Exclusive Inteview: Ishe Smith Part 1

By Socrates Palmer Jr.


Exclusive Inteview: Ishe Smith Part 1

Smith continues to rip Cotender Brass!

John Steinbeck used his 1939 novel “The Grapes of Wrath” to capture the essence of what it is to chase the “American Dream”. Through the eyes of a family devastated by the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl era of the 1930’s, readers were introduced to a world of false promises and shattered dreams. Although the premise of the “American Dream” has modified versions, it is based on the single story of Exodus. The dream is the attempt of achieving empowerment by searching for success and ultimate happiness. Boxing like no other sport embodies this pursuit and in my opinion is with out peer. Ishe “Sugar Shay” Smith like all other boxers shares in this dream. As is common knowledge Smith took part in the NBC reality program, the Contender. The Contender was the vehicle that Smith felt would be his ride to fame, fortune and success. However little did Smith know that his dream would soon turn out to be his worse nightmare. Smith is trapped and fighting mad in this dream. If you read on he is battling an enemy far scarier than Freddy Cruger.

“This is like an unhappy marriage, if two people are not happy anymore than there shouldn’t be together period. There should be a reasonable split between the two parties involved. My situation is no different I want a divorce from the Contender and everyone associated with the show. I want no part of them anymore period. They are ruining my life and my career,” stated Smith.

Smith is currently locked into a contract for approximately four years in which he is not allowed to fight under another promotional banner. As a matter of fact the Contender is now looking to be a promotional brand in its own, not necessarily your run of the mill reality show. The boxers on the show are restricted to the almost sparring session like rules of 5 to 8 round bouts.
“They are big time Hollywood, they are going to change boxing, then go ahead I want no part of it I want to fight, that’s all I ever wanted to do. “They are trying to use me because they now I bring them credibility,” said Smith.

“Who else on that show had fought real fighters and an ex world champion? No one I did. Who is the only legitimate world ranked fighter? I was. I’m not boasting just research the record books,” said Smith.

A less than jovial Smith claims that the NBC reality series was powered by smoke and mirrors. Smith is angered by what he refers to as unfulfilled promises that were made to him and biased treatment. Smith wants out of a contract that he says was done in an underhanded manner.
“I want no part of a dishonest show. Its funny they want to pump they’re chest about how they are going to be good for boxing, when they’ve broken so many rules. Don’t preach to me how you are better than anyone else. They try to use the same played out ethnic separation to build up fights,” said Smith.

“It’s a slave contract. That’s all this is. They have the attitude of do what I say or nothing at all,” said Smith.
“The addendums on the contract that I signed were crazy. There was an extension kicked in two weeks that I got on the show. I did not get ample time to have it read out to me and explained,” said Smith.
“They used ploys like saying oh its ok your lawyer looked it over. We sent it to him earlier this morning, just sign we have to start filming,” said Smith.
“They promised us medical insurance. I have not seen a dime of that. No one has. I am still paying medical insurance out of my own pocket. Believe me its not cheap. These people broke so many rules to us that just were just not ethical. You had guys fighting with cuts prior to the fight. You had someone like Joey, who fought with a hamstring injury that everyone knew about. Things that you never hear about,” said Smith.
Before Smith ventured into reality television in the summer of 2004 he was a legitimate top flight contender. Smith was ranked in the top 12 by the often scrutinized WBA, WBC and the IBF respective sanctioning bodies. So why would Smith a man who seemed to be on his way to an eventual title shot in the welterweight division, take a career detour?
“I filed for bankruptcy as most people know last year. I had bills to pay I was in debt. I was really in a bad financial situation. Things might not have been so bad if I was just alone or single, but remember I have a family. I’m a married man with a son. I’m the provider for my family. I did what I felt was best for me and my family,” said Smith.
During his stay as one of the 16 contestants, Smith received a stipend, as did all of the other men. According to Smith it began as a $750 dollar a week take-home pay. After the first months, it increased to $1,500 on a weekly basis.
“They got millions while we made thousands. It was our sweat our tears our lives being put on the line. They had financial risks, yeah but we were the product. We had quality boxers on the show,” said Smith.

“I’m like a mouse waiting for crumbs to fall down at the bottom of a table,” said Smith.

“They told everyone that they were going to be different than the quote un quote crooked promoters in the boxing business. They were the most shady individuals I ever dealt with. These people blatantly lied to my face,” said Smith.

The man who Smith blames for his unhappiness is executive producer Mark Burnett. Burnett is the mastermind behind the wildly popular television reality shows Survivor and the Donald Trump starring Apprentice. The reality drama which was anchored by Sylvester Stallone who he himself had a few successful mergers between the screen and the ring sought for another television hit. Unfortunately for the peacock network the Contender was not a million-dollar baby at all. In fact the show did miserable if you go by the Nielson numbers. Due to an impressive maiden season the show will not be brought back by NBC for a return engagement.

“The show brought me a lot of exposure no doubt. The type of recognition that I received was not from the hardcore boxing fan which is great, but what I got earned and so did everyone else on the show. I was already known by people who know about boxing. The real fans of this sport knew who I was before the show. As a matter of fact the producers sought me out,” said Smith.

Smith feels that his own character and very own persona was completely distorted by the way the show was edited. Smith believes that he was made out to be an arrogant selfish malcontent.

“The way they tried to make me out to be was no different than the way Burnett has portrayed other African Americans on his shows. They always showed me being surely and cocky. They tried to play me like a fool, like a coward,” said Smith.

“If you ever watch the other shows that he’s done every black person has an attitude or a chip on their shoulder. They probably wish I was some militant angry black guy on the show, cursing and acting up all the time. How come they never showed when I cried when my fellow Christian brother Brent Cooper got knocked out, huh,” Said Smith.
“I never play the race card. My trainer is white, the best trainer in boxing Joe Goosen, so lets get that straight. But they want to shut me down and promote who they want to promote. They want to blow up these false tough guys and it’s a joke. When things are obvious they are. Hey if I am talking junk then call me out on it. Challenge me, because I challenge them” exclaimed Smith.
“I’m sure Mark Burnett would love for me to have been dancing like a buffoon and shucking jiving. He would love for me to walk around saying yessa boss, anything you say masta,” said Smith.
For those who are viewing Smith’s comments and see him as a sore loser, for not capturing the grand prize, Smith says that notion is the furthest thing from the truth. Smith says that he played the company man role to the fullest keeping his closest friends out of the loop and never letting out any spoilers. Smith points out how he did a series of chats prior to the beginning of every show on Sunday evening’s right here on Boxingtalk. He did public appearances for the show well after he was eliminated from the show. This animosity is recent and derives from many things that happened leading up to the show’s finale.
“I have a lot more to say. I have a few things to say that some people may not like but sometimes the truth hurts. They want to make things ugly for me and not let me fight, they don’t want to let me support myself than its going to get ugly,” stated Smith.


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