Winky sure he's still got "The (W)right Stuff"
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Winky Wright has seen this movie before.
He recognizes the characters, has memorized the plot and knows precisely when to turn away as cruel fates conspire against the hero at the end.
And yet, as disappointed as he's been at each viewing, he's plunking down the cash for yet another ticket.
"I'm counting on the fans this time," Wright said in a FitzHitz interview. "I know they'll back me. I know they watch the fights. And if things don't go the way they're supposed to again, they'll still be smart enough to know what really happened."
The sport's reigning 37-year-old poster boy for big-screen drama gone bad, Wright takes another stab at stardom when he faces up-and-coming multi-division phenom Paul Williams in a 160-pound bout on April 11 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Now 51-4-1 over an 18-plus year career, Wright remains frustrated - but undeterred - by what he perceives as injustice thrust upon him in several fights against more celebrated colleagues on boxing's walk of fame.
Winky Wright will face Paul Williams on April 11.
Act One, a majority decision loss to WBO junior middleweight challenger Harry Simon on the then-unbeaten Simon's home turf in South Africa.
Act Two, a majority decision loss to IBF junior middleweight champion Fernando Vargas in the then-unbeaten Californians third title defense.
Act Three, a hotly contested draw against WBC/WBO middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in which the then-unbeaten former Olympian faded badly late.
Act Four, a unanimous decision loss to ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins that was promoted by the company with which Hopkins serves as an executive.
"I've been up against guys who the networks were pumping up hard or where funny things just seemed to happen with the officials," Wright said. "It gets frustrating, but I've got to keep on doing what I do."
Against Williams, that's facing a man 10 years his junior who's both appeared several times on HBO - which will broadcast the April 11 fight - and begun climbing toward the top of pound-for-pound lists with three KO wins in three divisions since June 2008.
In other words, exactly the sort of supporting actor Wright has long loathed.
But that's not stopping the Florida resident from rehearsing his lines.
"I'm not worried about it," he said. "If I do my thing, I don't have anything to worry about."
The Vegas show will mark Wright's first appearance under the big lights since the July 2007 loss to Hopkins, a layoff that saw one bout scrubbed by injury and several others by what he insists is the long-standing reticence of potential foes.
In fact, Wright and Golden Boy Promotions executive Richard Schaefer discussed on a recent conference call a list of fighters who they claimed had turned down offers to meet Wright in the last two years - including Arthur Abraham, Vernon Forrest, Mikkel Kessler and Taylor.
"Winky is the kind of fighter who steps in the ring with anyone," Schaefer said. "And again, it'll be up to me to get the deal done, but you really can't make the deal if the other guy doesn't want to fight our guy. You know, so there's not much of a deal to be made."
Ironically, in Williams he meets a fighter who's largely claimed the mantel of "World's Most Avoided" since a unanimous defeat of WBO welterweight champion Antonio Margarito in 2007 and subsequent stoppages at 147, 154 and 160 pounds.
"If you are a fighter that's what you do. You know, I mean, you've got to come in and fight the best," Wright said. "And you know, my whole career I wanted to fight the best. I didn't go out searching for the runner up.
"I wanted the best and as you can see I'm proving it. I'm putting my money where my mouth is, right here with Paul. I didn't come out and try to fight a guy that ain't fought in two years like me or a bum. No. I'm coming. I want to fight one of the best and, that's what we did."
And as for what's next, situations will dictate.
Wright said he plans to stay at 160 pounds and hopes to face either IBF champion Abraham or WBC/WBO champion Kelly Pavlik at that weight by the end of 2009. Still, the possibility of a return to 154 pounds or a move to 168 remains out there depending on what offers are made.
"It'll be about the kinds of deals that are out there," he said. "If there's a big enough fight for me to come down to 154 to get, I can make the weight."
A native of Washington, D.C., Wright captured his first title - the WBO's 154- pound crown - with a split verdict over Bronco McKart in May 1996.
Three defenses followed before the loss to Simon and the subsequent defeat against Vargas, from which Wright again rebounded to win the vacant IBF belt against Robert Frazier in October 2001.
Still, it wasn't until 2004 that Wright's career truly took off with consecutive decision wins over Shane Mosley in March and November at 154, which he followed in May 2005 with a dominating effort at 160 against comebacking ex-champion Felix Trinidad.
Since then, wins over Sam Soliman and Ike Quartey have been sandwiched with the draw against Taylor and the loss to Hopkins.
"Beating Paul should be a splash because like he said he's a fighter that's been avoided for a long time and nobody wants to fight him," Wright said. "But I'm not one of those fighters that try to go out and do all this and all this other stuff.
"I feel that you've got to do what you've got to do to win the fight and when you get your mind cluttered with trying to impress other people and do other things then that's when you get caught."
* * * * * * * * * *
This weeks title-fight schedule:
IBF mini flyweight title - La Paz, Mexico
Raul Garcia (champion) vs. Ronald Barrera (No. 1 contender)
Garcia (25-0-1, 15 KO): Third title defense; Decisioned Barerra in February 2008
Barrera (26-5-1, 16 KO): Winless in two title fights; Won four of five since Garcia loss
FitzHitz says: Garcia by decision
WBC light flyweight title - Ciudad Victoria, Mexico
Edgar Sosa (champion) vs. Pornsawan Porpramook (No. 9 contender)
Sosa (34-5, 18 KO): Eighth title defense; Unbeaten since September 2003 (22-0)
Porpramook (21-2, 16 KO): Winless in two title fights; First fight in North America
FitzHitz says: Sosa by decision
Vacant WBC lightweight title - Austin, Texas
Edwin Valero (No. 1 contender) vs. Antonio Pitalua (No. 2 contender)
Valero (24-0, 24 KO): Former WBA 130-pound champ; Unbeaten in five title fights
Pitalua (46-3, 40 KO): Lost WBO title fight in 2000; KO wins in 14 straight fights
FitzHitz says: Pitalua in 9
WBC/WBO 140-pound title unification - Montreal, Quebec
Timothy Bradley (WBC champion) vs. Kendall Holt (WBO champion)
Bradley (23-0, 11 KO): Second title defense; Former WBC youth champion
Holt (25-2, 13 KO): Second title defense; Lost only fight outside U.S.
FitzHitz says: Bradley by decision
Last weeks picks: 3-0
Overall picks record: 73-32
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a 20-year veteran of sports journalism, a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and "Cold Hard Sports" on the MVN network (coldhardsports.com). Reach him via e-mail at email@example.com.