tampabay.com

Echols angling for one last shot

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published March 29, 2005


While three of the biggest names in the 160- and 168-pound divisions - Bernard Hopkins , Jermain Taylor and Jeff Lacy - chase each other around trying to get fights, Antwun Echols is hoping to grab a smaller piece of the pie.

To get a shot at a championship, he will have to beat Kingsley Ikeke April 15 in an IBF middleweight elimination bout at Spokane, Wash.

The winner will be awarded the No. 2 ranking in the division and could find himself in a title fight by the end of the year. Hopkins, the IBF champ, is unlikely to fight mandatory challenger and No. 1-ranked Sam Soliman with bigger fights to be had. If he is stripped of his title as expected, the Echols-Ikeke winner would get the first shot at Soliman for the belt.

The 33-year-old former Dade City resident and Pasco High student is a member of the St. Petersburg Boxing Club stable that includes Lacy and Winky Wright . Though trainer Dan Birmingham is with Wright in Las Vegas preparing for a May 14 fight with Felix "Tito" Trinidad , he will meet Echols in Spokane on April 14 and work his corner the next night. Ben Getty has been training Echols in St. Petersburg.

Echols is hoping to make one last run at a title. In his last championship fight, Echols dropped a unanimous decision to Anthony Mundine in Australia for the WBA super-middleweight championship.

Echols' previous attempts at a major belt were thwarted by Hopkins in 1999 and 2000, though he has won NABA and USBA championships.

The hard-hitting Echols is moving down a weight class to 160 pounds. He is ranked No. 6 by the WBA, No. 10 by the IBF and No. 12 by the WBO; Ikeke is No. 4 by the WBC, No. 5 by the WBC, No. 9 by the IBF and No. 6 by the WBO.

The fight will be live on ESPN2's Friday Night Fights .

HOPKINS-TAYLOR ON ... OR OFF?: It's been reported on nearly every boxing Web site that undisputed middleweight champion Hopkins and Taylor have agreed to fight July 16 on HBO pay-per-view.

In Sunday's Las Vegas Review-Journal , however, Richard Schaefer ,Golden Boy Promotions chief executive officer, said the reports are false.

"I keep reading where this fight is done, and I don't know where that's coming from," Schaefer said. "I hope we can get a deal, but there are issues as it relates to the two fighters, and there are issues as it relates to HBO. I am hopeful of closing it within a week. It sure is no done deal."

If Schaefer is right, Lacy said, he still is willing to jump in to make a fight work.

"I just want to remind Bernard and his promoters I am a done deal and I am ready to move down to a catchweight and defend my title against him for the original purse Taylor was offered, $1.5-million," Lacy said. "Bernard keeps talking about moving up to the light heavyweight division to fight Glenn Johnson , so surely coming up 4 or 5 pounds cannot be an obstacle in fighting me for my title."

IT'S OFFICIAL: It's no surprise, but Wright is officially without a title after resigning his WBC belt.

A win over Trinidad could mean his wait for another is shorter, as the winner will be named the WBC's No. 1-ranked challenger at 160 pounds.

"Winky Wright has presented to the WBC his resignation of the super-welterweight (light middleweight) world title, as he has decided to move up to the middleweight division and fight "Tito" Trinidad ," WBC president Jose Sulaiman said in a statement. "The WBC has accepted his resignation, and the board of governors will vote on the proposal for the Wright-Trinidad fight to be a final elimination bout to determine the WBC's No. 1-ranked official challenger at 160 pounds."