It won’t be for the title he lost, but Ishe Smith will fight for a belt when he returns to the ring.
The former International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion from Las Vegas will face World Boxing Association champ Erislandy Lara in the 12-round main event at the Hard Rock Hotel on May 2, the night before Floyd Mayweather, the former champ, faces Marcos Maidana at the MGM Grand Garden. Mayweather gave up the title as he remains focused on fighting as a welterweight.
“It’s still Floyd’s belt as far as I’m concerned,” Smith said. “I’m just going to bring it back into the family.”
Smith (25-6, 11 knockouts), who is promoted by Mayweather, last fought on the undercard of Mayweather’s Sept. 14 win over Canelo Alvarez at the Grand Garden, where Smith lost a 12-round split decision and his title to Carlos Molina.
Molina was to make his first defense March 8 against Jermall Charlo, but Molina was arrested March 4 on an outstanding warrant and remains in the Clark County Detention Center. He also faces immigration issues.
“That’s some weird stuff with Molina,” Smith said. “If he had been picked up earlier, maybe I still have my title. But I’m not going to make any excuses. I’m training great, and I’m excited about the opportunity to win a second world title.”
Smith said he empathizes with Molina.
“That’s a bad situation,” Smith said. “To miss out on a big payday and help out his family? That’s not good. But at the end of the day, we’re all sportsmen, and I wish Molina nothing but the best.”
Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs) is coming off a 12-round unanimous decision over Austin Trout on Dec. 7. But Smith isn’t quaking in his boots.
“I don’t see no bogeyman to worry about,” Smith said. “I respect him, but I just need to be myself and fight my fight.”
Fox Sports 1 will televise the fight.
■ SPYING ON VARGAS? — Jessie Vargas reportedly had an unwelcome visitor recently at the Top Rank Gym. It was Vladimir Hryunov, the manager of Khabib Allakhverdiev, who will fight Vargas on April 12 at the MGM Grand Garden for Allakhverdiev’s WBA and International Boxing Organization junior welterweight titles.
In a tweet to his followers, Vargas said: “Seems to me that my opponents team is lacking confidence! Today we had his manager trying to come in to our training camp. Who does that? lol.”
Vargas said he never saw Hryunov inside the gym because his team stopped him at the door.
“I thought it was strange,” Vargas said. “I can care less what (Allakhverdiev) is doing. But he’s probably the one who’s worried.”
■ SAM’S TOWN CARD — Rashad Ganaway (14-4) will meet Victor Castro (11-0) on April 4 at Sam’s Town for the vacant World Boxing Council-United States National Boxing Championship lightweight title, scheduled for 10 rounds.
Also scheduled to fight on the seven-bout card is Leon Spinks III, who is 7-0-1 as a junior welterweight.
Tickets, priced at $25, $30 and $50, are available at pochiroboxing.com or samstown.com. The first bell is scheduled for 7 p.m.
■ BKB APPROVED — The Nevada Athletic Commission has approved Big Knockout Boxing to do business in the state, and the venture is expected to debut in Las Vegas this summer.
BKB is a hybrid of boxing, using a 17-foot circular “pit” instead of a square ring, fewer rounds with fewer minutes. DirecTV, the parent company of BKB, will create programming from the events.
Nevada referees and judges will be used, and competitors will use standard boxing gloves, 8 ounces and 10 ounces.
BKB debuted last year with two events in New Hampshire and is looking to branch out to other states.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter @stevecarprj.