A “Ruff” Night in Detroit: Ishe Smith Slips Past “K-9” Bundrage to Win IBF Title, J’Leon Love Overcomes Tough Test in Findley

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    In a “special edition” of Showtime Boxing, Detroit, Michigan played host to a televised card featuring rising prospect J’Leon Love vs. Derrick Findley, and a junior middleweight title clash between Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage vs. Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith. Both fights seemed to be interesting match-ups, as they seemed relatively even on paper. With Love vs. Findley, fans expected to find answers in regards to Love’s potential as a potential superstar. In Bundrage vs. Smith, the question was whether Bundrage’s age and experience could overcome Smith’s relative youth and skill. Well, fans certainly had their questions answered on Feb. 23, but it certainly wasn’t in the most exciting or memorable manner.

    The opening bout of the night was a middleweight tilt between Mayweather protégé, J’Leon Love (15-0, 8 knockouts, and journeyman, Derrick Findley (20-9, 13 knockouts). With Findley taking the bout on 1o-days notice, many doubted the veterans chances at providing any real challenge to Love. Findley provided just that, as both fighters went the distance in a 10-round foul fest.

    In the opening moments of the bout, it was obvious that Findley wasn’t the type of fighter to just lay down in seemingly insurmountable odds as he came out early and aggressive against Love. As he tried to force the prospect against the ropes, Love took his time to exploit Findley’s openings with well-timed shots to both the body and head. With each passing round the pattern seemed to continue. Findley would pressure Love along the ropes, swarm him with wild (and largely blocked) power shots, get pulled into a clinch by Love, and then Love would take over rounds with a superior jab and movement.

    As mature as his in-ring patience may have been, Love’s relatively lackluster approach to taking apart Findley almost cost him the fight. Aside from a dominant 4th round which saw Love almost stop Findley, Findley’s constant aggression and pressure seemed significant enough to keep the fight close (I had Findley winning 4 of the 10 rounds.). Things were made all the more interesting as the fighters began to pass the middle rounds. With Love’s relative inexperience with the later rounds of a fight, it was no surprised to see him let his foot off of the gas for a bit. Findley seemed poised to exploit his opponent’s youth, but before he could get anything going, Love would suddenly answer with a vicious shot that would have the journeyman reeling. A perfect example of this came in the 8th round after Love caught Findley with a hard right hook that caught Findley by surprise.

    Between the seemingly constant clinching, low-blows, and back-and-forth type exchanges along the ropes, Findley managed to hold his own in what seemed to be a competitive performance from both fighters. Unfortunately, the judges score cards told the story of a very different fight. In what was ultimately a unanimous decision, the judges at ring-side awarded J’Leon Love the victory on scores of (100-90), (100-90), (99-91). There was little doubt that J’Leon Love won the fight, but the victory was far from a landslide. Although the decision reeked of “home cooking”, there is little doubt that this was the right kind of fight for an up and coming fighter like Love.

    In the main-event of the evening, junior middleweights, Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage (32-5, 19 knockouts) took on Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith (25-5, 11 knockouts) competed for Bundrage’s IBF title. In this match-up, fans expected a potential barn-burner considering the similarities between the two fighters’ styles. Instead, fans were treated to a fight that was as boring as it was long. The way this fight played out could be summed up in the way the first couple of rounds played out. To many people’s surprise, Smith attempted to play the aggressor early. It seemed to be of little worth though as both fighters had a hard time landing any kind of significant shots aside from the occasional jab.

    This frustrating back-and-forth battle against the air in which both fighters partook was a constant frustration throughout the fight. Smith resorted to a peppering jab, while Bundrage did little aside from throw a looping right hand that consistently failed to reach its target. This pattern continued for eight brutally dull rounds before Bundrage finally woke up and decided to make things interesting. After eight slow rounds, both fighters finally began to land their power shots in exchanges that managed to bring life to the previously snoozing crowd. Bundrage had his moments in the round, but it was Smith who caught his opponent by surprise, as he battered Bundrage along the ropes before he was saved by the bell. This surge of activity for Smith carried on into the final rounds as he now seemed determined to stop his visibly exhausted opponent. Alas, the finish didn’t come, but to many fans delight the dull fight was over.

    Just like in the opening bout, the official scoring of the main-event came into question as the score cards were read. In a fight that seemed like an absolute blow-out victory for Smith, the judges determined the fight as a split decision. Smith would go on to earn the decision on two scores of (116-11), but one judge actually managed to score the fight in favor of Bundrage with a score of (114-113). Questionable judging aside, the right man won that night as Smith was crowned the new IBF junior middleweight champion. In a division that is stacked with the likes of both big names and power punchers it will be interesting to see how Smith fares, but after tonight’s performance the ultimate question is, will anyone actually care to watch?