It’s the place you hang your hat. It’s where the heart is. There’s no place like it.
Well, kind of.
Home is where St. Petersburg, Fla., middleweight Winky Wright (50-3-1, 25 KOs) will be fighting former champ Ike Quartey (37-3-1, 31 KOs) on Dec. 2 on HBO.
OK. It’s not really Wright’s home, but it’s close enough for everyone but the true purists.
That’s because the St. Pete Times Forum – where Wright will fight Quartey – isn’t in St. Petersburg, it’s in Tampa. Downtown.
But who cares? It’s close enough.
Though Wright is a St. Petersburg guy, his hometown is only a 20-minute drive from the Forum. Maybe 30 minutes in traffic. And for Wright, that means it‘s part of the neighborhood, just down the street, in his own backyard.
Almost within walking distance.
But that‘s what happens when you spend most of your career on the road, fighting in strange, far away places you can’t pronounce or spell, against guys no one remembers.
Wright has accumulated more flying hours than Lindbergh, checked out of more hotels than the AAA, eaten at more restaurants than the food critics union.
He’s fought in places like Differdange, Luxembourg; Dusseldorf, Germany; Monte Carlo; Beziiers, France; Levallois, France; South Africa; Manchester, England; London; Miami; Tucuman, Argentina; and Memphis.
It’s great work if you can find it. See the world and become world champion at the same time.
A hometown fight? To Wright, that’s an oxymoron.
So it’s about time he got the chance to sleep in his own bed on the eve of the fight. It’s about time he had a home-cooked meal on fight day. It’s about time everyone in the joint cheered for him instead of the other guy.
It’s about time.
At a recent press conference at the Forum to kickoff what they’re calling “The Heat is On,” just about everyone was there to take a bow and make sure everybody understood that Wright was passing up a bigger payday by fighting in Tampa instead of Las Vegas or Atlantic City.
Along with Wright, St. Petersburg super-middleweight champ Jeff Lacy was there along with Oscar De La Hoya, who is co-promoting the fight.
Lacy is scheduled to fight the co-main, but they didn’t have an opponent for him yet.
“If I was a promoter, and only a promoter, I would say we’re taking this fight to Vegas and making all the money in the world,” De La Hoya said. “But as a fighter, I understand. It’s more work coming down here, but it if makes [Wright] happy, and the fight fans happy, let’s do it.”
Yeah, he understands why Wright wants to stay home.
“I am honored to be associated with one of the best boxers today,” De La Hoya said. “I know first hand how tough Ike Quartey is since he was one of my toughest fights. This fight should be a war.”
Coming off a controversial draw against Jermain Taylor in June, Wright said he considers himself the uncrowned middleweight champ of the world. And his first title defense is against Quartey.
“I know Ike. He’s a hell of a fighter,” said Wright, who hasn’t fought in Tampa Bay since 1992. “There’s no quit in him.”
As for fighting at home, Wright said he expects a sellout. A quick sellout.
“I just hope the fans get their tickets early,” he said. “I don‘t want anyone getting mad at me because they can‘t get tickets.”
Home sweet home.
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV