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Paul Williams vs. Winky Wright: Head to head

08
Apr

The biggest question mark going into the fight between Winky Wright (left) and Paul Williams on Saturday in Las Vegas is what effect Wright's age (37) and almost-two-year layoff have on him. Photo / Tom Hogan-HoganPhotos.com

PAUL WILLIAMS vs. WINKY WRIGHT

When: Saturday, April 11
Where: Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino, Las Vegas
TV: HBO, 7 p.m. PT/ 10 p.m. ET
Weight: Middleweight (160 pounds)
Title(s) at stake: None
Also on the card: Chris Arreola vs. Jameel McCline, 12 rounds, heavyweights (HBO’s televised co-feature); Jose Angel Rodriguez vs. Juan Pablo Montez de Oca, 10 rounds, junior middleweight; Craig McEwan vs. Emmanuel Gonzalez, 8 rounds, middleweight; Danny Garcia vs. Humberto Tapia, 8 rounds, junior welterweight; Mike Dallas Jr. vs. Terrance Jett, 6 rounds, junior welterweight; Rico Ramos vs. Gino Escamilla, 6 rounds, junior featherweight; Juan Dominguez vs. Ramon Flores, 4 rounds, featherweight; Shawn Estrada vs. Thomas Rittenbaugh, 4 rounds, super middleweight.

WILLIAMS

The essentials

Age: 27
Height / Reach: 6-1 / 82
Hometown: Augusta, Ga.
Turned pro: 2000
Record: 36-1 (27 knockouts)
Trainer: George Peterson
Fight-by-fight: http http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=020755&cat=boxer
The Ring rating: No. 2 junior middleweight
Titles: WBO welterweight (2007-08; lost title to Carlos Quintana); WBO welterweight (2008; regained title from Quintana and then vacated it).
Biggest victories: Antonio Margarito, July 14, 2007, UD 12 (wins WBO welterweight title); Carlos Quintana, June 7, 2008, TKO 1 (regains WBO welterweight title).
Only loss: Carlos Quintana, Feb. 9, 2008, UD 12 (lost WBO welterweight title).

WRIGHT

The essentials

Age: 37
Height / reach: 5-10¾ / 72
Hometown: St. Petersburg, Fla.
Turned pro: 1990
Record: 51-4-1 (25 knockouts)
Trainer: Dan Birmingham
Fight-by-fight: http://www.boxrec.com/list_bouts.php?human_id=3600&cat=boxer
The Ring rating: None
Titles: WBO junior middleweight (1996-98; lost title to Harry Simon); IBF junior middleweight (2001-04; stripped); WBA junior middleweight (2004-05; vacated); WBC junior middleweight (2004-05; vacated).
Biggest victories: Bronko McKart, May 17, 1996, SD 12 (won WBO junior middleweight title); Robert Frazier, Oct. 12, 2001, UD 12 (won IBF junior middleweight title); Shane Mosley, March 13, 2004, UD 12 (unified three titles); Mosley, Nov. 20, 2004, MD 12 (retained two titles); Felix Trinidad, May 14, 2005, UD 12 (virtual shutout).
Losses: Julio Cesar Vasquez, Aug. 21, 1994, UD 12 (for Vasquez’s WBA super welterweight title); Harry Simon, Aug. 22, 1998, MD 12 (lost WBO junior middleweight title); Fernando Vargas, Dec. 4, 1999, MD 12 (for Vargas' IBF junior middleweight title, controversial scoring); Bernard Hopkins, July 21, 2007, UD 12.

HEAD-TO-HEAD

Skills: One thing Wright has always had is skills. Sugar Ray Leonard, who knows a few things about skills, called Wright one of the most economically proficient fighters he’s seen. He has mastered the most-basic tenet of boxing: Hit and don’t get hit. He picks you apart with a crisp right jab and enough power punches to keep your attention. Meanwhile, you’ll become utterly frustrated at your inability to catch him with flush shots. Felix Trinidad will tell you that Wright is as good as any fighter he’s faced. Williams’ strength is his 100-punch-a-round work rate. He also knows how to use his freakish 6-foot-1 body and awkward style to befuddle opponents. Add it up and it’s not hard to understand why few want to fight him.
Edge: Wright

Power: Williams showed in his rematch with Carlos Quintana the damage he can inflict when he’s inspired, scoring a vicious first-round knockout to avenge an earlier upset. He has stopped eight of his last 10 opponents. That said, he doesn’t have tremendous one-punch knockout power. His opponents generally collapse as a result of his remarkable work rate. Wright is not known for his power, having stopped fewer than half of his victims. However, make no mistake: He doesn’t slap. His straight, technically sound punches take a toll on his opponents.
Edge: Williams

Speed and athletic ability: Wright has probably been underrated in this regard. No one can box like he does without good hand speed and fleet feet; he’s an excellent athlete. Of course, he’s not as quick as he once was. And one wonders whether we’ll see a steep decline in this department after his long layoff. We get caught up in Williams’ strengths – his work rate, big body, southpaw stance, awkward style – and perhaps overlook his speed and athletic ability. He has been able to overcome a sparse amateur background precisely because he’s a good athlete and works hard.
Edge: Williams

Defense: Wright beats almost anyone in this department. Consider his fight against Trinidad. One of the most-respected fighters of his time – who had lost only once at that point – couldn’t lay a glove on Wright for 12 full rounds. He’s made a career out of frustrating opponents. Williams’ offense is his best defense; he doesn’t allow his opponents time to get their punches off because of his work rate. They’re too busy trying to fend him off.
Edge: Wright

Experience: Few fighters have Wright’s experience. He has been at or near the top of the rankings for most of the past 13 years and has fought professionally for almost 19 years. He has taken part in 14 world title fights, going 11-2-1 with major belts at stake. Williams has faced some big-name opponents – Sharmba Mitchell, Antonio Margarito, Carlos Quintana and Verno Phillips – but has fought in only three title fights (2-1) in his nine-year career.
Edge: Wright

Chin: Neither fighter has been knocked out. Wright went down four times against Julio Cesar Vasquez way back in 1994 – losing a decision in his first title shot – but hasn’t had such problems since. That probably can be attributed as much to his defensive skills as his ability to take a punch. It’s difficult to remember Williams getting hurt even once his entire career, which is saying something considering he’s been active for nine years and 37 fights.
Edge: Even

Conditioning: Williams’ work rate is proof that conditioning is one reason – the main reason? – Williams has enjoyed success in his career. Try throwing a hundred punches into the air for three minutes. Then imagine Williams’ doing it with his opponent firing punches back at him and you’ll have an idea what kind of shape he’s in when he steps into the ring. Wright, too, has always had a good work ethic. He seems to stay in shape year round, an indication that fitness comes naturally to him. And he’s smart. He’s knows that this has become more important as he’s aged.
Edge: Williams

Wear and tear: Wright, one of the best defensive fighters of his time, has spent his entire career successfully avoiding punches. However, he’s spent more than 20 years sparring and fighting; that’s bound to have an impact. And he’s taken more punches than usual in his most-recent fights. The almost-two-year layoff might actually help in this regard: His body has had time to rest from the rigors of the sport. We’ll see at fight time whether he’s an old or young 37. Williams is as fresh as any fighter with nine years experience. He’s only 27, had a brief amateur career and also is a good defensive fighter.
Edge: Williams

Corner: The fighters are remarkably loyal to their trainers – Dan Birmingham (Wright) and George Peterson (Williams) – during a time when fighters change mentors more than bed sheets. Each has been with his prot├®g├® from the beginning of their careers to the present. Birmingham, who also works with Jeff Lacy, was the Boxing Writers Association of America Trainer of the Year in 2004 and 2005. Wright and Lacy were both titleholders during those years. Peterson isn’t as well known but consider how far Williams has come without a substantial amateur background. Obviously, he’s been effective.
Edge: Birmingham

Outcome: The biggest question going into this fight is how much Wright has left at 37 and after a 1-year, 9-month layoff. He hasn’t won a fight since he outpointed comebacking Ike Quartey in December 2006. If he hasn’t slipped, he could do to Williams what he’s done to so many other opponents – frustrate him with his extraordinary hit-and-not-be-hit boxing skills. If he has slipped, Williams, a young, more-complete fighter, will give the old man a taste of his own medicine and perhaps hurt him at the same time. Williams appears to be at the top of his game, having knocked out all three of his opponents since he was upset by Carlos Quintana in February of last year.

Prediction: Williams by decision, roughly eight rounds to four.

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