Ishe Smith knows he can’t sustain too many losses if he’s serious about contending for a world title again.
The former junior middleweight champion from Las Vegas left no doubt he still has something left, winning a 10-round unanimous decision over Cecil McCalla on Thursday in the main event of a boxing card at the Palms. The judges scored the ESPN2-televised fight 98-92, 97-93 and 97-93.
“I had him going,” Smith said. “But when you’re fighting young, up-and-coming guys who only have one loss, you have to respect their abilities. But my jab was working really well, and I was able to do whatever I wanted.”
Smith (28-6) had a new trainer working his corner. Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who had helped guide Smith to the International Boxing Federation junior middleweight title in February 2013, was replaced by Danny Smith, who had been in Smith’s corner before but was now in charge. The two are not related.
“I felt I needed a new set of eyes,” Smith said. “Nothing against Eddie. What we did together will never change. But I felt at this stage of my career, it was time to go a different way.”
The decision was made a few weeks ago but kept private.
“I didn’t want it to come out in public and become a distraction,” Smith said.
His best work Thursday came in rounds two through five. He was landing his right hand effectively to McCalla’s chin and body. McCalla (20-2) couldn’t answer, and Smith almost knocked him down at the end of the second, third and fourth rounds.
“The right was working really well,” Smith said. “He was an awkward guy to fight. He’s kinda herky-jerky, so I decided to go to the body more and get a rhythm, and it worked perfectly.”
Smith, 36, admitted he was a bit tired entering the final round. But he had enough left to unleash a barrage of blows that had McCalla reeling.
“It was a good way to finish,” Smith said. “I treated the 10th as if I were behind, and I just went for it.”
In the co-feature, Mahonri Montes knocked down Ashley Theophane late in the final round of their junior welterweight bout, but it wasn’t enough as Theophane won a 10-round split decision.
Montes (29-5-1) had dominated the first half of the fight, and though Theophane (38-6-1) had a nice rally, he still appeared to be trailing. And when Montes caught Theophane flush on the jaw and knocked him down with 22 seconds left, he appeared on his way to victory.
But the judges saw it differently. Adalaide Byrd and Tim Cheatham had Theophane winning 96-93, each giving him seven of the first nine rounds. Robert Hoyle had Montes winning 96-93.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.