Terrance Walker (0-3) of Grand Rapids, MI, in a bout that probably shouldn't have happened. Santos controlled every second and scored three knockdowns (one which was a standing eight count) while Walker might not have been credited with throwing a significant punch.- S.G.
Geffrard derailed in debut
In a stunning upset, cruiserweight Steve Geffrard (0-1) of Miami, FL, who was recently signed by Golden Boy, was stopped on cuts by Kentrell Claiborne (3-6, 2 KO) of Shreveport, LA, at 2:19 of the third round. Geffrard controlled the first and second with his work rate but could was unable to hurt Claiborne, who couldn't miss with looping right hands that caused the cuts above Geffrard's left eye in the third.- S.G.
Ballard wins debut
In the first bout of the evening, light heavyweight D'mitrius Ballard (1-0, 1 KO) of Temple Hills, MD, made his pro debut by stopping Kelly Henderson (0-2) of Bluefield, WV, at 1: 06 in the first round. Ballard scored three knockdowns before the fight was mercifully stopped; Henderson did not belong in the ring against Ballard.- S.G.