Friday, April 10, 2009 | 2 a.m.
- Principals: Winky Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) vs. Paul Williams (36-1, 27 KOs)
- Stakes: 12-round nontitle middleweight fight
- Time/site: Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center; first bout 2:30 p.m., main event approximately 8 p.m.
- Tickets: $50 to $300, mandalaybay.com
- TV: HBO (Cox cable channel 200)
- Weigh-in: 2:30 p.m. today, J-POP Lounge, Mandalay Bay
- Co-main event: Chris Arreola (26-0, 23 KOs) vs. Jameel McCline (39-3-3, 23 KOs), 12 rounds, heavyweights
- Undercard: Danny Garcia (11-0, 7 KOs) vs. Humberto Tapia (14-9-1, 7 KOs), 8 rounds, junior welterweights; Shawn Estrada (3-0, 3 KOs) vs. Omar Coffi (1-1-2), 4 rounds, super middleweights; Jose Rodriguez (12-1-1, 2 KOs) vs. Pablo Montes De Oca (9-15-2, 6 KOs), 10 rounds, junior middleweights; Craig McEwan (13-0, 8 KOs) vs. Alexis Division (16-8, 13 KOs), 8 rounds, middleweights; Michael Dallas (6-0-1, 1 KO) vs. Terrance Jett (4-12-2, 2 KOs), 6 rounds, junior welterweights; Juan Dominguez (3-0, 1 KO) vs. Ramon Flores (3-4-1, 3 KOs), 4 rounds, featherweights; Rico Ramos (8-0, 5 KOs) vs. Gino Escamilla (5-4-1, 2 KOs), 6 rounds, junior featherweights
1. Back in action
Winky Wright, once a mainstay atop the rankings of boxing’s best fighters pound-for-pound, returns to the ring after an absence of 21 months to face Paul Williams in a matchup of talented southpaws with unorthodox styles. Wright and promoter Richard Schaefer have been adamant that the hiatus was a result of potential opponents’ fear of losing to Wright, or looking bad against his vaunted defense, or looking bad while losing. Dan Goossen, who promotes Williams, gave credit to both men for taking such a risky fight. “What made boxing so attractive to the fans was great fighters willing to fight anyone,” Goossen said. “That’s what’s going to drive this business to the heights we need it to get to. It’s going to be a continual challenge.”
Williams, a lanky 6-foot-1 fighter with an 82-inch reach, trained in Washington, D.C., for the Wright bout under George Peterson. He says he’s comfortable fighting in any division from welterweight through middleweight and against any challenger — even one with Wright’s superb technical skills. “People are asking, what about his jab, what about his defense?” Williams, 27, said. “I don’t care about that. He can block, he can jab, but he’s going to have to fight me. I’m going to make him work. I’m going to work him like a temp service. It’s not going to be sitting around waiting for an opening. I’m going to make openings.”
Wright, of St. Petersburg, Fla., has been preparing for the fight since October, according to trainer Dan Birmingham. “Winky has dedicated himself for this fight like he hasn’t for years,” said Birmingham, a straight shooter in a sport not known for straight shooting. “I am positive we’re going to win this fight.” Wright believes he’s ready to contend with the punching activity of Williams, who is known for throwing upward of 100 punches a round. “There ain’t going to be no playing around,” Wright, 37, said. “I don’t know who wins fights by just blocking (punches). You have to score punches. I’m going to score a lot of punches and a lot of hard punches.”
Saturday’s co-feature pits two hard-punching heavyweights in 6-foot-4, 245-pound Chris Arreola and 6-foot-6, 270-pound Jameel McCline. After going 1-3 in 2007 and 2008 with losses to Nikolay Valuev, Sam Peter and John Ruiz, McCline, 38, had decided to retire from the sport before the opportunity to fight Arreola came along. Arreola, 28, of Riverside, Calif., aims to become the first Mexican-American heavyweight champion. “As far as experience, even if I don’t have a lot professional fights, 130, 140 amateur fights, that’s a lot of experience,” Arreola said. “In a five-day (amateur) tournament, you fight five different guys with five different styles. You have to learn how to adapt.”
The betting marketplace favors Williams in the headliner. The price on Williams has been bet up to minus 200 (risk $2 to net $1) from minus 160, with the price on Wright going to plus 170 (risk $1 to net $1.70) from plus 140. In part because Wright does not get knocked out and has never been accused of being a knockout artist, the round proposition is over/under 11 1/2, minus 275 on the “over.” Arreola opened as a minus 360 favorite with the takeback on McCline listed at plus 280.