Ishe Smith may have his best years in the ring behind him, but he showed Frank Galarza that he’s far from over the hill.
The 38-year-old former world champion proved too much for Galarza on Friday night, using a second-round knockdown to propel him to a 10-round majority decision in a 156-pound bout at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas.
Smith gained the early edge when he caught Galarza with a counter right near the end of Round 2 and dropped the Brooklyn, New York, native. While Galarza quickly got back to his feet, Smith danced in the neutral corner and smirked at his opponent while referee Vic Drakulich gave the count.
“A lot of young guys feel like I’m old, so they want to try and apply the pressure,” Smith said. “But from working with guys like Bernard Hopkins and Floyd Mayweather, it’s all about setting traps. And I was able to set up a trap and knock him down.”
Said Galarza: “I had my leg a little bit too far back and he just kinda caught me over the head and he caught me off balance. It didn’t hurt me. I think I was taking his best shots in the ring. I was just off balance.”
Galarza, 31, was backed up early on as Smith doubled and tripled up on his jab, and followed with potent straight rights, but “The Brooklyn Rocky” became the aggressor in Rounds 6 and 7 as he hammered his older foe with hooks to the body.
“In the middle rounds, when I got a little comfortable and thought I could cruise to victory and maybe stop him late, he turned it up a gear and just came out and applied pressure,” Smith said. “I wasn’t ready for that, so it took me like a round or two to adjust to it.”
In Round 8, Smith began to time Galarza’s attack and return fire with accurate counterpunches to the head and body. Galarza responded the following round with some bodywork of his own as began to throw more right-hand leads and hooks.
In the final round, both fighters exchanged heavy blows as the seconds ticked down and had to be pulled apart at the final bell.
“I had to dig deep. That was the first time I had to dig deep in the last round in a very long time,” Smith said. “I knew it was close because [my corner] kept telling me it was close, and they just told me to close the show.
“When I feel like I can’t compete anymore, I’ll know when it’s time to go, but I’m still competing at a high level. He certainly wasn’t a pushover.”
The judges’ scores reflected the back-and-forth nature of the fight, with Smith edging his way to a 95-95, 96-93, 95-94 decision.
“I thought I lost maybe three or four rounds—four at the most—I didn’t think it was a draw,” Smith said. “He had success in the middle rounds, maybe in the sixth or seventh, he changed up his tactics and starting applying a little pressure, but I didn’t think he won the fight.”
It was the second straight win for Smith since he lost to Vanes Martirosyan last September, and kept alive his career streak of only having been beaten by fighters who have either won world championships or challenged for titles.
It was the second straight defeat for Galarza following his sixth-round stoppage loss to unbeaten contender Jarrett Hurd last November.
“I think the knockdown made the difference in the whole fight,” Galarza said. “It was one of those things where that little slip-up, that mistake is actually what cost me the fight.
“I had to start picking up the rounds because I knew that could make the difference, and that knockdown changed the whole perspective and swayed the judges in his favor.”
In undercard action, Justin DeLoach (16-1, 8 KOs) earned a 10-round unanimous decision over Domonique Dolton (17-1-1, 9 KOs) in a 154-pound bout; Jose Cayetano (20-4, 9 KOs) slugged his way to a 10-round unanimous decision over Alexis Santiago (21-4-1, 8 KOs) in a 122-pound fight; and J'Leon Love (23-1, 13 KOs) scored a sixth-round TKO of Dashon Johnson (21-20-3, 6 KOs).
For a complete look at Smith vs Galarza, visit our fight page.