Saturday, April 11, 2009 | 5 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
Paul Williams knows he’ll have the reach advantage tonight when he steps into the ring against Winky Wright at the Mandalay Bay Events Center.
Few can outspan his freakish 82-inch grasp, but the Augusta, Ga. native says that’s not the only position of superiority he possesses over the 37-year-old Wright, 10 years his elder.
"I'm going to take it to him and make him fight," said Williams, who said age could be a factor in the fight.
"They say old dogs can't run with the new dogs. It was his time; now it's my time."
The fact that these two middleweights are fighting at all is not only a testament to their promoters, but a representation of their willingness to lay their reputations on the line where others wouldn’t.
“What made boxing so attractive to the fans was great fighters willing to fight anyone,” said Williams’ promoter Dan Goossen. “These two are willing to do that. That’s what’s going to drive this business to the heights we need it to get to.”
As different as Williams (36-1, 27 KOs) and Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) are in terms of styles — with Wright focusing on defense and waiting for his openings, and Williams relying on throwing a ton of punches and looking for a knockout — they share the common similarity of being boxers other fighters avoid.
So it only made sense for the two to meet up with each other.
"If you're a fighter, that's what you do," said Wright, who is fighting for the first time in nearly two years after suffering a tough loss to Bernard Hopkins in the summer of 2007.
"You've got to come in and fight the best, and my whole career I've tried to fight the best. I'm putting my money where my mouth is. I didn't come out and fight another guy who's been out for two years."
Williams said he appreciates Wright’s willingness to take the fight as well.
"I'm grateful for the opportunity that Winky's giving me," said Williams, who has fought three times at different weights within the last year because of the difficulty of securing top-notched competition.
"If I wasn't fighting him, I don't know if I'd be fighting at all. I know what he's gone through, because I've gone through the same thing."
Sports writers and other boxers in attendance at a news conference earlier this week talked about the fight turning into a technical battle, but both fighters promised they would push the action.
“He’s going to have to come fight me,” Williams said. “That will leave him open for shots. That’s what I’m looking for. I’m not looking to sit around and wait. I’m going to make him work. I come to fight. And he knows that.
“It’s going to be an explosive fight. It’s not going to be boring, because he’s blocking. I’m going to hit him and make some openings.”
While Williams is not lacking credibility (just ask the fighters who allegedly refuse to get in the ring with him), a win against Wright could move the WBO light middleweight champ into the conscious of more than just boxing purists.
"I'm looking at this fight to really put my name out there and becoming a big star," said Williams, who defeated Antonio Margarito in 2007 and avenged his lone loss to Carlos Quintana with a first-round TKO last year.
But Williams knows Wright's trying to do the same thing after being out of the sport for so long.
"It's hard being gone so long," Wright said. "But it was easy to be focused for this fight. Paul Williams is a dangerous fighter, and there's no way I'm overlooking him."
"You can't play into that ring rust stuff," Williams said. "He's been coming in the gym, working out, sparring and all that. In a way, it seems like he's been in a two-year training camp for this fight.
"My plan is to do my work and make him work."