Let me be very clear and upfront about this. I believe Winky Wright is the best technical boxer, pound for pound, currently on our planet. I think he's a shade ahead of Pretty Boy Floyd Mayweather. But that does not mean I will easily part with my cash to watch Winky Wright on TV; as a technician, he is unparalleled. His balance is always perfect.
His punches are straight, and to the point.
But he doesn't have a weapon of mass destruction in his arsenal. He doesn't have a sharkish mentality when he enters the ring. So his fights are most often studies in technical brilliance. But do they demand my attention? Do I have to clear my calendar when I know Winky Wright is fighting? No. So that's why I found it curious that reports are out and about that Winky Wright turned downed a really solid chunk of change to fight Jermain Taylor, the middleweight man of the moment, on “free” HBO in June.
It was Monday night. The deal was done. 'I's were dotted. 'T's were crossed. The fax machines were gonna get a workout. The pie had been divvied up, and everyone was going to get a healthy slab. Jermain Taylor, 27, the young buck, the potential heir apparent to Bernard Hopkins, the nice kid with the homey Arkansas demeanor, was going to get 55% of the pastry. Wright, 34, the rock-solid southpaw who'd traveled far and wide to stay in the mix, and had finally, after debuting in 1990, made it, was slated to get 45% of the pie.
Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter, and Gary Shaw, who had acted as Wright's promoter for the veteran's last two fights had slung some mud at each other. But some laundry was done. The promoters made nice, or at least, nice enough to hash out a deal for Taylor to meet Wright in the early spring. Lawyers had seen the language in the contracts. They'd signed off.
Not so fast.
The wheels came off the wagon.
Wright bugged out, apparently. He tossed Shaw. The same Shaw who battled for Wright in negotiations with Don King before the Trinidad/Wright fight of May 2005. Shaw got Winky, not a PPV attraction, 4 million to Trinidad's 10. Decent score, right?
Back to the pie. One source said that between 8 and 8½ million was to be sliced up between Taylor, Wright, and their respective camps. Do the math. It was going to be another solid score for Wright, a supremely skilled dude who does not put fannies in seats. Winky Wright does not have a fan base to fill up a house and buy beer and a program. He's the best, but that doesn't mean people will clamor to watch him ply his trade.
Winky says he has a promotional firm, that his firm is going to partner up with another firm, perhaps, and hash out a deal for his next fight. He said that he never authorized Gary Shaw to negotiate for him. Excuse me? That would presumably be news to Shaw, who's been wrangling for two months with DiBella in a sometimes harsh back-and-forth. An insider told us that Wright doesn't own a promoter's license anywhere at this time. So how exactly is Wright going to act as a promoter in setting up his next fight?
I believe that fighters moving into the promotional end of the game after their fighting career concludes could be a good thing. They would be likely to have the utmost respect for the warriors who are putting their lives on the line every time they lace up the gloves and do battle for paying customers. They might be inclined to treat fellow members of the fight fraternity with maximum decency when it comes time to hash out a deal, because they've been there and done that.
We've all read accounts of fighters being handed checks that have been whittled down severely by people who supposedly have their best interests at heart, and we all know that stinks. So maybe ex-fighters will have a stronger conscience when it comes time to divvy up the moolah. But Wright seemingly isn't making a good case for this scenario. It appears he hasn't even done the necessary paperwork to legally wheel and deal as a promoter.
Isn't there a saying, 'He who acts as his own promoter, has a fool for a client?' Wright is making noise that he wants a 50-50 split with Taylor. He says that Taylor's belts don't make Taylor the man. But Taylor did beat the man, Hopkins, who had a stranglehold on those belts. Taylor owns more leverage in the equation and has more upside than Wright does. His age, his Olympic pedigree, his charisma. And then Wright is saying that perhaps Taylor is scared to make the fight? The deal was done, Winky. The terms were hashed out. Taylor and Patrick Burns, his trainer, were and are completely comfortable with fighting Winky Wright.
This one's a doozy and I haven't seen anything quite like it before. Winky Wright may well be the best fighter on the planet today, but as for his skills as a promoter…let's just say, Hey, Winky, don't quit your day job.
*** Kassim Ouma's people won't give up options to Don King, so a rematch with Roman Karmazin doesn't look likely. Ouma should be back in the ring in April or May. Golden Boy hasn't found an opponent as yet. FYI, a Hollywood heavyweight is eyeing Ouma's life story, and may bankroll a documentary feature on the former child soldier from Uganda.
*** We haven't seen or heard much from Cory Spinks lately. The Missouri welterweight last fought on Feb. 5, 2005, getting TKO’d by Zab Judah in St. Louis. Spinks' trainer Kevin Cunningham says they are ironing out some legal and promotional issues with Don King and with Bobby Bostick. Spinks, Cunningham said, will be back in the mix by this summer. The winner of Mosley/Vargas, De La Hoya/Mayorga or Mayweather/Judah are on Spinks' wish list.
*** I'm pleased as punch to be contributing to TSS. George Kimball's here, and I grew up in the Boston area, so much of my immersion in and fascination with this savage science can be blamed on him. Big Bob Mladinich, a good man to know when the scales of justice are not tipped in your favor, is here. And Bobby Cass, my pal from a newspaper that shall go nameless whose editors think more of figure skating than they do of this sport, and therefore do not avail themselves properly of his talent, is on board. So is the owner of one of this generation's best minds when it comes to combining literary flair with technical comprehension, Zach Levin. And I can't wait to have one of those haunting Robert Ecksel black and white's accompanying my copy. He's doubly dangerous, handy with the camera and capable of stitching together some majestic phrases while dissecting our shared avocation. I'm grateful to those cats down the block at Max for giving me room to do my thing, especially Tom Gerbasi. But I'm here now, and for the foreseeable future. Thanks for reading.