Every major PPV is usually kicked off by a smaller fight card a day or two before the event itself. Of course, given the magnitude of Mayweather-Pacquiao it makes sense that it would take two cards to help kick things off.
Tonight’s kickoff card came to us live from the Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada as ESPN’s coverage of the mega fight continued with a Thursday night addition of “Friday Night Fights.” In tonight’s main event, Ishe Smith took on Cecil McCalla in a scheduled 10 round affair at the middleweight limit.
Smith started the fight with the same kind of presence we are used to seeing from him. It was a methodical, slow tempo attack with calculated presses and very little risk taking. He seemed bigger around the belly at middleweight, at least compared to his learner self at 154lbs.
McCalla did little to detour Smith from keeping his pace. In fact, early on MacCalla straight out fought Smith’s fight and allowed him to take full advantage.
Smith had a big moment at the end of the second round. McCalla had been very predictable thus far in the fight and Smith found a moment to press. Smith landed a hard right hand on the un-tucked chin of McCalla, which staggered him. Smith got very aggressive after that and mixed up his attack very well. It was the best we’ve seen out of Smith in a very long time, but it was difficult to gauge whether or not the punches were truly hurting McCalla the way that middleweight punches should hurt.
Regardless of whether or not Smith’s power had been affected by the weight move, he was still in control of the fight and began to get a bit more comfortable.
After pressing the action in round 5 and finding some brief success, Smith seemed to get tired and wasn’t really doing much other than occasionally shooting shots downstairs and waiting for openings upstairs. Smith was content to be held by McCalla, who was way down in the fight but didn’t appear bothered enough to do anything about it.
Smith was picking his shots throughout the remainder of the fight, and managing to muster up enough strength to put a few hard right hands together.
McCalla found success in the last couple rounds, presumably taking advantage of a tired Smith. However, McCalla didn’t do enough to change the tempo of the fight and Smith took it the distance with the fight ending up in the judges’ hands.
Smith won a unanimous decision with the judges’ scores of 97-93 twice and 98-92.
Smith has now rebounded from his December 2014 loss to Erislandy Lara, but he is still only 3-2 in his last five outings and he needs to put consecutive performances together.
In the evening’s co-feature, Ashley Theophane won a split-decision victory over Mahonri Montes. Theophane was boxing well in the early going and controlled the fight from the opening bell. However, Theophane allowed Montes back into the fight with his moving forward aggression.
In the end, Montes couldn’t come back from the early on deficit and Theophane put enough rounds in early to win the fight.