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Wright to face Taylor - finally

After months of wrangling, a bout is set for June 17, likely in Las Vegas and with the original financial terms.

By JOHN C. COTEY
Published February 11, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - As wounded as he was, Gary Shaw couldn't say no to good friend Jim Wilkes, so the fight got done.

"When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer last year, Jim sent his private jet for my family," Shaw said. "I'll never forget that. I did this because I love Jim Wilkes."

Swallowing his pride, Shaw worked with Wilkes just four days after being dumped by St. Petersburg's Winky Wright to make a deal putting Wright in the ring with middleweight champion Jermain Taylor on June 17, most likely in Las Vegas.

The contracts were signed Friday - 10 minutes before the WBC purse bid that likely would have torpedoed the fight for good - and ended two months of contentious negotiations.

The two sides agreed on the original financial terms, in which Taylor will receive a guaranteed $4.6-million with Wright making $3.8-million.

Taylor (25-0) is the WBC middleweight champion, and Wright (50-3) is the No.1 contender and mandatory challenger.

The fight will be on regular HBO, the highest-profile fight the network has broadcast free for its subscribers since Lennox Lewis beat Vitali Klitschko in 2003.

"If not for Gary Shaw's effort, this wouldn't have gotten done," said Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, not always on friendly terms with the rival promoter. "This negotiation, other than Gary Shaw, has been a monumental (mess). Amateur hour. It's the most unprofessional negotiations I've ever been involved in. The only guy who behaved was Shaw."

Wilkes, who is Wright's lawyer and confidante, has furiously worked behind the scenes this week after the fighter rejected an offer Monday and cut Shaw loose. That prompted Wilkes to say he was resigning as his adviser, but he couldn't walk away without one final stab at the biggest fight in Wright's career.

Wilkes managed to get Wright's manager, Chris Lighty, on board and convince the fighter Thursday night to accept the offer with Shaw as the promoter.

The deal could not have been made without a licensed promoter, as much as Wright said he wanted to promote the fight with his newly formed Winky Promotions.

Thursday, Wilkes and Shaw called DiBella and told him they would sign the original offer.

But DiBella balked and said he was going to wait until the purse bid. With negotiations continuing into the early hours, the two sides struck the deal shortly before 1 p.m., but not before two stipulations were written into the contracts at the behest of DiBella: that Winky Promotions could have no hand in doing the fight, and if Shaw were to be fired by Wright, the contracts would be voided.

"It was a lot of hard work," Shaw said. "I think Lou was trying to figure out where my bid was, but I wasn't going to sell Winky out. There was a lot of shouting and screaming, but Jim got HBO involved and we got it done."

DiBella said the contract has an immediate rematch clause that Taylor can invoke if he loses, which would pay Wright 55 percent of any purse and his fighter 45 percent.

There is not an automatic rematch clause if Wright loses. However, the contract includes options for Wright to fight on HBO his next bout.