Every boxer who laces on a pair of gloves dreams of winning a world title and the fame and fortune that is supposed to come with that achievement. Very few realize that dream. Even fewer take part in a fight that shocks the boxing world.
Nobuhiro Ishida did the latter by scoring a first-round technical knockout of fearsome junior middleweight slugger James Kirkland last April. Can the 36-year-old Japanese veteran do it again against Paul Williams, who he faces in the main event of a Showtime-televised card from Corpus Christi, Texas, on Saturday?
Ishida realizes that he’s going to have to in order to get a shot at realizing that dream that every fighter has. He thought he was on his way in the wake of his victory over Kirkland, which was part of the undercard of the Erik Morales-Marcos Maidana HBO Pay-Per-View broadcast.
He was wrong.
“The Kirkland win seemed like a curse,” said Rudy Hernandez, Ishida’s trainer. “We thought we had a deal to fight Paul Williams for $200,000 on HBO last July, but HBO squashed that bout. He had two scheduled bouts that fell through in August and two more that fell through in September.
“Finally, I just sent him back to Japan. It wasn’t fair to keep him training for fights that weren’t going to happen.”
Saul Alvarez, the WBC 154-pound beltholder who happens to be Ishida’s promoter in Mexico, flew in the 6-foot-1 boxer to serve as a sparring partner for his title defense against Kermit Cintron in Mexico City last November; he also managed to find a place for his Japanese middleweight on his undercard. However, it wasn’t the caliber fight or opponent that Team Ishida had hoped for.
“The fight on Canelo’s undercard was a four rounder,” said Hernandez, who wasn’t aware that Ishida’s opponent, Edson Espinoza, was making his pro debut, according to Boxrec.com.
Ishida stopped in Espinoza in the first round, but ended 2011 feeling that his career was going backwards, according to Hernandez. It seemed to come full circle when he was again selected as an opponent for Williams, who struggled to beat Ishida’s replacement, Erislandy Lara, by controversial majority decision last July.
Once more, Ishida faces a heavily favored American southpaw who is in need of a “soft-touch” opponent. Kirkland, who was two bouts – both quickie KOs – into his comeback from incarceration and two years of inactivity, was in need of rounds with a durable-but-non-threatening fighter. Ishida, who hadn’t been stopped in 30 bouts but hadn’t defeated anyone of note, seemed perfect.
He also seems perfect for Williams. Ishida is a right-handed boxer with only nine KOs among his 24 victories. The towering former two-time welterweight titleholder, who was brutally knocked out by southpaw middleweight champ Sergio Martinez and nailed by countless lefts from left-handed Lara in his last two bouts, is in obvious need of a confidence booster.
Ishida (24-6-2, 9 knockouts) doesn’t mind being the underdog again. He just wants the opportunity to prove that he belongs in the world-class junior middleweight and middleweight mix. Ishida believes that a victory over Williams (40-2, 27 KOs), who was THE RING’s No. 2-rated middleweight and No. 5 on the magazine’s pound-for-pound list prior to his second-round KO to Martinez, will do just that.
“This will be the toughest fight of my career,” Ishida told RingTV.com through co-trainer Daisuke Okabe. “Williams has a good chin and good power; he’s also tall and left handed. But he comes to fight and he doesn’t always use his reach, which is good for me. I’m going to be right there. He won’t run and neither will I.
“Normally, I use my jab and move around the ring. I try to use my height and box. But when I’m the underdog I know I have to fight. I am comfortable doing that. I can fight on the inside.”
Hernandez claims that Ishida is a better insider fighter than he is a stick-and-move boxer. However, the veteran trainer and cutman says his fighter’s mindset is more important than the boxing style he chooses to employ once the bell rings.
“It’s all mental now,” Hernandez said. “I want him to think about why he is fighting, and why this fight is so important. It’s because he can make a better life for his family, and he can make history.
“This fight is more meaningful than winning a world title. Beating Paul Williams, who is well known and respected worldwide, would make his career. When has a Japanese fighter – never mind a middleweight, but of any weight class – come to America and defeated two top American fighters? He can be the first; he just has to believe he can do it.”
Ishida has enough belief to put in the work. He’s bounced back and forth between the Maywood Boxing Club in Maywood, Calif., the Azteca gym in Bell, The Rock training center in Carson, and The Eddie Heredia Boxing Club in East L.A., in search of quality sparring that has included 6-foot-1 welterweight prospect Hugo Centeno (11-0, 6 KOs) from Oxnard and Ray Rivera, a 2-0 junior middleweight from L.A.
Ishida, who sparred three 12-round sessions with multiple partners last week, says Rivera was the only left-handed fighter of the bunch, but he’s not concerned about Williams’ southpaw stance.
“Punch output was important to me,” said the married father of two children who makes his home in Osaka when he isn’t training. “I wanted pressure from my sparring partners. I wanted them to make me work hard and work on my defense. They did that and now I feel I am ready for Williams.”
Hernandez, who has worked with Ishida in the gym for years but didn’t join him in the corner until the Kirkland fight, says the underdog better be ready.
“He’s been a pro for almost 12 years, he’s 36 years old,” Hernandez said. “At this stage of his career, this is pretty much it.”
Photos / Naoki Fukuda and Chris Cozzone-Fightwireimages
Email Doug Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dougiefischer