On Saturday night in Carson, one of boxing’s true fighters, Ishe Smith decided to hang up his gloves following a 40th professional contest at the age of 40.
Smith was taken out by a younger, fresher Erickson Lubin at the Dignity Health Sports Park in just three rounds. Truth is, we didn’t see the real Ishe Smith that night.
Participating in his first fight for nine months, and just his third in two and a half years, told a story all too familiar to an aging warrior.
Upon being halted by Lubin, Smith correctly decided the time was right to retire from the sport after a fairytale career.
Solid as a rock. And with a jaw to match. Smith in his pomp would have certainly heard the final bell against Lubin.
Knowing it was the correct time, Smith released a statement a short time after the bout.
From the 1st to the last, you guys always got the best of me. I never made excuses, I never complained. I just went out and gave my best every time out. For the support, I say thank you.
Love you guys, trust me this game won’t get the best of me, I’m done. I did it my way, going out on my terms. It was a great shot I never seen, never recovered either, no excuses from this end. (It’s a) Young man’s game. 19 years is a story book for me. I can bow out gracefully – Ishé Oluwa Kamau Ali Smith
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It wasn’t a hard decision to make honestly, although I will miss it, I won’t be coming back. 19 years of doing something you love professionally is a very long time, 32 years to do something you started off as a kid doing is a dream come true. They say living to 100 is extra ordinary, it doesn’t happen often, they say even seeing 80 one has lived a good life. Well I’ve been blessed in my lifetime to see 40, that’s halfway to 80, 40 percent to 100, the downside to that is for 32 of the 40 years I have lived I have taken punches. Took them in the amateurs, took them sparring, took them professionally. I want to live, I want to be around for 40 more years, I don’t want health problems later in life. The scale of life is true, you’ll be lucky to see 100, Five For Fighting has a song called 100 years that I have listened to for years, every word is true. You have minimal time to make an impact on people’s lives, little time to waste, so live life to the best of your ability. Life is like a roller coaster, full of ups, downs, twists, and turns, although you hate it sometimes you must not get off, you have to keep riding. All my young boxers in the game, enjoy it, it goes so fast, seems like yesterday I was opening this with Chico, today I’m riding off into the sunset. Always fight your fight, be the best you can, and remember the greatest opposition isn’t the man standing across the ring from you, it’s the man you look at every day in the mirror, he will always be your biggest critic.
Promoter Lou DiBella was one of the first to offer his congratulations to Smith on a ring spell which exceeded initial expectations.
“Congrats on a truly admirable career, Ishe. You have many things, inside and outside the ring, to be proud of. Wish you and the kids nothing but the best, my friend,” said DiBella.
From the massive high of claiming the IBF super-welterweight title against all odds in 2013, to the huge blow of losing the mother of his children in 2017. Smith has always handled himself with dignity.
First breaking out of the shadows when appearing on the first series of The Contender in 2004, Smith lost his undefeated run to eventual winner Sergio Mora. But it was his personality which ultimately shone through.
Instantly likeable and with a story to tell, Smith captivated fans who then followed his next moves with interest.
Despite enhancing his reputation outside of the ring, ‘Sugar Shay’ faced setback after setback inside it. The losses kept coming at a crucial stage for Smith until the call came from Floyd Mayweather to join his ‘Money Team’ revolution.
With a powerhouse now guiding his best interests, it wasn’t long until Smith worked his way into title contention. As a result, three wins on the spin led to a fateful meeting with former Contender star Cornelius ‘K9’ Bundrage in 2013.
Smith managed to see out a majority decision, after which the tears revealed how real the struggle was for the Nevada native.
Becoming the first Las Vegas-born world champion will forever live on in memory as Smith proved dreams do come true.
His reign would only last seven months but was enough to make all the effort, blood, sweat and tears worthwhile.
Ishe was now a champion inside and out. He would enjoy some big fight nights on the back of raising the famous red belt aloft. Furthermore, he would also have to take some tough and controversial decisions against him on the chin.
There’s no doubt the 2017 execution of his former wife Latoya Woolen heaped extra pressure on Smith later in his career. Although he always handled situations with class and gained the support of friends, family and fans to get him through his darkest days.
Personally, I’d like to thank Ishe Smith for being himself throughout and wish him well in whatever endeavors he decides is best for him moving forward.
Phil Jay is Editor of World Boxing News. Follow on Twitter @PhilDJay
📸 Tom Casino / Mayweather Promotions