It’s young vs. old one more time
Here we go again: A young, hungry fighter taking on an old warhorse trying to prove he still has some fight left in him.
Paul Williams faces Winky Wright on Saturday night at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas on HBO. No titles are at stake; just a good deal of intrigue based on the fighters themselves and a string of young-vs.-old matchups.
Will it turn out like Bernard Hopkins-Kelly Pavlik or Manny Pacquiao-Oscar De La Hoya? Shane Mosley-Antonio Margarito or Amir Khan-Marco Antonio Barrera? Or will it be competitive, as none of the above were?
A lot depends on how much Wright has left.
In his prime, the slick-boxing former four-time world titleholder could compete with anyone. However, he’s 37 and hasn’t fought in almost two years because his southpaw stance and well-documented skills scare prospective opponents away. He hasn’t won a fight since he outpointed veteran Ike Quartey in December 2006.
Wright appears to be confident and fit but we’ll know what his chances are only after the opening bell. And if he’s able to compete against Williams, obviously, he will instantly re-establish himself as a major player.
“Coming off the long layoff, I could’ve taken easy fight, get back and get a win,” he said. “We want to fight the best, though. When I fight, I want to beat someone who is credible, who also has a chance to beat me. Paul comes in and throws a lot of punches; he’s an exciting fighter.
“I’m looking forward to an exciting fight. And I know he is too.”
The last time we saw him, Wright (51-4-1, 25 knockouts) showed no signs of a significant decline.
In fact, his performance against Bernard Hopkins at a catch weight of 170 pounds in July 2007 – Wright’s only fight since Quartey -was encouraging. He lost a unanimous decision, his first defeat since 1999, but he fought on even terms with a bigger man who will one day be in the Hall of Fame and showed toughness by fighting with a nasty cut over his eye from the third round on.
Wright must turn in such a spirited effort to beat Williams on Saturday, most believe. He’s confident that will happen, particularly at a more natural weight for him.
“I don’t take anything away from him,” said Wright, who lives in St. Petersburg, Fla. “He’s tall (6-1), 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) also is billed as one of the most-avoided fighters in the world, a result of his size, southpaw stance, awkward style and 100-punch-a-round work rate. Even the likes of Shane Mosley admitted he wants no part of Williams.
The Augusta, Ga., resident, THE RING’s No. 2-rated junior middleweight, fought four times last year but he had to compete in three weight classes (147 pounds, 154 and 160) to do it.
And few big-name opponents have dared get into the ring with him even in nine years as a pro. The biggest was Margarito, who Williams outpointed in 2007, but even he became more prominent after that fight.
Thus, Williams, in his prime at 27, is eager to show the world what he can do against a Hall of Fame-caliber opponent and take a significant step toward stardom.
That’s where Wright – “one of the greatest fighters in boxing,” Williams said – can help him. If the younger man beats one of the finest boxers of the era on Saturday, his resume will become more attractive and he’ll be more difficult to ignore.
Williams figures this is his time, not Wright’s.
“Old dogs can't run from new dogs,” Williams said, “and I'm gonna get him on Saturday night.”
Only if the old dog has actually lost a step.
Michael Rosenthal can be reached at [email protected]