The tale of the 50-year-old contender
The man is 50 years old and has a belly that protrudes in a manner that suggests his blood pressure and cholesterol levels are in code red territory.
Not so, says “Bronco” Billy Wright, the most unlikely of heavyweight contenders I have come across in my decades of covering this red light district of a sport.
“I can hold a lemon meringue pie in one hand and a pumpkin pie in the other and still knock you out!” says the Las Vegas resident (46-4, 37 knockouts) in a recent phoner.
Wright, who debuted as a pro in 1986 after taking to boxing to get back in shape after breaking his back in a workplace accident, told me he’s set to glove up on March 13 at We Ko Pa Casino in Fort McDowell, AZ against Gilberto Matheus Domingos, a 22-2 (20 KOs) Brazilian.
It’s the first fight in the US since 2012 for Wright, who has made Bolivia his ring home away from home of late. “Fighting in America is very important,” said the boxer, rated No. 17 at heavyweight by the WBC. “This comeback is a difficult one to accept for people. I had to go abroad to get fights. Fighting here, I would have just been a club fighter and, nothing against that, but that’s not what I want.”
What he wants, he says, is for you simply to tune in and judge him by his merits, not his age or the fact that he has too much of a fondness for sweets. Roy Jones Jr.’s group is willing to give Wright a shot and put him on this card and he’s hoping you have an open mind as well.
“See for yourself! Yes, I’m 50 but it works to my advantage. I relax; I have my priorities in check. I don’t drink, don’t do the crazy stuff I did in my 20s and 30s, drinking beer, chasing skirts. No, I’m not the bodybuilder, Adonis-type people have come to expect. I’m an old-school fighter. You had, back in the ’80s, Larry Holmes, Tim Witherspoon, Tony Tubbs; I’m more like a lumberjack. If you’re looking to see a body, save your money but otherwise come to see me and an exciting knockout fight. You’re going to see that for sure.”
Wright has made Vegas home since 1989. He was born in Arizona, kicked around foster homes and was adopted at age 12. By age 15, he was on his own, living in a campground, playing football, wrestling and track and loving it. He fought at county fairs, then on the amateur circuit and had solid momentum. But a work accident derailed him. He got back into boxing to get back in shape and worked with Hall of Famer Gene Fullmer and Fullmer’s manager. That petered out some in Utah, when the manager had fallen ill.
You will see a lengthy break from 1999-2007 on BoxRec.com. Wright explains that he went away to jail for an assault, he says, committed upon someone who messed with one of his kids. “I’m not proud of it but I’m not ashamed,” he says of his five-year stint. “I made a bad choice, took the law into my own hands and don’t recommend it to anyone.” Yes, he admits, he basically had murderous intent when he went vigilante. The victim didn’t pass away but Wright admits, he wishes he did. “I had bad intentions for sure,” he says. “I was a different man back then.”
The temper was tempered in 2007, when the business side of the sport got under his skin. A promoter bounced a check to him and he wanted to exert some justice but, he says, decided against it and simply focused not on boxing but his automotive shop in Vegas. “I love, love, love the sport of boxing but the business side can be so shady and slippery. And yeah, I’m the type who wants to do something to ya if you don’t do the right thing. But I said, ‘Forget it,’ and walked away.”
His sons, Zach and Cody convinced him to give it one more crack though, so he laced up again in 2011 and has won 13 straight. “My sons said, ‘You’re strong; you’re not normal,'” he recalls, chuckling.
Neither are Wright’s levels, his BP is 118-78 and his cholesterol is under 100, he reports. “I pass all my physicals,” he notes. “I live a good life; I just like sweets.
Assuming a win March 13, he says he’d like a crack at the Odlanier Solises, Tony Thompsons and Chris Arreolas who are slotted higher than him in the rankings.
Reserve judgement; let that happen and then weigh in, he recommends.
“Please, don’t let the big belly fool ya!”
Woods is a Brooklyn-based writer who worked at ESPN The Magazine from 2003-2011 and then wrote the NYFightblog for ESPN NY until May 2014. He has been editor of TheSweetScience.com since April 2007 and started contributing to RingTV.com two weeks ago.