Ishe Smith’s reign as a world champion lasted less than seven months.
The 35-year-old Las Vegan lost a 12-round split decision to Carlos Molina — and his IBF junior middleweight title — Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden. The fight was part of the undercard to the Floyd Mayweather Jr.-Saul “Canelo” Alzarez main event.
Judge Burt Clements of Reno scored the fight 117-111 for Molina, Barry Druxman of California scored it 116-112 for Molina, and Adalaide Byrd of Las Vegas gave it to Smith 116-112.
“I’m happy about my win, but I’m never satisfied with my performance in the ring,” said Molina (22-5-2). “I always feel I can do better.”
Smith (25-6) seemed confused by the decision.
“He barely landed any punches, and they gave him the title? Wow!” Smith said.
Smith, who is promoted by Mayweather, defeated Cornelius Bundrage on Feb. 23 in Detroit to win the title and was defending it for the first time. But Molina pulled off what Smith pulled off against Bundrage — a win in Smith’s hometown.
And as was the case against Bundrage, Smith started slowly against Molina, who wanted to set the tempo by establishing his jab and going to the body.
Molina also was effective going over the top with his right hand against Smith’s shoulder roll defense, a staple for Mayweather fighters.
Smith appeared to be overly cautious in the first four rounds, and Molina was in control. In the fifth, Smith was much more aggressive, landing his jab and trying to work the body. But Molina answered, continuing to land the right hand and negate Smith’s pressure.
Smith appeared frustrated as he was unable to solve Molina’s defense. Smith tried to pick up the pace late in the fight, but he wasn’t as sharp as he needed to be against a fighter of Molina’s caliber.
The fight originally was scheduled for July 19 at the Hard Rock Hotel, but it was postponed when Smith suffered a cut over his right eye in a sparring session three weeks before. In the week leading up to Saturday, Smith said he had no issues physically.
But he didn’t appear to be himself and wound up having a short reign as world champion after spending more than 12 years pursuing a title.
Molina said he wants to fight the winner of the Mayweather-Alvarez bout. If he gets his wish, his reign as world champion could be as brief as Smith’s.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.