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Wanted: one opponent for Winky's fall fight

Big-name, big-payday boxers are backing away, and lesser-knowns could threaten Wright's future.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published August 23, 2005


ST. PETERSBURG - If Winky Wright were putting together a list of who he wants to fight Dec.10, it would go something like this: Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Felix Trinidad, Floyd Mayweather.

A veritable Who's Who in the sport of boxing.

The list of who he probably will fight is more like a Who? Who?: Felix Sturm, Daniel Santos, Ike Quartey, Roman Karmazin, Ricardo Mayorga.

"They can't all be megafights," Wright said.

Promoter Gary Shaw is seeking an opponent after negotiations for a pay-per-view with Floyd Mayweather on Nov. 12 fizzled last week. Quartey and Sturm are on the short list, two solid fighters who present interesting matchups and are on a list of four HBO will accept for the television date.

"I got some guys I'll fight, and I tell Gary, and he's got some guys, and we just have to pick the right one," Wright said. "It may not be as exciting (as his previous three fights), but you do what you can do."

Quartey and Sturm fought De La Hoya, and many believe Sturm beat boxing's Golden Boy last year. Against anyone else, Wright has everything to lose but little to gain.

Hopkins, De La Hoya and Taylor have said they will fight Wright next year, and there's still the bombastic Mayweather.

Saying and doing, however, are two different things.

"There are not a lot of fighters out there like Winky and Jeff Lacy that come around and will fight anyone, anywhere," Shaw said. "It's not like it was with (Thomas) Hearns, (Marvin) Hagler, (Roberto) Duran and (John) Mugabi. They would fight anybody. They had round robins. There was no shame in taking a loss. Today the game is how do you duck everybody and make everyone think you're a great champion."

Wright's other problem is harder to rectify: If he can't get the 40-year-old Hopkins or the soon-to-retire De La Hoya in the ring next year, he never will, leaving Taylor in the starless middleweight division.

After Sturm, the rest of the division, according to Ring Magazine , lines up like this: Arthur Abraham (ranked No.4), Howard Eastman (No. 5), Kingsley Ikeke (No. 7), Sam Soliman (No. 8) and Chad Dawson (No. 10).

The biggest name in the junior middleweight division, where Wright would prefer not tread because of weight issues, might be Mayorga, who was embarrassed by Trinidad.

Is Winky the right guy at the wrong time?

"The only reason it may be the wrong time is there are guys who just won't fight him," Shaw said. "Unfortunately, Winky has guys out there that have talent and would make a big payday but they don't want big fights."

Wright's career has been a perpetual quest for big-name opponents, and jabbing Trinidad into retirement in May exacerbated things.

"He put such a beatdown on a fighter that everybody thought was so great, that everybody now says, "Why would I want to fight Winky Wright?"' Shaw said.

It was the same in 1999, after a majority decision loss to Fernando Vargas. Wright had a new legion of fans, but had to beat Bronco McKart (twice), Keith Mullings, Robert Frazier (for the IBF title), Jason Papillon, J.C. Candelo and Angel Hernandez before his next high profile fight, against Shane Mosley in 2004.

"The Vargas fight showed everybody why they should be afraid of Winky," Shaw said. "The difference is now that he beat Trinidad, he's got an HBO world championship date for a lot of money. He's gatekeeper in the middleweight division. I don't think anyone can say they are the best middleweight in the world if they haven't beaten Winky Wright.

"Eventually, they have to come through him."