Sometimes what looks like a big disappointment ultimately works out for the best. Case in point: Ishe Smith's first junior middleweight title defense against mandatory challenger Carlos Molina.
In February, Smith outpointed Cornelius "K9" Bundrage to become the first native of Las Vegas to win a world title, and he was due to face Molina on July 19 at the Hard Rock in Las Vegas on a relatively small card. But the 35-year-old Smith (25-5, 11 KOs) suffered a cut during training and was forced to postpone the bout, a big disappointment for him -- and for Molina.
But things sure worked out nicely for both: The fight was rescheduled for the undercard of the biggest fight of the year, the junior middleweight unification bout between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Canelo Alvarez on Saturday at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Smith, a former participant on "The Contender" reality series, considers Mayweather, his promoter, a mentor and friend. When the fight needed to be rescheduled, it was no surprise that Mayweather insisted that it go on his undercard.
"It's a privilege to be on the biggest card of my career, bigger than any 'Contender' card I ever fought on, bigger than any show I've been on. It's a blessing," said Smith, the first Mayweather Promotions fighter to win a world title.
Smith was a bit disappointed that the July 19 date was postponed, because he had many supporters coming to the fight. And now that it's on such a huge card, tickets are sold out and buying them on the secondary market is very expensive.
"So it's disheartening. Now I'm not able to have the people that can't get tickets or can't afford these kind of priced tickets to come see me fight, but they'll be tuned in on TV, watching on pay-per-view," Smith said. "And like I said, it's just an honor. Mayweather Promotions made sure that I got another date at home after [the postponement], so it definitely is an honor. I don't take it for granted at all."
Chicago's Molina (21-5-2, 6 KOs), 30, also likes the idea of the massive exposure he is about to get.
"To me, really it doesn't matter where it is," he said. "I just want to fight for the IBF belt and wherever it happens to be -- this happens to be an even greater opportunity, I feel -- but like I said, it doesn't really matter as long as I get the title shot and get that belt. But, yeah, to be on a big card like this and get all that exposure, that's definitely better."
Regardless of the timing of the fight, Molina has no problem going to Smith's hometown for his long-awaited title shot. This certainly isn't the first time he has been a road warrior.
"I'm used to being the underdog and going into other people's hometowns and everyone thinking I won't win," Molina said. "I'm used to dealing with that. I never let anything get me down. I prepare myself mentally and physically for any obstacle.
"You have to take it as another fight. It's a good feeling to fight for a title, especially on this stage, but I know that I can't get excited until I bring the belt back to Chicago. Once I have it, then I can be more excited. I've been through a lot of bad decisions and stuff, so I'm just staying focused. Besides, I treated all my fights like they were for a world championship. I have a lot of practice for this fight because every fight I've gone into, I've mentally told myself it was for a world title. I love the pressure. I feel like it pushes me through camp and keeps me working hard."