Wright, Williams turn to each other
LOS ANGELES – No one wants to fight Paul Williams. No one wants to fight Winky Wright. So they did the only logical thing: They’re fighting each other on April 11 in Las Vegas on HBO.
And clearly both are eager to get back to work – particularly Wright.
The former four-time titleholder will have been out of the ring for more than 21 months when he meets Williams at Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino. He last fought in July of 2007, when Bernard Hopkins outpointed him.
Wright (51-4-1, 25 knockouts) has been accused in some reports of asking for more money than he’s worth, the main reason he’s had trouble making fights.
Not true, say he and his promoter, Richard Schaefer of Golden Boy Promotions. They contend that Wright hasn’t been active because no one wants to fight a slick, experienced southpaw who generally makes his opponents look bad.
Wright said he’s spent the past year and a half enjoying life and working with Schaefer to put together a meaningful fight.
“I call him and say, ‘What the (heck)?,'” Wright said at news conference in downtown L.A. to promote the fight. “Everyone else is fighting. Shane’s (Mosley) fighting. Bernard’s (Hopkins) fighting. Why can’t I get a fight?
“They fight Bernard, who is a much bigger, more difficult fighter, dirty and everything, but they won’t fight Winky Wright.”
Schaefer said that HBO gave Wright a date and six opponents the network found acceptable last year. All six refused to fight Wright, Schaefer said.
“It really became embarrassing to me that I couldn’t deliver a big fight for Winky,” Schaefer said. “HBO gave us a list of six fighters and none of them wanted to fight him. I couldn’t believe it.
“Winky and I talked about it and he said, ‘Now you know what I have to go through.'”
So Wright turned to a kindred spirit: Williams, which more or less proves that Wright will fight anyone.
Wright admits that Williams poses an unusual challenge. The former welterweight champion – who will face Wright at a 160-pound weight limit – is at least 6-foot-2 (compared to the 5-10 Wright), has a heavyweight reach of 82 inches (Wright 72), throws a ridiculous number of punches and has an awkward style.
Even Shane Mosley, who would fight anyone if the terms were right, shook his head said “no thanks” at the prospect of meeting Williams.
However, at this point of Wright’s career, having beaten the likes of Mosley (twice) and Felix Trinidad, he’s not going to be fazed by a less-experienced fighter like Williams.
He said the almost-two-year layoff might be a slight disadvantage but he feels (and looks) good, even at 37. He’s looking toward the future, he said, not back at what might’ve been.
“I don’t take anything away from him,” Wright said. “He’s tall, awkward. That’s the biggest obstacle you have to get over. After that, as far as skill and knowing how to fight, I don’t see him being at my level.”
Williams (36-1, 27 KOs) is proving again that he’ll fight at whatever weight – between 147 and 160 – he can find a big-name opponent.
The thing that excites him most about this matchup is just that – Wright’s name. A victory over such a well-known fighter and possible Hall of Famer, he believes, will add luster to his legacy
“When I retire, I want my kids to say, ‘My daddy fought this guy and that guy,'” Williams said. “ÔÇª I want to fight the best out there. I don’t see why (everyone) doesn’t want that. If they don’t want to fight the top guys in their weight class, then they shouldn’t get paid to fight. That’s the way I look at it.”
And if the odds makers at Mandalay Bay are correct, Wright will become Williams’ latest victim: Williams is a -160 favorite (meaning one must bet $1.60 to make $1.00). Wright is +140.
Williams, 27, is in the prime of his career. He’s coming off an impressive eighth-round knockout of Verno Phillips in which he overcame a bad cut, his fourth fight in a busy 2008.
He said he respects Wright’s ability and doesn’t see the layoff as a significant advantage for him – “Sugar Ray Leonard came back from a layoff and beat Marvin Hagler,” he said – but he believes this is his time.
“I guess (the odds makers) see what I’ve done in the past,” he said. “The bookies ain’t crazy. They’ve seen my last couple of fights, the way I fight inside, outside, the power. They know what’s going on.”
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]