In Boxing News: Boxing Press Slams Winky Wright
That's boxing for you. Last week this space detailed how the mooted Winky Wright-Jermain Taylor matchup was off. Well, scratch that … After a crazy week of back and forth, even by the wacky standards of boxing, Winky Wright has finally agreed to fight Jermain Taylor in a middleweight title match to be held on June 17.
Wright's decision to sign the contract ended a tumultuous week in which he had previously fired his promoter, Gary Shaw – after Shaw had revived a deal that had blown up six weeks ago, secured a bigger guaranteed license fee ($6.5 million) from HBO, and a $4 million guarantee for Wright. Long story short – writes George Willis of the New York Post – Wright threw Shaw under the bus, tried to sniff another deal with HBO and flirted with jumping ship to Golden Boy Promotions. In the process, he nearly destroyed a deal that will earn him roughly $4 million. Willis' view is consistent with almost everything in the media at this moment. Other than Winky himself, everyone who has something to say about the byzantine journey to getting this fight made seems to have come out in support of Shaw. Lou BiBella – Jermain Taylor's promoter – certainly has had plenty to say: This is a done deal. Winky's side of the deal was amateur hour, except for Gary Shaw. Gary was a professional, and if it wasn't for Gary Shaw, there wouldn't be a fight.
Putting the he-said-she-side to one side for a moment, one of the interesting angles on the last minute turn of events is the role that Ross Greenburg – president of HBO Sports – played. Greenburg hosted a meeting between Wright and Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer Richard Schaeffer. The meeting was noteworthy because HBO was already working with Shaw and DiBella on the fight. Shaw and DiBella were infuriated because they thought Schaeffer was undermining their negotiations by trying to get Wright to allow De La Hoya's company to become a promotional partner for the Taylor-Wright fight. Greenburg has declined to comment on the meeting at HBO's offices in New York, but ultimately refused to televise the Taylor-Wright fight if Shaw wasn't involved. Shaw was rehired by Wright late Thursday night and the deal was struck late Friday morning. Greenburg said he learned a lesson from it all: The lesson is I've got to make sure people can't randomly walk into my office.
It would seem, then, everybody else has had something to say about the fight, so what about the fighters themselves? Winky says he's doing it for the fans: I don't want the fans to be deprived of seeing the best two middleweights in the world, so we're going to do one more fight with Gary to give the fans what they want to see. I'm going to give the fans what they want to see, and if they [Taylor and DiBella ] take the fight without trying to snake their way out of it, I want to apologize to all of my fans in Arkansas right now for what I'm going to do to their boy. Needless to say, Taylor wasn't impressed by Wright's bravado. [Wright] just made his first mistake, responded the champ.
Moving on from the middleweight intrigue … The wait might finally be over for boxing fans looking for a vintage performance from Fernando Vargas, suggests the Home News Tribune. Vargas, by all accounts, is training hard and in the best physical condition going into a fight he has be in for some time: For the Castillejo fight, I came down from 194, said Vargas. For this fight I was in the low 180s, and I am stronger now than ever. Last week I was at 164. I have lost ten pound in three days not knowing how I lost it. Before this camp I [didn't have] anybody like (strength and fitness coach) Robert Ferguson to teach me how to lose weight. Teaching me how to eat and lose weight effectively and be strong … I feel like I'm in better shape than I ever have. Isn't this the same thing Vargas says before every big fight? Regardless, it's an interesting fight between two fighters who are past their primes, but who still have enough left to make the matchup compelling. After having watched Vargas struggle with De La Hoya's speed, I'd suggest the edge going in is with Mosley, even if he is a smaller man who isn't what he once was.
Kevin Iole, in the Las Vegas Review Journal, reports that Chris Byrd has regained his love for boxing and is putting his legal woes behind him as he prepares to fight Wladimir Klitschko. Byrd has reached a settlement with promoter Don King – a relationship that seemed to be in constant turmoil – and the lack of legal distractions is allowing him to focus on the sport once again. There is no one who loves boxing more than I do, Byrd said. But all this stuff, it took the joy out of it for me. I didn't want to watch boxing, I didn't want to talk boxing, I didn't want to think about it. And that's not me.
I recently questioned Byrd's chances against Klitschko, but could a rejuvenated Byrd prove me wrong? I'm a lot older and wiser now, said Byrd. When I fought Wladimir before, I wasn't so confident. But I fight with more of a chip on my shoulder now. I love to fight those big guys. Wladimir's not the fighter he was, and I'm going to test his heart. It's going to be 'test, test test.' I'm going to get him into a shootout. If I get him into a shootout and can survive that, I'm going to have a lot of bullets left in the gun and he's going to be in trouble. I still can't see it, but the prospect of a rejuvenated Chris Byrd certainly makes the fight more interesting.