“It was Dr. Jones’ care that nurtured me back to health,” said Smith, suffering the serious knuckle injury on his throwing hand during a boxing match in September 2012. “If it wasn’t for his treatment, I would never have had this opportunity. It was a blessing to be able to take this fight because my (knuckle) was in pretty bad shape.”
Smith (24-5, 11 KOs) is attempting to become the first Las Vegas-born fighter to win a world title when he faces current world champion Cornelius “K-9” Bundrage (32-4, 19 KOs) on Saturday, Feb. 23, at the Masonic Temple Theatre in Detroit, Mich., on SHOWTIME CHAMPIONSHIP BOXING.
It was just a few months ago that Smith’s career was in limbo because of a hand injury. “Sugar Shay” Smith was facing a mandatory six-month medical layoff by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and the 34-year-old boxer knew surgery wasn’t an option because he could be out even longer. So Smith turned to fellow Las Vegas native Jones, an orthopedic surgeon in the Hand Surgery Specialists of Nevada, to create a treatment plan that didn’t involve going under the scalpel.
Dr. Jones examined the metacarpal/phalangeal joint on Smith’s middle finger, diagnosing it as a bruised knuckle and a damaged ligament. The injury didn’t require surgery, rather a detailed treatment program to heal it.
“You need to give the body a chance to heal itself,” said Dr. Jones, who consults on wrist, hand and elbow injuries to UNLV athletes. “I know he wanted to get back to fighting, just like an injured firefighter or police officer who wants to get back to work. (Ishe) understood it was going to take some time to fully heal.”
On the surface a bruised knuckle might seem like a minor injury but for boxers the injury is incredibly painful and potentially career threatening. And if not treated properly, it could be a chronic problem.
“It’s an excruciating pain,” Smith said of the injury. “In boxing, our hands are everything. If I can’t throw that punch without pain, I can’t fight.”
Dr. Jones put a splint on Smith’s finger and laid out a course of treatment. Smith could work on conditioning and shadow boxing but couldn’t land a punch with the injured hand for six weeks. After that period, Smith was allowed to hit a light bag. Although the fighter suffered a minor setback, the injury fully healed. Smith’s recovery took just four months, not the six months or longer some doctors had anticipated.
Smith, who appeared on the original season of the NBC reality show “Contender,” was grateful to once again be pain free. The boxer calls the orthopedist a “caring doctor who listens” and frequently takes to his Twitter account (@IsheSugarShay) to thank Dr. Jones (@DrJedediahJones).
More importantly, Smith has confidence in his hand—and ability—as he’s set for his world title fight.
Dr. Jones will be watching and rooting for the Las Vegas native, knowing the human body’s ability to heal itself and patience is sometimes the best medicine.
“I’m just one part of the team,” Dr. Jones said.