LAS VEGAS – Winky Wright isn't making any predictions about how his middleweight bout with Felix Trinidad will end, but the Winkster did make one promise.
Their match won't be a repeat of Saturday night's toe-to-toe slugfest between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo.
Monday afternoon in his suite at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he will meet Trinidad in a WBC middleweight title eliminator Saturday night on HBO Pay-Per-View.
“Ain't no way in the world my fight going to be like that,” Wright said Monday afternoon in his suite at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, where he will meet Trinidad in a WBC middleweight title eliminator Saturday night on HBO Pay-Per-View.
“I got to give it up to them boys,” Wright continued. “That was straight heart, guts, balls, determination. But them fights right there shorten your career. If you want to do this sport and be here a long time you better block a lot of them punches or stay away from them.”
Wright's career was founded on avoiding punches, and he'll certainly employ that strategy against the heavy-fisted Trinidad, who was a minus-185 favorite Monday at the MGM Grand's sports book.
“I'm the underdog because they know Trinidad more,” Wright said. “I like being the underdog. I'm going to spoil the party.”
Wright (48-3, 25 KOs) will be making his 160-pound debut after spending his entire career at 154 pounds. He left the junior middleweight division as the undisputed champ.
Trinidad (42-1, 35 KOs) is making only his second appearance of the past three years. The Puerto Rican hero ended his retirement in October and pummeled Ricardo Mayorga in an enthralling affair.
Trinidad looked every bit as strong as he did before his hiatus. But, as Wright noted, “We ain't going in there to lift weights. We're going in there to box.”
Mayorga was made to order and couldn't be more different than Wright.
Mayorga is an in-your-grill, right-handed brawler who had moved up two divisions. Wright is a slick southpaw nobody wants to fight because of his ability to make an opponent look foolish.
“He's overmatched,” Wright said. “He's a great puncher, but skill-wise I can’t see him compared to me at all. Tito gotta worry about getting by my jab. Tito gotta worry about me outthinking him. Tito gotta worry about all that. Only thing I gotta worry about Tito is throwing a big shot.
“So it's going to be who's the smarter fighter, who's the best boxer. And that's no comparison. He can't box with me at all.”
The fight was put together mostly for financial reasons. Trinidad said his contract with Don King calls for him to make a minimum purse of $10 million. The original plan was for Trinidad to face Shane Mosley, but when Wright beat Mosley in November for a second time, King had to scramble. Bernard Hopkins opted to face Jermain Taylor, and the only other fighter out there who could command pay-per-view dollars was Wright.
“He challenged me, and I accept every challenge,” Trinidad said through an interpreter. “Winky is one of the few fighters out there who really wants to fight me.”
Trinidad, sporting a David Tua-style haircut when he spoke to a small gathering at the MGM Grand, seemed loose and confident in his chances against the befuddling Wright.
“No matter what he brings to the ring I'm prepared and I'm going to beat him,” Trinidad said. “I can hurt him, and I can end the fight soon. I'm going to try to end it and he knows that.
“I've been in a number of great wars, and I challenge him to bring the fight to me. If he thinks this is going to be an easy fight, he's dead wrong. I'm not going to go in and play any games. I hit with both hands. I know how much power I have with both hands. Winky's been saying my chin is suspect, but I'm prepared to knock him out or go the distance to win the fight.”
Wright's trainer, Dan Birmingham, indicated their game plan was derived from a combination of Trinidad's fights against Oscar De La Hoya (the first six rounds) and Hopkins (the last six rounds).
“There's the blueprint to beat this guy.” Birmingham said.
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FIGHT FOR THE AGES: Many pundits are calling the scintillating match between Diego Corrales and Jose Luis Castillo the most spectacular since Grog threw the first punch at Ock after an argument erupted over that freshly speared mastodon.
I'm not going to disagree, but it's difficult to rate any fight the best in pugilistic history. Unlike the NFL, NBA or Major League Baseball, so much in boxing has happened off camera and with few witnesses.
The most exciting fight I had seen prior to Saturday night was Elvir Muriqi's jaw-dropping victory three years ago over Sam Ahmad in New Rochelle, N.Y. Muriqi, then a light heavyweight, was knocked down four times but stormed back to drop Ahmad twice and win the fight in the third round.
But I can easily reason Corrales' dramatic comeback triumph over Castillo was superior. There was sustained sadistic action for 10 rounds and it was for the lightweight world championship.
I’ll probably never see another one like it until the day I die.
UNDERCARD OBSERVATIONS: A few noteworthy bouts on the Corrales-Castillo undercard were overshadowed by the magnitude of what transpired in the main event.
Jose Luis Lopez won his fight via seventh round knockout, but the former WBO welterweight champ – once mentioned in the same breath as Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Ike Quartey – looked like a 1978 Ford Pinto against Alberto Mercedes.
Yes, Lopez won every round on all three judges scorecards against a fighter who is now 12-10-1. Lopez, however, looked far older than 31 years old. He was fighting for only the third time since a four-year layoff that ended in October 2004.
The fight took place in front of about 200 yawning folks, most of whom were commission officials, security guards and media. You could hear a cell phone conversation on the other side of the ring. The loudest ovation of the fight came when the cocktail waitresses went to work in the sixth round.
Also on the card, Carlos De Leon Jr. suffered a possible career ending loss to replacement foe Marcos Primera. De Leon had come down to middleweight and got annihilated by a guy who is 18-10-2 with 12 KOs. De Leon was knocked down once in the third round and twice more in the fourth. He had been unbeaten at 12-0-1 and possessed the sort of bloodlines – he's the son of the former cruiserweight champ – that make promoters take notice. Now it's pretty much over.
In Showtime's opening bout, WBA and IBF featherweight champ Juan Manuel Marquez pitched a shutout on this judge's scorecard in a unanimous decision over Victor Polo.
LET'S GO TO THE VIDEO: The gift bags handed out at the Boxing Writers Association of America's annual awards dinner Friday night contained two DVDs, one titled “Roy Jones Jr.'s Greatest Knockouts” and the other “UFC Ultimate Knockouts.” Guess which one I'll keep. Besides, the Jones DVD doesn't even feature his most remarkable KO finishes against Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.
BURNING QUESTIONS: Why does Gary Shaw need to wear that cell phone earpiece at all times? Is Gary so important that he might need to take a call minutes before or after the main event? If he's looking for a trademark, a la Don King's hair, he can be satisfied that no one really looks further than his waistband.
Who is more relevant right now, Julio Cesar Chavez or Mike Tyson?
Why is Winky Wright such an underdog to Trinidad? This fight should be a pick 'em at worst.
QUOTEMARKS: “He was just naked, getting hit with bombs. He went limp. He was unable to defend himself. He was out on his feet.” – referee Tony Weeks on Castillo after stopping Saturday night's classic bout.
“I could have gone on a little longer, but it's not good for the health. I might still be lying there.” – Mario Veit shortly after his corner threw in the towel based on a pair of knockdowns by WBO super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe.
“When he lost for the first time, I cried and cried. I also got drunk, and I don't really drink. But for the first time I drank tequila.” – Ahmed Santos to the Arizona Republic on Julio Cesar Chavez's first loss to Frankie Randall in 1994.
“It took some years for me to really sit down and watch that fight. I ended up busting out laughing. 'Boy, I can't believe this.'” – Oliver McCall to a Florida newspaper on watching himself break down in tears against Lennox Lewis in 1997.