By Jackie Kallen
I remember when I was part of “The Contender” TV series on NBC and we were selecting the first season’s contestants. There were plenty of good boxers to choose from and Mark Burnett and his group were looking for future champions. They hoped to be able to showcase the champions of tomorrow. That was back in 2004 and Ishe Smith definitely stood out.
I could go over the list of Season One contenders and tell you what each one is up to, but the one who is the most talked-about these days is 35-year old Las Vegas native Ishe Smith. Known as “Sugar Shay,” he was one of the guys we all predicted would win the whole thing. He didn’t. But he is now the IBF Light Middleweight Champion of the World.
On the TV show, Smith was knocked out of the running by eventual winner Sergio Mora. But his talent was undeniable and although many people accused him of having a “terrible attitude,” it was obvious that the man could fight.
On September 14, on the undercard of the Mayweather/Alvarez super-fight, Sugar Shay will face Carlos Molina in Smith’s first title defense since beating Cornelius Bundrage in January. It’s an interesting opponent and I am expecting it to be a good fight. Before Smith suffered an injury, they were set to fight in July.
At 21-5-2, Molina lines up nicely against Smith, who is 25-5. At 30 years old, Molina has the age advantage. But that isn’t always a factor. Ask Bernard Hopkins. Neither man is a powerful puncher, so it will most likely go the distance. Both men have five losses and neither one has ever been stopped.
Molina is coming off of a sound beating of Cory Spinks earlier this year. He had Spinks down in the fight and barely let Spinks win a round. Before that he scored a lopsided win against Damian Frias. A year and a half ago Molina had a title shot against James Kirkland but got a disqualification after his corner jumped into the ring before the 10th round was over. Molina had been fighting a great fight up until he got dropped in the 10th. During the standing eight count his corner prematurely jumped in.
Long known as a spoiler, Molina will come to win. He has wins over Kermit Cintron, Erislandy Lara and Danny Perez. He has seen Smith fight and is planning to take the title from him.
On the other side of the coin, Sugar Shay is not about to give up his belt without a battle. He worked long and hard to earn it and he has no intention of losing to Molina. This is a pivotal bout for Smith. He needs to prove that his win over K-9 was not a fluke or a question of luck.
A devout Christian, Smith has mellowed greatly over the years and is a dedicated father. He has become humble and seems to appreciate the way his career has turned around under the watchful eye of The Money Team. It would be nice to see Smith’s reign as champ continue. I just hope he doesn’t take Molina lightly.