(Ishe Smith, right, Erislandy Lara, left; credit: Stephanie Trapp, Showtime)
Erislandy Lara on Friday night definitively demonstrated that it’s a better use of your time to focus on becoming a skilled boxer, and better to use your energy in the ring applying that, than devoting yourself to posturing and histrionics. Ishe Smith, the opponent he decisioned with ease on Showtime, has joined Floyd Mayweather’s crew, and did more mugging and head-shaking than punching.
Smith wore “Psalm 27” on the back of his trunks, which, if you look it up, reads, “Thou shalt demonstrate to fans in the 50th row that whensoever thine head is punched, that the punch was of low consequence, by flapping around cartoonishly.” It’s hard to say what Smith was trying to do. The onetime fringe contender and current actual junior middleweight contender has always been a solid boxer, although perhaps sometimes his temperament has been toward low outputs. That might explain why he came out like someone who had taken both cocaine and meth, even ending the 1st round by chasing Lara back to his corner after the bell and barking at him. (Newly inducted Hall of Fame referee Steve Smoger, continuing a long, post-prime trend of being inattentive, was nowhere near the two when this happened.)
That said, Lara is just that good, and it’s hard to say whether anything would’ve made a difference. He came out slugging in the 1st two rounds, and lost the 2nd on my card, owing to Smith’s body punching, which was effective throughout the bout if too sporadic. When Lara made up his mind not to be trapped on the ropes for any meaningful stretches, he dominated. Lara’s movement and pot-shotting was better than anything Smith could do after that. If Floyd Mayweather didn’t have the lineal championship and Canelo Alvarez hadn’t narrowly defeated Lara, it’d be easier to make the case for Lara as the class of 154. His entertainment value is uneven, his activity level something that hurts him both in close fights and with the fans; his ability is beyond question.
On the undercard, super middleweight Badou Jack bounced back from a string of lackluster outings, stopping Francisco Sierra in the 6th round of a fight where his body punching was decisive. Jack had a loss and a draw in two of his four previous fights, and Sierra, recently returning from a two-year ring absence, was a credible enough name with the threat of danger thanks to his knockout percentage to get well against. Sierra gained a whopping 27.5 pounds from the weigh-in to fight night, one of the largest figures I’ve ever heard of. He looked sluggish, as a result, and never could land more than the occasional semi-big shot before the more nimble Jack whacked him in the body then escaped. They clashed heads in the 1st, exchanging cuts. By the 4th, Jack was folding Sierra in half with body shots. By the 6th, the ref stepped in at one of the many intervals where Sierra wasn’t defending himself. We will need more evidence than this to assess whether Jack can ever sniff contender status after being a mildly celebrated prospect.
Also, Chris Pearson got it going after a hot start by David Martinez to take over and win a decision in their junior middleweight bout. Both 24-year-olds fought with a great deal of seriousness. Pearson’s last fight was ruled a no-contest after he tested positive for smoking marijuana, a weak reason for changing a fight result but an indicator that maybe Pearson was taking his boxing career lightly. Another potential indicator was the trouble Pearson had in his most recent bout. Martinez won all of the first three rounds on my card, as he was more aggressive and landing the cleaner, harder blows, in particular his long right from range. But he got carried away; feeling confident and successful, he pressed hard on the gas in the 3rd, and Pearson began making him pay late in that round with counters. Once Pearson got his jab going, he was much improved, and he capitalized on the jab’s openings with counter right hands and combinations. Martinez mounted a rally late, and had a shot at a draw if he had enough juice left to complete it. Pearson showed something here by holding off a tough opponent and making adjustments. The jury’s still out on him as a prospect. As for Showtime’s Barry Tompkins’ remark that Pearson was “a guy on the come”… rethink that terminology, sir.