Wright-Taylor should be next, but it'll be a hard sell
Posted: Monday December 12, 2005 5:07PM; Updated: Monday December 12, 2005 6:41PM
Now 50-3 after his decision over Sam Soliman (left), Winky Wright wants a shot at middleweight champ Jermain Taylor.
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Winky Wright climbed into the ring last Saturday night at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., intending to showcase himself as the best middleweight in the world and to stoke demand for a bout between himself and champion Jermain Taylor. Unfortunately for Wright, his opponent was Sam Soliman.
On paper, there was good reason for picking Soliman. He was the IBF's No. 1-ranked middleweight. Given that Wright already occupied the No. 1 spots in the WBC and the WBA, a victory over Soliman would give Winky a trifecta to leverage a fight with Taylor, who the previous week had retained his WBC, WBA and WBO belts with a narrow and unimpressive 12-round decision over former champion Bernard Hopkins.
In the flesh, however, Soliman -- a 32-year-old Australian who brought a record of 31-7 (12 KO's) as well as an astounding enthusiasm, into the fight -- proved to be something of a nightmare.
Wright, who, according to publicist Fred Sternburg, had been battling a bad chest cold all week and was on a heavy dose of antibiotics, was never in any danger of losing. All three judges gave him the bout by scores of 115-112, 115-113 and 117-110, only the last of which came close to matching Wright's dominance.
But faced with the awkward, swarming style of Soliman, Wright could hardly look good. Between jumping around like a jackrabbit, Soliman found time and enough energy to throw 1,260 punches to Wright's 652 (landing a mere 174 compared to Wright's 300). And despite being rocked on more than one occasion, the Australian returned to his corner after each round with a happy grin on his face. In the end, Wright had to settle for merely racking up another win and heading home to St. Petersburg, Fla., to get plenty of fluids and wait for a shot at Taylor.
On Monday, the WBC ordered that negotiations begin between Taylor and Wright. If no agreement is reached between Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, and Wright's promoter, Gary Shaw, before Jan. 20, the fight will go to purse bids. That means that whatever promoter puts up the most money will win rights to the fight, with Taylor getting 75 percent and Wright 25.
DiBella has made it clear that he would like to see Taylor take a "breather," and make his next defense against a lesser opponent in his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., while letting "demand build" for a showdown against Wright. At age 34, though, Wright doesn't want to wait too long. He has seen Taylor fight and must figure that the sooner he gets to the still-raw champion the better -- not the least because Taylor could easily lose, even against a barely-breathing "breather."
Still, it's unlikely that Wright would settle for 25 percent of the purse for the earlier chance at Taylor. Winky likes to say he has fought for 15 years to become an overnight sensation and feels he deserves adequate compensation. For his part, Shaw says that even if the match does go to a purse bid, he would expect Wright to receive more than the minimum.
"I believe Jermain Taylor should fight Winky next for two reasons," says Shaw. "First, Winky is the person between Jermain and his claim to be the best middleweight in the world. Second, I feel our sport is in trouble, and it's because we're not giving fans the best fights out there."
Right now, no one who saw Taylor-Hopkins I and II and Winky's latest outing is likely to consider a possible bout between the two anything close to the best fight out there. It is, however, the only logical one at 160 pounds. Given that, here's hoping it happens sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, there are some good fights coming up. January will bring Manny Pacquiao -- arguably the most exciting fighter in the sport, and one who seems to be getting better -- against Erik Morales in a super featherweight rematch on the 21st. Morales won their first encounter on a close decision after an action-packed fight.
On Feb. 4, lightweights Jose Luis Castillo and Diego Corrales will face off for the third time. It almost seems excessive at this point. In their first meeting, last May -- a candidate for one of the greatest fights ever -- Corrales got up from two knockdowns in the 10th to batter Castillo into helplessness on the ropes that same round and win by TKO. In their second bout in October, Castillo failed to make weight, but was clearly the sharper fighter, rocking Corrales with hooks and uppercuts from the opening bell before KOing him in the fourth. I worry about Corrales, who even in the first fight, absorbed a tremendous amount of punishment.
On March 4, undefeated IBF super middleweight champion Jeff Lacy will go to Manchester, England, to take on the undefeated WBO champ: the pride, if not the prince of Wales, Joe Calzaghe. I expect the Lacy to bull his way right over Calzaghe, but both guys can punch and it should be an action-packed fight while it lasts. ...
In the meantime, Thursday marks the return to action (in Hollywood, Fla.) of Samuel Peter, the hard-punching Nigerian heavyweight who was briefly thought to be the savior of the division until he managed to lose to Wladimir Klitschko on Sept. 24. If the likeable Peter has learned to move occasionally and to throw more than one punch per round, he may yet do some damage among the big fellows. (Certainly he should prove to be a Nigerian Nightmare for his scheduled opponent, the 35-year-old Robert Hawkins, who has lost twice in his last five fights and has only seven KO's in the 21 bouts he has won.) If not, he may well go the way of another one-time heavyweight prospect, Lance "Goofy" Whitaker, who now 31-3-1 at age 30, takes on Russian southpaw Sultan Ibragimov (18-0, 15 KO's) on the Florida card. ...
Despite such a fistic cornucopia, however, I'll be staying in town for the Thursday night card at the Manhattan Ballroom. I want to keep tabs on the development of undefeated junior welter Dmitriy "Star of David" Salita. Unfortunately, I'm told that Hasidic reggae superstar Matisyahu won't be there to perform during Salita's ring walk, but the fighter is entertaining enough on his own and usually gets the old ballroom rocking. ...
Alas, the fight I really want to see this week is not on TV, and I can't make it to Berlin, where on Saturday. John Ruiz will put his WBA heavyweight title on the line against 7-foot Russian Nikolay Valuev. (Shades of Ivan Drago!) Though the Beast from the East, as Valuev is charmingly nicknamed, has a record of 42-0, he could muster only a split decision win over the faded Larry Donald in his most recent outing. I expect Ruiz to show Valuev some tricks he never saw back in St. Petersburg and that the WBA belt will remain safely in Western hands. ...
This is catalog season. It seems a half dozen arrive in the mail each day, from department stores, mail-order houses, specialty shops, all trying to cash in on the holiday buying craze. I throw most of them out immediately, but one I'm keeping for sure. Everlast, the venerable boxing-equipment company, sent out a holiday edition of its catalog with a cover featuring WBC/IBF super featherweight champ Marco Antonio Barrera posing next to heavyweight James Toney above the words "Season's Beatings." Heart-warming. ...
Speaking of covers, EA Sports announced Monday that Arturo Gatti and Micky Ward will be the "cover athletes" for the video gaming company's 2006 boxing game Fight Night Round 3. I remember saying, as I watched the astounding ninth round of their first bout back in May '02, "It's like a video game!" It's good to see that Gatti and Ward will reap a little more reward for the brutal shows they put on. Here's wishing, though, that the only fighting either of the old warriors do in the future be confined to the Xbox.
A big thank you to Saint Mahone (any relation to Pogue Mahone?) of Frankfort, Ky., who weighs in on the boxing-related songs question, with a good one: "A small, now-defunct rockabilly band from Connecticut called Big Bad Johns released an album called I Will Be Good on Ferralite Records a few years ago. The highlight of the album was , a tribute, of course, to Joe Frazier. Hard to find, yes, but assuredly worthy of recognition."
Great tip. One wonders Whether Frazier's own band, the Knockouts, ever covered it.
Craig McNaughton of Holly, Mich., and Brian Pedersen of Seattle both wrote to ask who won the Hanlon-Williams bout I wrote about on Nov. 4. (That would be the friendly showdown between Jim Hanlon and Greg Williams for the championship of Hanley Junior High.) As I said before, there's a 10,000-word article for The New York Review of Books or something in that match. But until I get around to that, here's the short version:
This was the bout that introduced me to the cold, hard physics of fist-fighting. Hanlon was big and, as I recall, scary strong. Williams was just as tall but much leaner. But he was also much quicker and he knew how to box. The agreed-upon rules forbade hitting to the head, but the two weren't wearing gloves and even on the chest and arms Williams' punches landed with startling smacks.
There was no quit in Hanlon, though, and I recall that he rocked Williams once or twice with some booming shots. But very soon Williams was doing all of the landing and Hanlon's pale skin was turning blotched and red. Suddenly, what had seemed like an opportunity for some excitement in the locker room had turned cruel and scary, and several of the students kind of surged in and broke it up. I believe Williams was hailed as the winner and there was a lot of back-slapping all around and then most everyone hurried off to class. There was no rematch.