Boxing News: You’re fighting Frank Galarza on Friday, September 16th. Can you give us an update on camp and how you have been feeling?
Ishe Smith: Everything’s going good. Training is on schedule. I’ll be ready to go for fight night. It has been a good camp.
BN: What do you know about your opponent that you feel you might be able to exploit on fight night?
IS: Nothing. All l can go off is that he got stopped in his last fight. He stepped up and he got stopped. When you step up to certain levels, you have to be able to compete at those levels. He just lost to a better fighter. He had never really been on that level before.
He can feel like he may be able to come here and beat me on my home turf and that’s fine. He’s supposed to feel like that. I just go in the ring and let my fists do the talking. He should be confident. It’s the fight game. Nobody is going to say they want to lose but there’s just levels to this game and when he stepped up he got knocked out and i’m just going to leave it at that.
BN: You’re pushing forty, how is training different at this age versus when you were younger?
IS: The grind is definitely tougher than when I was a young kid fighting. I was still with so much vigor and anger. But when you get older, Floyd always told me you work smarter not harder. You fight smarter and not harder. I’ve kinda taken that and put it in the back of my head.
My ring IQ is so high. I’ve been in there with everybody, even sparring, from De La Hoya, Mosley, Vargas, Vernon Forrest, Pernell Whitaker, Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather.
On top of all the matches and tough opponents, when you have that kind of experience, your biggest opponent in any camp, in any fight, is always going to be yourself. You always want to make sure you are on point and just making sure you’re fixing any little mistake you’ve been making or any bad habits that you’ve made over the years. I think that’s what this camp has been about. Going back to basics to fix a lot of mistakes.
BN: What’s going through your mind when you face a younger fighter with less experience than you? Do you feel like you see things that he can not see? Do you feel you can do things that he can not do?
IS: You know, when you spar those guys you obviously learn a lot. I’ve taken a piece of every session and remembered it. I remember something about every single camp that I’ve been in. Vargas kind-of sky-rocketed my career when he spoke so highly about me. He was speaking to HBO via satellite and said “you’re going to hear a lot about this kid. He’s really helping me out for this De La Hoya fight.” I think I had maybe had four or six fights at that time and my career kind of skyrocketed from that point on. So you take something away from all of these camps. And it’s not just about trying to be them or not trying to emulate them. It’s just that when you have so much experience you use that. You try to be wise with everything you’re doing.
It’s about being able to maintain and being able to still compete at a high level. If I felt like I can’t do that, that I can’t compete at a hight level… Like i’m talking to you right now. I can hold a nice conversation. I can articulate things. I can talk to my children.
I just went to the Nevada Boxing Hall of Fame dinner maybe a month ago. And it’s sad, man. I won’t say no names, but it’s just so sad seeing those guys that I’ve grown up watching over the years and to think that the game that I’m in has done that to them. It’s just beyond sad to me.
I’ve always told myself, I’ve told my fiancee, I’ve told my kids, no matter how much money I have in the bank. No matter how much I’ve saved. No matter how much I’ve stored. This game will never get the best of me. You will never see me like that. If I don’t feel like I can compete at a high level no more, and I’m not talking about the Galarzas. ‘Cause this isn’t the high level. This is a fight to get me back to that level. If I feel like I can’t compete with the Vaneses of the world, or the Charlos of the world, the Julian Williamses of the world. If I can’t compete with those guys, then hell, I might as well get out of there, man, cause this game is not going to get the better of me.
BN: You’ve never been stopped in your career. Do you ever have that fear? Do you ever think this might be the day on which I get knocked out.
IS: (Laughs) No, I would have told Vanes to go play the lottery cause that was the first time I’ve ever been dropped in 15 years. That was the first time I’d ever touched the canvas. The first knockdown, I was a little of balance and he caught me in the back of the head and they called it a knock down and the second was a legit knock down. He caught me coming in.
When you get to that level, you can’t make those kind of errors. you’ve gotta be on point and thats what this camp has been about. Fine tuning everything so that I limit the mistakes.
BN: What is the toughest opponent you have ever faced?
IS: The Erislandy Lara fight was my toughest because it was the first time I couldn’t figure someone out. I was doing the best that i could. I was trying to execute the game plan but he’s so crafty and so good at what he was doing that I just could not figure him out. It was like trying to solve a puzzle but not having the pieces to solve it. I was very frustrated. It wasn’t the most challenging physically but it was the most mentally challenging fight I’ve ever been in. I came on strong and was executing and felt like, if I kept that up, I would have a shot in the fight and he just made adjustments really fast and I didn’t make any adjustments and it showed. It was mentally challenging. I just couldn’t do the things that I wanted to do and we trained really hard for that fight so I was very frustrated.
BN: In your opinion, who is the guy to beat at junior middleweight and where do you see yourself fitting into that picture?
IS: There’s so many young hungry fighters and they’re big now. Whereas back when i was starting and fighting at 154, Vernon forrest was like the only junior middleweight at 6 foot. Now you have top guys who are 6 foot, prospects who are 6 foot, you have Andrade who’s 6 foot, the Charlos’ are 6 foot, Williams is 6 foot. All these guys are 6 foot (laughs)!
I would say all of them but I have to put a guy above the rest it would definitely have to be Lara. He’s not going to be an easy guy to beat for anyone. He does what he does well. If you don’t clip him or make it in to a dog fight or make him fight your fight, he’s just going to be hard for anyone to beat.
BN: What is your proudest moment as a professional boxer?
IS: My proudest moment will definitely have to be winning that world title. It was a culmination of 13 years of hard work and dedication and tears and pain and joy. It was like the greatest gift ever outside of having kids. There’s no greater thing I’ve ever experienced in my life. It was the best feeling in the world. I would have to say that is my proudest moment. Having my family there, my kids, my fiancee and having a close friend, who’s been there at the majority of my fights, there as well. You just can’t top that. You cant write a better moment.
BN: What do you want to say to all of those people that supported you and helped get you here?
I would just tell them thank you. It has been 16 glorious years and this has been there story of a true fighter. I didn’t come out of the olympics with no big contract. I didn’t start off with the best promoter. I started off locally (in Las Vegas) fighting for a thousand dollars for four rounds, 1500 for 6, 2500 for 8 and 5000 for ten. That was my pay at The Orleans. To watch my career and see where it is today and see where I’ve come today. Even with the losses, I’ve lost to a lot of good champions and contenders and now some that are current champions like Jacobs.
It has been a hell of a a ride and it’s a true blessing. The way I started. It’s straight out of a Rocky movie. It’s crazy to realize that,16 years ago I was barely making scraps and to be headlining a show in my home town on the strip, this is my first big fight on the strip. I’ve been at the hard rock or on Floyd’s under card before but this is my fight. I’m the main guy and truly means a lot.