I met 21-year-old Ronald "Winky" Wright on the French Riviera back in 1993. He carried my laptop all around an office building in Antibes where I had just interviewed Superman, aka Aaron Davis, looking for a convenient phone for me to send my story to the New York Daily News.
What a nice guy, I thought, but I bring up this old acquaintanceship in an attempt to put Winky in some kind of perspective.
Back then, he was on the undercard in nearby Monte Carlo where Davis was outpointed by 154-pound champion Julio Cesar Vasquez of Argentina. Wright scored a first-round knockout, then five fights later came up short challenging Vasquez. He was given five knockdowns, but otherwise dominated the bout and said the fault was in his new shoes.
You have to believe him because the Winkster became one of the elite fighters for the next dozen years. In his prime, he was comparatively unnoticed. Then he disappeared, even from the Top 10 of all the pound-for-pound lists. Now, at the age of 37, he is returning to fight a pound-for-pounder 10 years younger and at a nice price.
Oh, the temptations….
Winky has not fought in 21 months, since weakening in the second half of a bout made at 170 pounds and getting outpointed by the bigger and stronger Bernard Hopkins. He may have been one of the smartest boxers in the last 50 years – in the ring. He was not necessarily a great businessman.
Typically, he is not taking any kind of tuneup. He is jumping right back against a young physical specimen named Paul (The Punisher) Williams in this HBO special at Mandalay Bay. Winky only wants to face the best and he has found a kindred spirit in Williams, who is this generation’s example of a southpaw no one wants to face.
Williams gave up his welterweight title, originally won against then unbesmirched Antonio Margarito in 2007, because none of the other top 147-pounders wanted to face him. The 6-foot-1-inch left-hander with a heavyweight’s reach of 82 inches, blazing hand speed and what seems to be an elite chin.
There was a burp in there. Williams seemed almost disinterested in going through the motions in his first defense and dropped a 12-round decision to Carlos Quintana in February 2008 – the only blemish on a 36-1 record with 27 knockouts. Four months later, he atoned by blasting out Quintana in 2:15 of the opening round.
Since then, he has a first-round knockout of a 17-1 middleweight and an eighth-round stoppage at 154 pounds of the veteran fighter Verno Phillips.
With a 10-inch reach advantage and a 2½-inch height edge, plus his obvious skills, Williams would seem to be a bit much for an old pro who has rusted away his career. The odds range of -190 to -165 on Williams seem reasonable. As usual, I am hesitant to play chalk.
As Wright pointed out, take Margarito off the list, and who has Williams really punished? Margarito, Winky said, was easily handled by Sugar Shane Mosley, who back in 2004 lost twice to Wright. Williams’ best victory outside of Margarito may be against then undefeated Argentine Walter Dario Matthysse in 2006 – and Matthysse has been knocked out in three of four subsequent appearances.
With buyback rates of +145 up to 170, I can see taking a stab on Winky, especially at 160 pounds. But I don’t think I will. Williams could be developing into the next major guy that Floyd Mayweather Jr. will duck. He could be that good.
It’s Arreola time
I suspect in the HBO semifinal undefeated American heavyweight contender Chris Arreola would be a sizeable favorite over 38-year-old Jameel McCline. If the dog is live, he has a shot.
Arreola has real power, but the Mexican-American from Riverside, California is one of those lazy guys who never seems to be in top shape. A couple of weeks out from the fight, he was a puffy 252 pounds. He is at his best closer to 220.
McCline is not a big puncher and has never knocked out a real fighter. But at 6-foot-6, and with a five-inch reach advantage (82 to 77), he could make it difficult for his comparatively novice opponent.
Arreola is 26-0 with 23 KO’s. If this fight goes a distance, McCline’s chances will improve dramatically.