Photos by Sumio Yamada
PAUL WILLIAMS vs WINKY WRIGHT
Promoter Dan Goossen calls Paul Williams the most avoided fighter in boxing, so it is perhaps fitting that Williams should be meeting another fighter who feels he is constantly being sidestepped, Winky Wright, in a 12-round middleweight bout on HBO on Saturday night.
The match, made at the middleweight limit of 160 pounds, is an interesting clash of southpaws. Williams is a decade younger than the 37-year-old Wright, and much taller. Wright is vastly more experienced and has fought far more top-calibre opponents than Williams has faced.
Williams is the favourite, partly because of the age and height difference but also because Wright hasnt boxed for 21 months. Thats a long layoff, especially for an older fighter.
Its tough for a fighter to go from inactivity straight into a major bout, and history shows that most fighters lose when they attempt to do this famously Jim Jeffries against Jack Johnson, Joe Louis against Ezzard Charles, Muhammad Ali against Larry Holmes and Holmes against Mike Tyson.
It can be done, though. Sugar Ray Leonard came back after being inactive for three and a half years to outpoint Marvin Hagler and Henry Maske defeated Virgil Hill after 10 years away from boxing, although Maskes preparation did include two private bouts under actual ring conditions.
Wright obviously will have trained well, but the question remains whether an almost two-year layoff will prove too much for him to overcome against a fighter such as Williams, who will be setting a fast pace from the start.
This is no sure thing for Williams, though. He is facing his sternest test. Wright is durable, crafty and dead-game, and he is a natural middleweight whereas Williamss best weight is probably 154 and he says he can still make welterweight. It is possible that Wrights physical strength will cause Williams problems I well remember how Wright was backing up Jermain Taylor and imposing his will in their gruelling 12-round draw.
Williams looked highly impressive in a middleweight appearance last September when he blew out Andy Kolle in 97 seconds but I think that Wright might be slightly the better puncher at this weight. Wright hasnt stopped anyone for seven years but he has been meeting world-class fighters and also boxers who are difficult to stop such as Angel Hernandez, J.C. Candelo and Sam Soliman, who between them had been stopped only once at the time Wright fought them.
I think that Wright is going to be taking the fight to Williams, and the younger man is going to be feeling Winkys punches. Williams will have to fight hard to keep Wright off of him, and I am not sure whether he will be able to hurt the sturdy veteran to any great degree. Williams can pile up points, though, by throwing punches for round after round, body and head, in his usual high-energy style. Wright will block a lot on his high guard but he wont be blocking them all.
The big question for me is whether Williams will be able to keep up his workrate for the whole 12 rounds, which he will have to do if he is to win I cannot visualise him stopping Wright. Wrights only loss in his last 14 fights was when he was fighting outside his natural weight division against Bernard Hopkins in a match made at 170 pounds, and even then he gave the amazing Philadelphian a much better fight than Antonio Tarver or Kelly Pavlik were able to give him. Hopkinss natural size advantage, superior strength and punching power plus some exceedingly robust tactics were too much for Wright, who was handicapped very early by a nasty slice over the eye when Hopkinss shaved skull crashed into his face. The fight with Williams doesnt figure to be as physically challenging for Wright. The problem he faces will be how to cope with a virtual punching machine.
In Williamss only loss he simply didnt have his mind on the job when he lost to Carlos Quintana. His one-round destruction of Quintana in the rematch was really what should have happened in the first fight.
I know that Williams has been eagerly anticipating the fight with Wright. He sees this as a great opportunity the chance to get a win over one of the biggest names in boxing. It adds to my legacy, Williams said in a phone conversation. Im looking forward to this. Ill just keep on punching all night. I aint gonna run.
I think that Wright is going to force Williams to dig deep, but while Winky will no doubt do some solid scoring with the jab and the left hand through the middle I think that the younger mans high rate of activity will be winning most of the rounds.
This is the sort of fight that Williams has been seeking for a long time, and I am expecting him to seize the opportunity by battling his way to a decision victory in what I think will be an absorbing and entertaining encounter.
TUESDAY UPDATE: Williams's win was wider and more convincing than I had expected a superb performance. (See report.)