Saturday, April 01, 2023  |



Ishe Smith has done it all in boxing, so where’s the respect?

Photo by Chris Farina / Mayweather Promotions
Fighters Network

Ishe Smith has been through a lot over the course of his boxing career, both in and out of the ring. He’s won some fights, he’s lost others. But he’s also had to deal with serious depression and the mother of his children being murdered. He’s the first fighter born in Las Vegas to win a world title. He was on the reality show The Contender in 2005. He’s worked with the best in the game. But if there’s one thing that Smith feels he hasn’t done in his mind, it’s earn the respect of boxing media.

At the age of 39, Smith has done a lot. But he doesn’t have a glowing record (29-9, 12 knockouts) or highlight-reel power. Smith just gives it his all every single time out. He’s never been stopped and has been in the ring with everyone from Randall Bailey and Erislandy Lara to Daniel Jacobs and Sergio Mora. He went to the backyard of Cornelius “K9” Bundrage in Detroit to win his first world title and has been a staple in Mayweather Promotions using his experience to assist fighters both young and old in preparation for their next big fight.

“Nobody born and raised in Las Vegas has put on for this city like I have,” Smith says inside of the Mayweather Boxing Club as he prepares to face Tony Harrison (26-2, 21 KOs) at Sam’s Town on May 11 in the main event of PBC on Bounce TV. “It’s time for the writers to show me respect for all I’ve done.”

He’s not necessarily done with boxing yet, however. Even at 39, Smith believes he has a lot more to give before it’s time to call it quits. That, and the fact that it’s the only way he knows how he makes a living.

“I have kids at home and this game is a monster,” Smith says. “There’s no health insurance or benefits, so I’m fighting for my children. If I didn’t have kids, I would have already retired. It’s hard to see the future after boxing. I see former fighters becoming security guards; I can’t do that. If I wasn’t competitive, I would want those close to me to tell me to get out.”

Smith (left) and Julian Williams mix it up. Photo by Chris Farina/ Mayweather Promotions

But Smith has remained competitive. The result of his last outing, although it was a loss to Julian Williams, was widely panned by both Smith and many in the boxing community because of the discrepancy in scoring: 99-91, 98-92 and 97-93. Smith won’t go as far to say that he won, but he is clearly irritated by how the fight was scored.

“I don’t know how you score that fight 9-1,” Smith says while shaking his head. “I have no problem with a draw or him winning 6-4. It was a very competitive fight. but the thing that pissed me off more than anything was the scoring. What were they watching?”

It’s been the story of Smith’s career. He doesn’t necessarily have bad showings, but nobody is really running to fight him. He’s kind of a gatekeeper in some people’s minds, but he’s good enough to thwart the progress of young talent. If you ask Smith, he thinks that the judges already have it in their minds that he’s the old veteran who is supposed to lose, so close rounds might be given to the opponent. Not being a knockout artist, those close early rounds going to his opponent put him in an immediate hole.

And if he does win, it’s because there was something wrong with his opponent. With Tony Harrison, a fighter who was once the up-and-comer who suffered a pair of knockouts to Jarrett Hurd and Willie Nelson, people will question whether or not he has what it takes to be a competitor in the junior middleweight division.

Ultimately, for Smith, it’s a damned if you do and damned if you don’t situation.

Smith (left) battles Erislandy Lara in 2014. (Photo by Stephanie Trapp / Showtime)

“Boxing is very fickle,” Smith says. “If I knock Harrison out they’ll say that he doesn’t have a chin. I just gotta do what I do. But it sucks to train and dedicate yourself to something and have a judge’s score erase all of your hard work.”

It’s probably safe to say that Harrison has a lot more to gain than Smith does. And “Sugar Shay” understands that. But, even then, he’s not going to allow anybody to just use his name on their climb to the top. And whatever Harrison believes he can do to Smith, the Las Vegan says it’ll be nothing he hasn’t seen before.

“He’s just like anybody else,” Smith says. “They say that he’s strong, but I’ve been fighting strong guys. So what? He’s been knocked out twice, I’ve never been knocked out. No man who has been knocked out twice is about to beat me right now. He can do whatever he wants but it won’t be anything that I haven’t dealt with before. None of it matters to me. They are all the same.”

Harrison is simply another fight to put food on the table. Don’t get it confused; Smith is not showing up to just collect a check. He recognizes that winning could lead to bigger paydays and, like he always does, he’ll give it his all to come out on top. And as long as he does just that, Smith will live to fight another day. Win or lose, as long as he’s competitive, he’ll continue to fight. But all he really wants to win at this point of his career is respect.

“I want those who have refused to acknowledge what I’ve accomplished just to respect what I have done,” he says. “I’ve been in fights that I wasn’t supposed to win. I’ve been told that Floyd is responsible for getting me a title shot. But Floyd didn’t fight for me. I had to do everything the hard way. But I’ve done it all my way.”