Ishe Smith knew he would get another chance to become a world champion. It was just a matter of patience.
Smith, the former International Boxing Federation junior middleweight champion and the first Las Vegas native to win a world title, was supposed to fight Erislandy Lara, the World Boxing Association champ, in May. But Lara got a big-money fight against Canelo Alvarez in July and pushed Smith to the side.
Lara lost a 12-round split decision to Alvarez on July 12 at the MGM Grand Garden in a nontitle fight. But the belt will be on the line tonight in San Antonio when Lara meets Smith on a Showtime-televised card.
Smith, 36, is coming off an impressive performance on May 2, when he stopped Ryan Davis in the second round at the Hard Rock Hotel to push his record to 26-6 with 12 knockouts. The competition will be much tougher tonight, but Smith said he’s ready.
“It’s a chance to add to my legacy,” Smith said. “I never complained about what he (Lara) did because I understand the business of boxing. Things happen. The opportunity came for him to be on the bigger stage against Canelo and make more money. I respect that.
“But good things come to those who wait. He did what he had to do, and now we’re going to fight.”
Lara (19-2-2, 12 KOs) said tonight is a chance to move forward after the disappointment of losing a fight he believes he won.
“I feel I’m one of the top 154-pound fighters in the world, and I thought I proved it against Canelo,” Lara said. “But I never take any opponent lightly, and we want to keep this belt. Ishe Smith is a good, veteran fighter, and we have prepared well for him.”
Eddie Mustafa Muhammad, who trains Smith, said the game plan they originally had for Lara in May has been enhanced after what they saw Alvarez do to him in July.
“We’ve implemented things from all the fights I’ve seen (Lara) in,” Muhammad said. “We’ve got Ishe in the best shape possible. We had great sparring partners. Lara can be very awkward, so we’ve worked on things to deal with that. For us, the game is about ‘I hit you, you don’t hit me.’ We’re not in it to take punches, we’re in it to give punches and to come back to Vegas with that belt.”
Smith lost the IBF title in his first defense 15 months ago to Carlos Molina. But he doesn’t see this fight as pivotal in his career.
“I never put myself in make-or-break fights,” Smith said. “Who would have thought when I lost to Molina last September I would be back on this stage a little bit over a year later? As an athlete, you just want to go out and perform and do your best. That’s my mindset for this fight.”
Also on the card, Las Vegas super middleweight Badou Jack (17-1, 11 KOs) will face Francisco Sierra (26-7-1, 23 KOs) in a 10-round co-feature. The Showtime telecast will be shown in Las Vegas on tape delay at 10:15 p.m.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.