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Suicidal thoughts behind him, Ishe Smith hopes to become first native Las Vegas world champ

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Cornelius Bundrage and Ishe Smith meet Saturday for the IBF title (Tom Casino/Showtime)

For years, Ishe Smith has been among the top boxers in the world, but he never fulfilled the promise he showed when he began his career by winning his first 15 in a row. Despite plenty of talent, Smith was more often than not on the outside looking in when it came to opportunity and production.

He was a guy blessed with a lot of natural ability but without a lot of direction. Things got so bad for him, Smith told Steve Kim of MaxBoxing.com in an emotional and very candid interview, that he contemplated suicide.

[Related: If Floyd Mayweather wants to fight a middleweight, a dream matchup awaits]

Smith told Kim that his life hit a low spot in 2008 and 2009, when he began having thoughts of suicide.

Well, you're not living. It's like you're dead already because you're not even thinking about life during that time. It's like your body is alive and you're here but you’re dead mentally and I think that’s one thing I could be blessed with is to be with sound mind because I was dead mentally for a long time.

It was like I was taking fights and I was just taking them on short notice, taking them because I knew I had kids I [had to] provide for and like I said, ultimately, my own children are the ones that saved me because I didn’t want them to be fatherless.

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Ishe Smith (Jeff Kowalsky, Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions)

Smith will have a chance to dramatically impact his children's lives on Saturday when he meets Cornelius "K-9" Bundrage at the Masonic Temple in Detroit for the IBF junior middleweight title. The bout will be televised live on Showtime.

Incredibly given the boxing history of the city, Smith, 34, will become the first Las Vegas born and raised fighter to win a world title should he defeat Bundrage .

It will be the completion of a long and hard journey. Smith, who was an original cast member of "The Contender" when it was on NBC, grew up without a father. He told Kim that touched him deeply.

Like I never met my Dad; I've never seen a picture of him. I couldn't even tell you how he looked. He could be ringside [Saturday] and I wouldn't even know who he is because I've never seen him. He left me at a very young age and there wasn't a trace or a picture or anything around.

He ultimately chose not to commit suicide because of his children. He knew how difficult his life without a father was and didn't want to put them through the same thing.

So I didn’t want to be selfish and take that from them because I know how it was for me growing up and it was just very rough. I had to teach myself on the fly how to be a man and it's just something I didn't want for them. I'm very involved with my sons and daughters. I didn't want them to experience anything that I experienced growing up.

Smith credited Floyd Mayweather Jr. and his company, Mayweather Promotions, with helping him turn his life around and get back to using his vast natural ability.

[Also: If Floyd Mayweather wants to fight a middleweight, a dream matchup awaits]

He is 24-5 with 11 knockouts, but always seemed capable of so much more. He's confident he'll be able to defeat Bundrage and bring the belt back to Las Vegas.

"There's been a mutt roaming around the streets of Detroit and I'm the dog catcher," Smith said.

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Cornelius Bundrage (L) and Ishe Smith meet Saturday on Showtime (Tom Casino)

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