Local fight for Wright may hinge on lagging ticket sales for Lacy

By Times Staff
Published July 12, 2005

St. Petersburg's Jeff Lacy , who lives in Brandon, is scheduled to fight in his hometown Aug.6 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Will Winky Wright be the next local fighter to do so?

If 10,000 people decide to watch Lacy, that answer could be yes, promoter Gary Shaw says.

Shaw said it is likely Wright will fight in November, and at the top of his list of possible sites is the bay area.

But Shaw has to pay his fighters, so he needs sizable crowds. Ticket sales are about halfway to his goal, leaving him nervous but hopeful.

"Everybody tells me that Tampa is a last-minute town," Shaw said. "They tell me I'll feel it more in the last four days before the fight. I can't do anything but listen to what people say."

Shaw looks around and sees Cory Spinks selling 22,000 tickets in his hometown of St. Louis and Arturo Gatti selling out Atlantic City in hours.

For the Lacy fight, the math isn't adding up. He has been told Tampa is a fight town, and every chance Lacy or Wright gets he gives a shoutout to St. Petersburg, Tampa or Brandon. And they already are talking in Wales about drawing more than 50,000 if Lacy gets by Robin Reid and meets Joe Calzaghe in his hometown later this year.

"Nobody wants to fight in a half-empty arena," Shaw said, "especially in your hometown."

CHICKEN KIEV?: Hasim "The Rock" Rahman and promoter Don King are using e-mail to shame WBC heavyweight champion Vitali Klitschko into a fight, sending out daily updates as well as stories by boxing writers suggesting the champ is ducking his mandatory challenger.

Rahman is ranked No.1 by the WBC but has been unable to get Klitschko in the ring. Since his bloody loss to Lennox Lewis in 2003, Klitschko has fought three times against the less-than-stellar trio of Kirk Johnson , Corrie Sanders and Danny Williams . This year, injuries have kept him out of the ring. He has postponed a meeting with Rahman three times.

Klitschko injured his leg while jogging to kill an April fight, and the nagging injury forced a cancellation in June. The two were supposed to get it on this month, but Klitschko had minor back surgery.

Rahman will have to settle for a WBC interim heavyweight title fight against Monte Barrett on Aug.13 (Showtime PPV), with the winner expecting to get Klitschko in September.

ATTENTION-STARVED: The hype surrounding the Bernard Hopkins - Jermain Taylor fight Saturday will overshadow Kassim Ouma 's defense of his IBF 154-pound title two nights earlier at the Orleans Hotel in Las Vegas. Ouma, a potential future opponent for Wright, will defend his title against top-rated Roman Karmazin on HBO Latino.

RING NOTES: Former cruiserweight prospect Julian Letterlough (21-5-3, 20 KOs) was shot and killed Thursday in Reading, Pa. Letterlough, an ESPN favorite nicknamed "Mr. KO" for his knockout punch, was 35. Area fans might remember when he fought at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa in 2004, drawing with Daniel Judah . ... Former WBA flyweight champion Eric Morel was suspended Friday by the Nevada State Athletic Commission after his conviction on sexual assault charges, knocking him off the Hopkins-Taylor undercard. ... Former welterweight champ Vernon Forrest is scheduled to make his comeback against Sergio Rios (17-1, 15 KOs) on the Hopkins-Taylor undercard. Forrest (35-2, 26 KOs) hasn't fought since losing to Ricardo Mayorga in July 2003.