The middleweight champ stopped Shane Mosley the first time and says nothing has changed.
By JOHN C. COTEY
Published November 20, 2004
LAS VEGAS - One of these days it will be all about Winky Wright.
It will be about his boxing ability, his uncanny precision, his impenetrable defense. It might include a little something about his family, a few words about St. Petersburg, a story or two on his trainer, Dan Birmingham.
But not yet. The story in tonight's HBO televised title fight from Mandalay Bay remains Shane Mosley.
As a challenger, Wright was ignored. As a champion and 9-5 favorite, he is the sidebar.
"But that's okay," said Wright, the gentleman boxer who isn't interested in anything outside the ring. Let Mosley drive the media; he'll worry about driving Mosley out of boxing.
In March, Wright (47-3, 25 KOs) carved up Mosley in a near-perfect performance to become the first undisputed junior middleweight champ in 29 years. Wright won 9 of 12 rounds, put Mosley down in the 12th (though the referee missed it) and scored a unanimous decision. Though he was stripped of his IBF title for not facing mandatory challenger Kasim Ouma, he has his WBA and WBC belts.
Wright's victory wasn't decisive enough to convince Mosley (39-3, 35 KOs) to move on; he exercised his rematch clause. But it was decisive enough to convince Mosley that he couldn't beat Wright with what he had, so he fired his trainer/father, Jack, and hired Joe Goossen.
And so started the cycle of Mosley coverage. Goossen, credited for turning around David Tua's and Diego Corrales' careers, is a candidate for trainer of the year, though a Wright win would make a stronger case for Birmingham.
It's the story of the fight, Goossen's attempt to stop Mosley's slide (1-3 with a no-decision in his past four fights) and resurrect his career at age 33, but so-called experts aren't buying it. In a poll of boxers and writers, 74 of 88 favor Wright.
Birmingham says Goossen won't be able to change in three months what it took Mosley 20 years to learn from his father. But he expects the challenger will try to throw more combinations and get inside on Wright, who was masterful in keeping Mosley away the first fight.
"I anticipate Shane will take more chances, maybe come out stronger early on, try to get closer and throw more punches," Birmingham said. "But we are prepared for things like that. I think the outcome will be just about the same ... when Shane starts eating Wink's leather."
Wright, who turns 33 on Friday, said: "I visualize Shane trying everything, and when it happens I'll be prepared for it. Of course he's not going to go out and do the same thing he did last time, because he knows it didn't work."
Most observers think Mosley is too small for Wright, a natural 154-pounder with a frame that carries up to 175 when he's not in training. He hasn't fought below 150 pounds since 1992.
Mosley, on the other hand, was fighting at 135 as recently as 1999 and looked overpowered in the first meeting with Wright, though his camp blamed fatigue, a locker room that was too warm before the fight and too much pasta after the weigh-in the night before.
"He wasn't as physically strong as I thought he would be," Wright said of the buff Mosley. "He may lift 400 pounds or whatever, and you can be a powerlifter, but in the boxing ring I'm the stronger fighter. I know I can hurt him.
"He can tell you what he wants. He can have his excuses. But I know I'm the better fighter, and he knows it, too."
Goossen won't reveal what he has changed in Mosley, but raved about his camp. He said Mosley is hitting with the power that ruled the 135- and 147-pound classes by knockout, is faster and is back to moving his head. "What went wrong that night, I could do a laundry list," Goossen said. "I will surmise that you saw Shane at the lowest ebb of his career that night, in terms of performance. I chalk that up to just having a bad, bad night."
But not facing a good, good fighter, Wright wants to know? Tonight, Wright hopes to show Goossen that he has it all backward.
"It's not going to be any different than it was the first time," Wright said.