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Articles of 2004

Winky Wright and Sugar Shane Meet Again

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The average guy on the street may not know Winky Wright, but students of the fight game do. Wright is the WBC and WBA super welterweight champ. His record is 47-3 (25 KOs). He was born in the nation’s Capitol in 1971. And he is as fine a boxer and as class an act as any man boxing today.

Winky Wright is training for Saturday’s rematch with Shane Mosley (39-3 35 KOs) and is hard at work in the gym, but he took some time from his busy schedule to discuss boxing, his beginnings, and Saturday’s fight with Sugar Shane.

“I got started in boxing in ‘88 and turned pro in ‘90,” Wright told me. “I always wanted to box, but when I was living in Washington, DC I was training in all the other sports – baseball, football, basketball – so it never really came time to go to boxing. The boxing gym really wasn’t close to me in Washington, but everything else was right there, so that’s what I did. But then when I moved to Florida, the boxing gym was right there and I just went to the gym. And once I started I never stopped.”

The main man Winky met in the gym was his future trainer Dan Birmingham and the two of them hit it off.

“I won quarterfinals in the Golden Gloves and semifinals in the Nationals. I won a gold medal in the 1990 Olympics,” Wright said. “And I turned pro after that. So I was in the amateurs only two years. I turned pro in October 1990.”

Wright and Birmingham have been together from the beginning. “From round one,” said the champ. “Me and my trainer work together. He never tried to change me. He just worked on what I had, my style, and he adapted to it and made it better. He didn’t say ‘you need to fight this way, you gotta fight that way.’ It was more like ‘you’re good at this, you’re not too good at that, so we’re gonna work on this and that.’ And that’s what we did.”

They took a good fighter and turned him into a champion.

“I’m a smart boxer, first of all, with a very good jab, great defense, and I know how to throw every punch. I don’t go for the knockout,” Wright said, “but I’m a good technician.”

Winky was being modest. He’s not a good technician. He’s a great technician. In his fourteen years fighting pro, he has only three losses, all of them by decision.

“Two of them definitely should be wins and one of them, the fight with Julio Cesar Vasquez in ‘94, my first championship fight, I was winning, but my feet kept slipping. That was my toughest fight right there, because I kept slipping and sliding and I still fought a world champion and beat him without even being able to hold my balance. They gave him so many points for slips that he had more points, but he only beat me by two or three points, when they gave him five knockdowns. He won the decision,” Wright said, “but I won that fight. But these are the things that happen in life. You’ve got to learn how to overcome obstacles. A lot of people wouldn’t have overcome what I did. I still came back and won a world championship. So I did what I had to do.”

Another questionable decision loss was to Fernando Vargas in 1999. The judges that night, always an iffy proposition in boxing, were even worse than usual.

“Everybody knew I won that fight,” the super welterweight said, “but HBO had a thing with him and they had Quartey coming up and they didn’t want me to throw the monkey wrench in, so they put the switch on.”

That was then. This is now. Winky Wright’s time has come.

“That’s what I’m saying. All good things come to those who wait,” Wright said. “If I deserved it, it would have come. If I had won it earlier, then I probably would have had a big head. But now, being though it took me so long to get it, I love it even more, I learned to appreciate it, to know that this is a blessing.”

Wright has a southpaw style which, in my opinion, gives him an advantage over conventional fighters.

“Righthanders, lefthanders, it really doesn’t matter to me,” he said. “I just try to do my fight. You’ve just gotta work on your game and work on what you do best, and when you fight someone else you’ve got to learn how to adapt.”

Wright adapted to Mosley and decisioned him in March. I doubt Shane can beat Winky in the rematch.

Wright agreed: “I definitely don’t think he can beat me. But I don’t think his skills went down. It’s just that I feel he’s been overmatched. I always said that I was a better fighter, but Shane is a very good fighter – taking nothing away from him – but I just think I’m a better fighter and I had to prove it.”

Wright has proved a lot over the years and there’s little left to prove. There are some nice paydays coming his way, all of them well deserved, but after fifteen years of active duty, retirement can’t be far away.

“I’m not retiring no time soon,” Wright said. “But it’s just a sport. I’ve been chasing the topnotch fighters for a long time. It’s hard when you can’t get ‘em and you see the topnotch fighters fighting these other guys who don’t deserve it. So it comes to a point when you say, man, look, I did all I can do. They don’t want to fight me, I don’t have nothing to prove here, you know, give it up. You just say ‘I’m retired’ like Marvin Hagler did. He did it for another reason, but he walked away from the sport, because there’s life after boxing, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. I love boxing, but it’s a sport, it’s a job for me, and when the job ends, the job ends.”

Wright is courteous, polite, levelheaded and down-to-earth. Without getting too personal, I asked Wink if he had a philosophy which keeps him grounded.

“Oh, most definitely,” he replied. “Like I said, this is my job. It’s a job that people love to see, but that doesn’t make me better than you or anybody cleaning up the hotel or whatever. This is my job. God blessed me with a talent and I’m using it. Everybody can’t be a fighter, so you gotta treat people how you want people to treat you, no matter who it is. If you respect people, they will respect you. That’s how I see it.”

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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