Winky Wright considered retiring. And why not? He was one of the most-successful fighters of his generation, made pretty good money and will be 40 in November. It was a good time to walk away.
But the three-time junior middleweight titleholder didn’t want to leave the world with the image of him being dominated by Paul Williams in his last fight, in April 2009.
That, he says, is the main reason he’s giving it another go. Wright has signed to fight European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin on a pay-per-view card April 9 in Las Vegas.
“I don’t want to go out that way,” Wright told RingTV.com. “I want to go out on top. When I quit the game, I want to quit on my terms.”
Wright (51-5-1, 25 knockouts) rarely had it his way.
Early in his career, he fought often overseas because he couldn’t land a contract with a big-time American promoter. He lost several disputable decisions in big fights. And he always had trouble luring desirable opponents into the ring. Few wanted to face a sublimely skilled southpaw who, at the very least, was going to make you look bad.
That’s a curse with which he contends to this day, he said, the reason he has been relatively inactive the past few years.
“Nobody of importance wanted to fight me,” he said. “I don’t want to get by fighting bums, guys I should beat. That’s not boxing to me. It’s about getting in there and being competitive, trying to prove you’re the best out there.
“There’s no use fighting guys you know you’re going to beat.”
That’s why he agreed to move up from middleweight to light heavyweight to challenge Bernard Hopkins in 2007, a fight he lost by a controversial decision to end an unbeaten streak that stretched over seven years.
And it’s why he decided to fight Williams, one of the most-feared fighters in the world, even though he’d been out of the ring for nearly two years.
Wright fought with the spirit for which he was known but was overwhelmed by Williams’ long reach and mind-boggling punch output. He was nearly shut out on the scorecards, leaving many to wonder whether he had fought for the last time.
“I take nothing away from Williams,” Wright said. “He’s a good fighter. A lot of it had to do with his length. And he had been active, he’d been fighting. I hadn’t been fighting. I missed a lot of my punches because my timing was off. I take nothing away from him, though. He hit hard. He did what he had to do.
“It wasn’t hard to accept. Everyone gets beat. I think it would’ve been different if it had taken place at a different time, though, much different.”
Wright said he feels like a young 39. He acknowledges that his body doesn’t comply with his wishes as readily as it once did but, with his experience and smarts, he believes strongly that he can compete with anyone out there.
He admitted that he wonders whether rust will again play a role against Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs) but feels good about his chances. And the fact many observers presume he is no longer an elite fighter only serves as added motivation.
He remembers the comments before he fought Hopkins.
“It definitely motivates me,” he said. “… I went up two weight classes to fight Bernard, the guy who had just destroyed light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. No one gave me a chance. Well, I went 12 rounds and I feel I beat Bernard. They gave him the decision but I think I got the short end of the decision.”
Wright has a plan. He wants one or two fights to regain his sharpness before fighting Sergio Martinez at middleweight and then wants to go down to 154 pounds and win a title there.
Yes, he’s thinking big. Would you expect anything else from Wright?
“I gotta have someone to motivate me, to bring it out of me,” he said. “The big fight, the big stage. I get up for those kind of fights.”
That is if he can get a big-name opponent into the ring with him.