Winky Wright vs. Paul Williams: Sometimes Honesty Just Shows Up
By Coyote Duran, (April 8, 2009) Photo © Will Hart/HBO  
Although his pace has been less frustrating, Paul Williams can learn a thing or two from his April 11th opponent, Ronald 'Winky' Wright, on how to be an underrated, mostly avoided contender. After all, until 2004, Wright was a blip on no one's radar at junior middleweight.

In search of the right opponent and opportunity, Williams, 36-1 (27), has traveled from welterweight to middleweight over almost the same span of time since Wright's World Junior Middleweight
Championship win over Shane Mosley. After all, 'The Punisher' was a blip on hardly anyone's radar through any of the aforementioned weight classes. The strictly southpaw clash is nothing short of natural.

What's not natural is Wright's long stretch between this fight and his last fight. After losing to then-RING Magazine World Light Heavyweight Champion Bernard Hopkins, an uncertainty sank in that was suffering from a slow leak for the past three years. The writing was on the wall. Winky Wright was nearing the end with a deep-seated deflation in desire. Could it be Wright's prime had finally fully lapsed, post-Hopkins?

The specifics of Winky Wright's career uncertainty can be directly associated with the lack of knowing where he wants to be; weight-wise. It can be argued that Wright's second fight at middleweight, against wacky dervish Sam Soliman, was the impetus of the former Undisputed 154-Pound Champion's metamorphosis into the frustrated, comebacking contender he is today. Yes, Wright, 51-4-1 (25), was focused and patient against the Australian's sustained attack but, to be frank, much of Wright's effort was spent fending off said attack. On the other hand, Wright still did more than enough to quell Soliman's best efforts and lock a mandatory shot at then-Undisputed Middleweight Champion Jermain Taylor.

But things didn't get any easier.

Taylor, an undefeated World Champion, was highly criticized for working his way to middleweight contention via facing mostly former junior middleweights or faded middleweights. Of course, Wright wasn't just another junior middle or middle; but the toughest test for Taylor since his much disputed wins over Bernard Hopkins. Beating Wright was more important for Taylor's legacy than defending the actual championship. Wright was more than willing to make sure it wouldn't happen.

After 12 rounds, nothing changed for either fighter. Taylor left with his belt and ass intact and Wright left robbed and angry. Judge Ray Hawkins saw the fight for Wright, 115-113, while Chuck Giampa judged in favor of Wright, 113-115. Melvina Lathan scored the fight a draw. Instead of clamoring for a well-deserved rematch, Wright left the ring in disgust; wanting no part of it. Instead, Wright opted to test the will of comebacking Ghanaian Ike Quartey less than six months later and authoritatively beat 'Bazooka' over 12 rounds; becoming a punching dynamo in the process. The win gained Wright nothing at middleweight. With the ongoing splintering of the Undisputed Middleweight Championship into useless alphabet titles that Taylor wisely let go (thus bypassing mandatory defenses), the need to go linear was less appealing for the veteran southpaw.

Seven months later, in a physically uncharacteristic maneuver, Wright challenged Hopkins for the World Light Heavyweight Championship and lost as hard as Quartey lost to Wright just seven months earlier. It was as deep as the cut Wright suffered from a third-round Hopkins headbutt. It was sobering. And it was 21 months ago. Talk about frustrated.

Saturday night, Paul Williams becomes what Winky Wright used to be: the avoided fighter who was willing to travel anywhere he needed to go to get the opportunities and the purses he deserved. But Williams stands as, seemingly, the more versatile of the two; knowing his style, a combination of hammering power and boxing smarts, makes for potentially exciting fights. What's often missing is the right opponent; hence the division-hopping.

What makes Williams' challenge of Wright (or Wright's challenge of Williams, depending on who you determine to be the needier) different from Wright's challenge of anyone from 160 on up is that it can be argued that Wright's not really and has never been a middleweight; let alone even a light heavyweight. Of further interest is Dan Goossen, Williams' promoter, making no bones about possibly securing a fight against Shane Mosley after the Wright fight. Whether or not that fight would be for Mosley's WBA welterweight title is undetermined. Let's just say Team Goossen/Team Williams is thinking ahead regardless of this weekend's outcome.

For all their optimism, the subtle hint exists that Wright isn't quite the threat he, or his most fervent believers, thinks he is.

There's clear reason to believe the Williams-Goossen tandem is on the money; mainly due to Wright's inactivity. The same inactivity that was preceded by the worst loss of his career. It isn't quantum physics.

Let's not be fooled by the success the aged wonders of Our Sport have enjoyed as of late. Let’s also not be quick to judge their victories as flukes. Longevity is gauged on factors that are rooted in one’s own personal ‘honesty.’ How much punishment he’s taken. How true his competition has been. How much he’s devoted to his own safety and defense. How focused he is on dismantling his opponent. When you’re gone for 21 months and you expect to stand toe-to-toe with a young lion that is dead-set on making an example out of you, longevity goes out the window in favor of the here and now and honesty winds up becoming the only policy.

The concept of personal honesty rings loudly with Williams; who had to steer toward court and force honesty from Antonio Margarito (who, in this context, carried more honesty in July of 2007 than the here and now) in order to even get a shot at the WBO welterweight belt in the first place. It’s unknown as to whether or not Margarito had doctored wraps then but it wouldn’t matter. ‘The Punisher’ circumvented the possibility of a loss against the original ‘Most Avoided Welterweight in the World’ by being smart on the inside; landing uppercuts when the openings presented themselves and clinching when necessary. Williams dealt with the punishment Margarito handed out and that speaks volumes about the multi-divisional contender.

In Williams’ sole loss, Carlos Quintana was the inside man; making his mark and tagging Williams cleanly. Logic would dictate Wright do the same…if Wright’s bread-and-butter was in-fighting. Wright could stand to work more actively on the inside and make Williams pay but it just isn’t Winky’s style. A little more aggressive in his older age? Yep. Is it always effective. Not really. The right jab could be key here; establishing a safe distance for Wright and allowing him to score and keep his defense intact.

Winky Wright’s fans can only hope he’s truly been preparing these past two years; as Paul Williams has so diplomatically and publicly assumed. But let’s be honest with ourselves. Starring in an online-exclusive broadcast series featuring a fictionalized version of yourself doesn’t exactly constitute focus. Or honesty, for that matter.

Let’s hope the real Winky Wright shows up on Saturday night.

Also SEE: Doghouse Boxing's Official Manny Pacquiao Art by Coyote Duran DHB

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