LAS VEGAS — Oddsmakers give Nobuhiro Ishida almost no shot of winning when he faces James Kirkland on the pay-per-view undercard of the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana fight on Saturday.
However, the Japanese middleweight has all the motivation he needs to spring what would be considered a huge upset — his earthquake- and tsunami-ravaged country.
“I feel very bad for what has happened in Japan,” Ishida said through co-trainer Daisuke Okabe after a media workout at the MGM Grand, site of the Morales-Maidana card. “The tragedy in my country adds emotion to this fight, emotion I will use during my fight with Kirkland. I want to win for the people who have died and for their families.”
More than 12,000 people have died in Japan since a 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit the northeastern and eastern coastal areas of the Pacific island nation on March 11. More than 15,000 people are still missing.
Ishida (22-6-2, 7 knockouts), who is from Osaka, was not in Japan when the tsunami struck. The 35-year-old veteran relocated to Southern California last year to prepare for a junior middleweight bout against Rigoberto Alvarez, the older brother of Mexican star Saul Alvarez.
Ishida, who trained with Okabe and Rudy Hernandez at the Maywood Boxing Club in Maywood, Calif., dropped a razor-thin 12-round split decision to Alvarez in Mexico last October. He was unbeaten in 12 consecutive bouts going into that fight, which was for his interim WBA title. Ishida believes he would have won the fight had it taken place outside of Mexico.
“It was a very close fight,” said Golden Boy Promotions matchmaker Eric Gomez, who was at the fight. “Ishida boxed well. He was counter-punching but he also pressed the fight. I think the difference in the scoring was a knockdown that he suffered in the seventh round. It was more of a flash knockdown or a slip, but I think that was the difference.”
Going 12 competitive rounds with Alvarez, a rugged and experienced pro, speaks well of Ishida’s ability. However, few believe that Ishida will last the distance with Kirkland despite the fact that the 11-year veteran has never been stopped.
Kirkland (27-0, 24 KOs), who resumed his punishing ring form with two quick knockouts this year after being incarcerated 18 months, is considered one of the sport’s best offensive fighters.
However, Ishida notes that Kirkland has flaws.
“He has good power and he comes to fight, but his style makes it easy to catch him with punches,” Ishida said. “His defense is not very good. I saw that he was hurt in the first round of his last fight (against Jhon Berrio). I’ve seen him hurt in other fights, too, but he always recovers fast and comes back even stronger.”
Ishida isn’t banking on catching and hurting Kirkland with power punches. He believes his keys to victory are his skill and stamina.
“I have better technique than Kirkland,” he said. “My jab is my best weapon. We want to keep Kirkland in the center of the ring and at the end of my jab. Our fight is only the eight-round distance, but he has not fought past eight rounds in a few years. I am used to fighting 10 and 12 rounds. I want to test his skill and his stamina.”
Ishida knows that Kirkland will test his heart and durability.
“He will attack me without respect,” he said. “That’s OK because it will make for a good fight. I respect him. I admire his power and his aggressive style, but it’s an honor to be fighting in Las Vegas on a big show and I will represent the fighting spirit of my people and my country.”
Photo by Gene Blevins – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions