Not too long ago Winky Wright was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Over the past four years he has handily defeated Shane Mosley twice by decision, won a lopsided decision over Felix Trinidad and soundly defeated Ike Quartey.
The only “blemishes” on his record were a disputed draw with Jermain Taylor in a middleweight title bout and a points loss to Bernard Hopkins in his last fight in July 2007. The latter took place at 170 pounds, which was two weight classes up from where Wright had been fighting most of his career.
Suddenly the now 36-year-old Wright, who could still give fits to the best fighters in the game, finds himself on the outside looking in of the boxing picture. It is apparent to him that none of boxing’s elite fighters, especially Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik, want anything to do with him.
“I’ve been in this (pro) game 17 years and I have always had trouble getting the big fights,” Wright said on June 4 at the Aviator Sports Complex in Brooklyn, New York, where he was co-promoting the ESPN 2 Wednesday Night Fights with Thomas Gallagher Productions in association with Sal Musemeci’s Final Forum.
“The fact is that no one wants to fight me,” he continued. “To fight Hopkins I had to move up two weight classes. I don’t sit around and just talk about fighting the best. I really want to fight the best, but they don’t want to fight me.”
Wright has made no secret of his intense desire to battle both De La Hoya and Pavlik.
At the time of this conversation De La Hoya was scheduled to fight a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the fall. Wright thought he would have been a much better opponent for the Golden Boy.
“They wouldn’t get people to buy that fight a second time,” said Wright. “The first one was more hype than fight.”
While Wright believes that Mayweather Jr. is one of the best practitioners in the game, he does concede that he can be dull to watch. Ironically that is a label that has also been affixed to Wright.
“The name of the game is winning, hitting and not getting hit,” he explained. “I’m an old school fighter who is very smart at my craft. That is why I have the longevity that I do. That is why I have beaten the guys that I have beaten.”
In compiling a record of 51-4-1 (25 KOS), Wright has been in the ring with a veritable who’s who of champions and contenders. Although he hails from St. Petersburg, Florida, he literally traveled the world to earn his well-deserved reputation as the ultimate road warrior.
After losing a 1994 challenge to then WBA junior middleweight titlist Julio Cesar Vasquez by decision in France, he beat Bronco McKart for the WBO crown in McKart’s hometown of Monroe, Michigan, in 1996.
Four fights later he lost that title by disputed decision to Harry Simon in Simon’s home country of South Africa, and soon afterwards lost a very controversial decision to then IBF champion Fernando Vargas in Oregon.
Since 1999, the year he lost to Vargas, Wright has been on a roll. He won the vacant IBF title and later picked up multiple other titles after beating Mosley for the first time in early 2004.
Because Wright feels that he has more than earned the right to be an elite fighter, he cannot hide his frustration at those whom he thinks are ignoring him because of his vast array of skills.
When Mayweather Jr. suddenly announced his retirement, thus canceling his fall battle with De La Hoya, Wright proclaimed that it was his “destiny” to fight the Golden Boy. To bring his destiny to fruition, he has vowed to be a thorn in De La Hoya’s side until a fight between them is made.
“I’ve traveled around the world to get where I am today,” said Wright. “A fight between Oscar and me is a natural. After I beat him he and everyone else will believe what I’ve been saying all along: that I’m the best.”
Wright says that in the past he was most often the participant who made financial sacrifices and concessions in order to make big fights happen. At this point of his career, he is tired of taking the short end and believes that he and De La Hoya can broker a deal that is agreeable to both of them.
“This is the big ticket fight,” proclaimed Wright. “This is a fight people want to see. I hope Oscar steps up to the plate and does the right thing.”
In the meantime Wright will continue to busy himself with his many other endeavors. The June promotion was the second one he was involved with in New York, and he was very happy with the way things turned out. Just as he did as a fighter, he says, “you got to start out small to get credibility and then build as you go.”
He continues to be a big fan of boxing, and considers newly crowned lightweight champion Manny Pacquiao among his favorites. “I love to watch him, and I loved to watch (Marco Antonio) Barrera,” he said. “I like Mayweather, but he’s so talented and better than his competition so his fights can be one-sided. But few fighters have great skills like him.”
Like so many others, Wright would love to se a fight between Mayweather and Cotto. “That would be great,” he said. “Cotto is so tough and Floyd is so smart. It’s a great matchup.”
Wright is also a fan of the mixed martial arts, especially Kimbo Slice, who like Wright hails from the Sunshine State.
“I like to watch it, but sometimes there is too much grabbing and holding and not enough fighting,” he said. “Kimbo is good for the game. He was a bad boy in Florida, a street fighter you’d catch on the Internet. Now he’s on top of the world. He’s a nice dude, and I’m glad he is where he is right now.”
While Wright is happy for Slice’s success, he would like to be a bit happier about his own position in the boxing game right now. As he inches nearer to 40, he reminds you that he has never taken a beating and is unquestionably one of the best, if not the best, fighter in the world.
All he needs now, he says, is a fight against a De La Hoya or a Pavlik to show the world that he is still at the top of his game.
“Oscar and Pavlik both say they want to fight the best,” he said. “I believe them, so here I am. They know where I am. All they have to do is call.”
Who will win #HOPKINSKOVALEV