Ishe Smith becomes IBF champion
Ishe Smith beat Cornelius Bundrage on a split decision to take over the IBF junior middleweight title in Detroit on Saturday night.
Smith won 116-111 on two cards and lost 113-114 on the third.
Smith improved his record to 25-5, with 11 knockouts. Bundrage, who was docked a point for an illegal punch, dropped to 32-5; 19.
Bundrage, 39 years old, was making the third defence of his IBF junior middleweight belt. Smith is 34.
Sapa-AFP reports that the fight was marked by repeated holding and shoving, but the result made Smith the first fighter born in the boxing haven of Las Vegas to win a “world” title.
It was an emotional win for a fighter who said he once contemplated suicide after his ring career went off the rails and his marriage failed.
He wept as he thanked his promoter, Floyd Mayweather, in the ring after the bout. "It means everything," he said.
Five years ago he was so low that he was ready to kill himself but did not want to leave his children without a fathe. “I didn't think I'd be here," he added, struggling for composure.
Bundrage was the aggressor for most of the bout, using his jab to neutralise Smith's dangerous counter-punching.
Smith did catch the champion with a solid combination late in the third round, but was mainly on the defensive until the ninth, when he finally unleashed a flurry that rocked Bundrage.
Bundrage was unable to take advantage of the support of his hometown fans in his first fight in Detroit since 2005.
"Ishe just fought a good fight. He won the fight fair and square," Bundrage said. "I didn't follow instructions. He won it. Congratulations to him."
Bundrage, who lives in Detroit, has been fighting as a professional since September 1995. He won the IBF belt in August 2010 when he upset Cory Spinks, winning on a fifth-round technical knockout.
He made a successful defence against Sechew Powell (26-2) and stopped Sprinks in the seventh round of a return match on June 30 last year.
Smith, from Las Vegas, has never been stopped in a 12-year career.
Earlier, middleweight J’Leon Love remained undefeated after 15 fights when he beat Derrick Findley on points – 99-91 on two cards and 100-90.
In a super-middleweight bout, Swedish import Badou Jack beat Dan Mouton over eight rounds to improve to 13-0, with 9 knockouts. Mouton’s dropped to 11-5-1; 9.