Before he won his first championship, Ishe Smith had little say in where he fought. That’s usually how the fight game works.
But that changed on Feb. 23, when the Las Vegan won the IBF junior middleweight title with a 12-round majority decision over Cornelius Bundrage in Bundrage’s hometown of Detroit.
With the belt around his waist, Smith wanted to show it off to his hometown fans who have supported him since he turned pro in 2000. So he pushed for his first title defense to be in Las Vegas, and on July 19 he will meet Carlos Molina in a 12-round bout at the Hard Rock Hotel that will be televised on Showtime.
“I’ve been a road warrior fighting in other people’s backyards,” said Smith, 34. “I want to be able to make my first defense in front of the people who’ve supported me along the way — my family and all my friends.”
Smith (25-5, 11 knockouts) will be facing a veteran fighter who has been in the ring with quality opponents. The 30-year-old Molina (21-5-2, six KOs) has lost and fought to a draw with Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., battled Erislandy Lara to a draw, lost to Mike Alvarado and James Kirkland and defeated Kermit Cintron.
Molina’s most recent fight was a 12-round unanimous decision over Cory Spinks on Feb. 1 in an IBF eliminator.
“I know who he’s fought, but when you look closely, he fought Chavez early in his career when he wasn’t the fighter he is today,” Smith said. “Lara underestimated him, and James Kirkland had him down.
“He’s an awkward and dirty fighter, just like K9 (Bundrage). But I’ve seen everything, and I’m going to be ready for anything he tries to do. I’m not going to lose my composure. I’m going to beat Molina because I’m simply better than him.”
■ ON THE MOVE — With the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Saul “Canelo” Alvarez fight scheduled for Sept. 14 at the MGM Grand Garden, Top Rank has moved the WBO welterweight title fight between champion Timothy Bradley and Juan Manuel Marquez to Oct. 12 at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Bradley (30-0, 12 KOs) and Marquez (55-6-1, 40 KOs) were to fight Sept. 14 — the same date that Alvarez (42-0-1, 30 KOs) had penciled in. But when it was announced last week that Mayweather (44-0, 26 KOs) would be Alvarez’s opponent, Top Rank, as expected, made the change. Bradley-Marquez will be televised on HBO Pay Per View.
“I was very surprised (Mayweather) took the fight, but now that he did, I hope it’s a great fight because the momentum from it will help us,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said.
■ DRUG TESTING — Mayweather has insisted his opponents submit to Olympic-style random drug testing, and that will be the case for him and Alvarez. Mayweather co-manager Leonard Ellerbe said the two will be tested by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency leading up to their fight.
Also, the Nevada Athletic Commission reserves the right to administer out-of-competition random testing.
■ DIEGO’S NEW MANAGER — Local super featherweight Diego Magdaleno has hired veteran Frank Espinoza as his new manager. Magdaleno left Pat Barry after losing to WBO champion Rocky Martinez in April in his first world title fight.
“He contacted me a couple of weeks ago, and we seemed to hit it off,” said the 26-year-old Magdaleno, who is promoted by Top Rank. “He seemed willing to listen to my ideas, and Frank knows everybody in boxing. Look what he’s done with Abner Mares. He’s captured world titles in multiple weight classes.”
Magdaleno (23-1, nine KOs) still is looking for a trainer and said he is considering moving to Southern California. He hopes to fight this summer.
“There’s a lot of good fighters there to train and spar with,” he said.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.