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tellin' it like it is
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What's the Wright move?
By Eric Raskin

ESPN.com
(Archive)
Updated: January 28, 2008, 9:51 AM ET
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Al Bello/Getty Images

Wright's penchant for taking care of business in the ring makes it hard for him to land fights.
Call it the counterpuncher's conundrum: If an opponent won't come to you, you can bore everybody stiff waiting, or you can suck it up and go to him.

Winky Wright is, by nature, a counterpuncher. He doesn't just put the earmuffs on; his guard is like a full ski mask: high, tight and nearly impenetrable, designed to pick the other man's punches off until Wright is ready to throw counter shots. Like any good counter-punching artist, Wright turns his opponent's attacks into his own offensive opportunities.

But the former undisputed junior middleweight champion has shown he can take the fight to his opponent when he has to. Wright pressed forward in his 1999 fight with Fernando Vargas. He brawled in '03 with the overmatched Angel Hernandez. He followed Jermain Taylor to the ropes in '06, doing his best work when he chose to lead rather than counter.

And when he fought fellow boxer/counterpuncher Bernard Hopkins last July, there was no mistaking who forced the fight. Wright came forward, doing his part to make a dreadful chess match a little more palatable.

But he paid the price for straying from his natural counter-punching tendencies; Hopkins landed the cleaner blows and won a unanimous decision.

[+] EnlargeEthan Miller/Getty Images

Wright's impentrable defense and high guard gave Hopkins, left, all he could handle for 12 rounds.
It marked Wright's first defeat in nearly eight years. And six months later, it's becoming apparent just how damaging that loss was to his career.

Every mainstream name at or around Wright's weight has found himself a big-money dance partner for '08. Roy Jones and Felix Trinidad boogied two Saturdays ago to the sweet sounds of cash registers opening and closing. Kelly Pavlik will cut a rug -- and his pay-per-view teeth -- against Taylor in three weeks. Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe will hit the floor to make each other hit the canvas on April 19. And Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather are lined up for a Sept. 13 rematch to last year's record-smashing waltz.

Winky, it seems, is the odd man out. He's spent six months on the sidelines, has nothing lined up and doesn't appear to have much hope of landing a bout with any of the aforementioned stars any time soon.

He's faced with the counterpuncher's conundrum all over again: Do I wait for one of these big fights to come to me, or do I move forward and make something happen? In other words, does Wright have to take a step back and a step down, fight a nonsuperstar and get a new winning streak going in order to position himself for the fights he really wants?


I have nobody that wants to fight me because they know they're in for a tough fight. They're ducking me, they don't want to fight. That's why I'm left out.
-- Winky Wright, on why it's so difficult for him to secure a fight
"Why should I go fight these lesser guys when I know I'm above them?" Wright responded. "You got De La Hoya. He's a steady loser; he lost two of his last three. Taylor lost his last fight. All of these fighters lose. But they have opponents who want to fight them again. I have nobody that wants to fight me because they know they're in for a tough fight. They're ducking me, they don't want to fight. That's why I'm left out.

"They want me to fight [Mikkel] Kessler. Why do I need to fight these dudes? I'm at the top. Arthur Abraham and people like that, I have no interest in them. For what?"

It sounds like Wright, a tricky southpaw, has a grasp on the reality of why the big fights aren't coming his way. His primary selling points as an opponent from 2004-07, when he scored a string of marquee matches, were his unbeaten streak and his upper-crust pound-for-pound status. The Hopkins fight ended the former and damaged the latter, giving the superstars an excuse not to fight him.

What Wright isn't grasping is what he may need to do about it.

"He doesn't want to fight tune-ups?" marveled HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant. "Oscar De La Hoya's talking about a tune-up, and this guy, who's never been an attraction, wants to walk into a multimillion-dollar fight? On what basis? Winky Wright is not Oscar De La Hoya -- nobody is -- and you've got to go out and fight. He can demand all he wants, and he can wait all he wants, but the longer he waits, the farther the distance is since he last won a fight."

Lester Bedford, a veteran promoter, manager and broadcaster, agrees with Merchant that Wright will do enormous damage to his career if he stays inactive much longer.

"You have a diminishing value the longer you're out," Bedford said. "Unless there's some real intrigue about you, like a Sugar Ray Leonard, where there's anticipation over you coming back, you can't sit out for a year and come back and have the same value.

"One of the problems is these guys get spoiled. They make that real big money, and then it's hard to get them motivated to turn around and fight for significantly less. But the inactivity, at his age, is really going to hurt him."

Wright isn't so terribly old. He isn't in danger of being renamed Wrinkly Wright. But at 36, he isn't so terribly young either.

The good news is, because of his tremendous skill level, he hasn't taken much punishment, and for a guy with 56 fights on his ledger, he doesn't seem to be on the downside. In his past three fights, Wright drew with then-middleweight champ Taylor in a close fight he deserved to win, he nearly shut out Ike Quartey and he moved up two weight classes and lost a close decision to Hopkins, a living legend.

Most boxers would give their left pinky to be Winky. He still has his skills. He's not hurting for money (fights against Shane Mosley, Trinidad, Taylor and Hopkins all paid handsomely). He has fought on either HBO or HBO PPV 13 times. He's a sure shot for the Hall of Fame. It's a career worthy of envy.

But his current situation is not so enviable.

[+] EnlargeMark Thompson/Getty Images

Wright, seen here celebrating after defeating Steve Foster, left, in England, is adamant that his days of trotting the globe in hopes of securing a big fight are over.
Wright fought in France, Monaco, Germany, Argentina, England and South Africa trying to make a name for himself in the '90s. To an extent, it worked, and he reaped the benefits in the 2000s. But it's a lot to ask of any man to expect him to go the road-warrior route for a second time, a full decade after he thought he was done with it. That rules out fights with the likes of Kessler, Abraham or Felix Sturm.

And a semi-intriguing fight against Vernon Forrest is out of the question because Wright considers Forrest his friend. For the same reason, he isn't interested in facing Jones. ("Then he's got too many friends," Merchant quipped.)

The obvious advice is to tell Winky to take a fight on Versus or ESPN2 against a nondescript opponent, get a new winning streak started and remain on the superstars' radar. It may even be advisable for him to tank it a bit and look like a faded fighter, improving the apparent risk-to-reward ratio for potential opponents.

That's the obvious advice. It doesn't mean it's the right advice.

The last time everyone told a big-name, veteran fighter that he was mismanaging his career, it was Hopkins, who was 36 when he scored his breakout victory over Trinidad. "The Executioner" followed that up by fighting Carl Daniels, sitting out for 13 months and then tanking at the box office in his hometown against Morrade Hakkar.

The supposed mismanagement worked out brilliantly when Hopkins landed a fight with De La Hoya soon after that paid $14 million.

Maybe, like Hopkins, Wright will find opportunity by going against conventional wisdom.

It's not easy to win a fight backing up. But the most skilled of counterpunchers can do it.

Eric Raskin is a contributing editor and former managing editor of The Ring magazine.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
winky just needs to suck it up and get another win under his belt to remain relevant. fighting someone like kessler is a fight he should take even if it doesn't pay what he's used to getting. he needs to get his head out of his a$$, and do what he needs to do.
 

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winky just needs to suck it up and get another win under his belt to remain relevant. fighting someone like kessler is a fight he should take even if it doesn't pay what he's used to getting. he needs to get his head out of his a$$, and do what he needs to do.
I don't think going to 168 is in Wright's best interest. He should stay at middleweight.
 

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winky just needs to suck it up and get another win under his belt to remain relevant. fighting someone like kessler is a fight he should take even if it doesn't pay what he's used to getting. he needs to get his head out of his a$$, and do what he needs to do.
I agree completely. you know, I don't see the shame in fighting an opponent like Kessler. that would be a big win in my eyes if he pulls it off and could set up something big down the road,say a middle weight title shot against pavlik anyone;). this all goes back to the all important money issue with these guys. like you put it, suck it up and fight.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
i agree for the most part. i think he'll be most effective at 160, but i kind of had the feeling that he'll try and come back at 168. there's currently more names at 168 than at 160.
 

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Winky stated after the Hopkins fight he would be willing to go back down to 154 if he could get Oscar in the ring, i think he should head back down there and grab a title, he could make fights with pbf,cotto,forrest,mayorga from there.
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
i don't think none of the fighters you listed would fight him for varying reasons. i would say forrest would be the best bet, but that's one of his buddies.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I agree completely. you know, I don't see the shame in fighting an opponent like Kessler. that would be a big win in my eyes if he pulls it off and could set up something big down the road,say a middle weight title shot against pavlik anyone;). this all goes back to the all important money issue with these guys. like you put it, suck it up and fight.
my sentiments exactly:thumbsup:

I don't think going to 168 is in Wright's best interest. He should stay at middleweight.
i agree for the most part. i think he'll be most effective at 160, but i kind of had the feeling that he'll try and come back at 168. there's currently more names at 168 than at 160.
 

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I think Pavlik vs Wright would be a really interesting fight.

I would actually give Winky a really good chance of winning that fight.

Wright vs Kessler i dont see happening but i would go with Kessler cause hes my man.
 

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I think Pavlik vs Wright would be a really interesting fight.

I would actually give Winky a really good chance of winning that fight.

Wright vs Kessler i dont see happening but i would go with Kessler cause hes my man.
I'd have to go with Kessler aswell. I'm just not sure what's left in the tank for Winky anymore. 36 is getting up there for any fighter but his style is more age friendly imo (if that makes any sense lol)
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
I'd have to go with Kessler aswell. I'm just not sure what's left in the tank for Winky anymore. 36 is getting up there for any fighter but his style is more age friendly imo (if that makes any sense lol)
lol...it does! i'd say winky is a very "fresh" 36 years old;)
 

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Another fight at 168 isnt in Winky's best interest. He really should stick to 154/160 at this point.

Maybe John Duddy or Arthur Abraham at 160.

At 154, he could look for fights against Cory Spinks, Joel Julio,Joachim Alcine, or Vernon (but he'd have to make that decision to fight his friend for the $$)

Other fights that would be of interest would be against Edison Miranda, Mikkel Kessler, maybe even Librado Andrade. Although these fights are at a higher weight than I'd recommend, they'd be entertaining, and he'd be live against any one of them.
 

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pheeeeewwwwww good! if Winky doesn't have trouble making 154 that's where he should be though.
Winkys damn near unbeatable at 154 IMO when he fights his own type of fight, thats a fight i could see pbf losing.

Winky probably doesn't draw enough $$$$ to tempt pbf into that though.
 

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Winkys damn near unbeatable at 154 IMO when he fights his own type of fight, thats a fight i could see pbf losing.

Winky probably doesn't draw enough $$$$ to tempt pbf into that though.
I agree with that. at this point, If Floyds not gonna fight a top welter I would rather see him fight winky at 154 then dlh again.
 

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pavlik is who winky should be calling out right now. he's gonna have to come back down after the taylor fight to start defending his title's and abraham and winky are the biggest contenders at this point in that division. winky has an excellent shot at getting that fight IMO. it might also be a decent payday for him if that is all he is after at this point. I agree though, I would love to see it, it would make for an interesting and exciting match-up.
 

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The article is talking about his innactivity as well.. So a Pavlik fight would be something a little too late... Pavlik should be availiabe by June or something, with the risk( and I mean, HIGH) hes going to take on John Duddy.. Another fight with Taylor wouldnt draw the money it did the firts time around cuz both will be comming from defeats and no titles at stake...

So taking on Kessler wouldnt be so bad, at least its a fresh match up against a formidable opponent.. About him not being so good at 168, I dont think that would be a major problem, he packed some muscles to make 175, and some fat too, losing some fat he gets there, and will be feeling good I believe...moving back to 154 wont be so good for him, hes 36, taking away 20pounds is something too worry, even if he wasnt all muscle at 175, he will drain up some...

Another opponent that wouldnt be bad to take would be Abraham, undefeated titlist..However I really doubt Abraham would risk taking this kind of fight..
 

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The article is talking about his innactivity as well.. So a Pavlik fight would be something a little too late... Pavlik should be availiabe by June or something, with the risk( and I mean, HIGH) hes going to take on John Duddy.. Another fight with Taylor wouldnt draw the money it did the firts time around cuz both will be comming from defeats and no titles at stake...

So taking on Kessler wouldnt be so bad, at least its a fresh match up against a formidable opponent.. About him not being so good at 168, I dont think that would be a major problem, he packed some muscles to make 175, and some fat too, losing some fat he gets there, and will be feeling good I believe...moving back to 154 wont be so good for him, hes 36, taking away 20pounds is something too worry, even if he wasnt all muscle at 175, he will drain up some...

Another opponent that wouldnt be bad to take would be Abraham, undefeated titlist..However I really doubt Abraham would risk taking this kind of fight..
you know even with the inactivity if winky starts calling out pavlik I think he has a good chance at getting him in June or July because he still has some name recongition to him, maybe not enough to get DLH to run after him but he's still the biggest name in the middle weight division pavlik could possible face so there's still that chance. by the way, winky fought hopkins at 170 so it would be a 16 pound weight loss not 20 put I know what you mean man, at his age he might struggle. I think pavlik is winky's best option at this point as far as making money and poss. getting some titles are concerned.
 
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