No physical title was up for grabs in the main event at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas on Saturday night. Unofficially, though, the scrap between Winky Wright and Paul Williams pitted two of boxing’s most avoided pugilists, both multi-tooled athletes who find themselves lacking meaningful money offers to glove up because potential foes are scared off by a unenticing risk-reward scenario.
With a thorough shellacking of Wright, Williams quite likely graduated out of that ‘most avoided’ status, because he has edged into the top ten on the TSS P4P list, and would make for a marketable foe for a Kelly Pavlik, Miguel Cotto, Shane Mosley or Money Mayweather. His handling of the defensive wizard Wright started from second one in round one, and there was zero drama as the scores–119-109, 119-109, 120-108, for Williams–were announced. Kind of those judges to give Wright a round, maybe they threw him one for his courage in staying upright and not throwing in the towel. Williams' stat edge was glaring (247/1086 to 116/511), and he sent word out to forthcoming foes that they best be in the shape of their life if they want to take him on.
Wright (51-4-1-25 KOs coming in; from Florida; age 37; inactive for 1 year, 262 days; 1-1-1 in his last three scraps; former junior middleweight champ) weighed 159 pounds, while Williams (36-1-27 KOs; from Georgia; age 27; former middleweight, current WBO junior middleweight champ) was 157 pounds on Friday. Wright weighed 168 to Williams’ 166 on fight night. Joe Cortez, self assessed as fair but firm, was the ref.
The fight ran on HBO. Jim Lampley, Larry Merchant and Manny Steward called the action. Steward went on record saying that the bout wasn’t a smart choice for Wright.
In the first, Williams’ jab was popping. Wright hit with a right hook, after waiting to get inside on Long Tall Paul. LTP slipped well, for the most part. Trainer Dan Birmingham told Wright to throw more, and promised him that he’d hurt Williams. Wright threw 104 punches in the first, for the record. In the second, Williams barely gave Winky time to take in air, let alone punch. If he could average 100 punches each and every round, LTP couldn’t lose. In the third, Winky shook his head, saying no, you ain’t hurting me. Williams smiled with 1:25 to go. The crowd went wow whenever Wright landed.
In the fourth, Williams continued to fight smart; he’d bang away for five seconds, and then hold Wright, so Winky couldn’t counter easily. In the fifth, Williams slowed down. Not enough so that Wright obviously took the round, however. “He doesn’t have any legs, he’s an old man,” trainer George Peterson told LTP after the round. In the sixth, Williams banged hard underneath to the body, which he stealthily did from the start. At this juncture, it looked like Wright, not a KO artist by any stretch of the imagination, would need a stoppage. In round seven, it was more of the same. In the eighth, we heard a “Let’s go Winky, let’s go” chant. But Williams answered with a mean right. LTP stepped up his movement here, and he ate a couple shots, but how could you score against Williams, who was busier than a nickel slot machine in a recession.
In the ninth, LTP pounded the accelerator, gunning for a stop in the first part of the round. In the tenth, he did the same. The vet Wright was as stubborn as a mule ridden by a lap band candidate; he may have figured at this point a moral victory was the best he could hope for. The men touched gloves after the round, as they did after most every round. “You are behind in this fight, you need a stoppage,” Birmingham told Winky after. In the 11th, Wright couldn’t land a Hail Mary shot. In the 12th round, Williams came out flurrying, and ate a right, but he didn’t even blink. On this night, he was in a zone from the first round to the final bell, and even a prime Wright would’ve had a devil of a time penetrating that zone.
Williams said he'd like Pavlik or Abraham next, or maybe the retired Joe Calzaghe. Wright admitted he was rusty. “I'm coming back, I won't be off that long,” he said. Steward said he'd hesitate to put Hearns in with a 147 Williams. The trainer said he should probably not punish his body and try to make 147, though.
Merchant in his close focused on Arreola. “What he does for the rest of next year could be very important for boxing,” Merchant said.
SPEEDBAG Michael Buffer presided over a ten bell salute to Arthur Curry, the fighter liason who worked for HBO for the last 20 years. “He’ll always be remembered for his big smile, his big heart, his humility and his honesty…and always be remembered for a great three point shot on the basketball court,” Buffer said.
—Lampley choked up as he introed an Artie Curry homage. Merchant took the baton, and he called Curry a “beloved figure.” He too choked up as he said, “A good man died young.” The show went to black without sound…
Come back for David Avila’s ringside report.