Though he's fought just two times in the last five years and has decisively lost in both outings, 40-year-old Winky Wright says he's coming to win on June 2, when the veteran fights for the first time since 2009 against up-and-coming prospect Peter Quillin on Showtime, part of the network's big four-fight card from the Home Depot Center in Carson, California.
Wright (51-5-1, 25 KO) was last seen getting virtually shut out by Paul Williams on HBO, and though Bad Left Hook scored it closer than the official judges did, it was without question a dominant win by Williams, who made Wright look old, slow, and a bit tired in the ring, outworking the defensive master over 12 rounds.
As time wore on in the fight, Wright looked less and less like the fighter of his prime, who twice defeated Shane Mosley and demolished Puerto Rican icon Felix "Tito" Trinidad in three straight fights in 2004-05. Following a draw with then-unbeaten middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in 2006, Wright began to drift out of the spotlight, though nobody saw it happening at the time. He defeated Ike Quartey in December 2006, then moved up to a 170-pound catchweight to face Bernard Hopkins in July 2007. Hopkins won a pretty wide 12-round decision.
Wright sat out the remainder of 2007 and all of 2008, before finally making his return in April 2009. Williams just had too much activity and youth for Wright, who couldn't really get a grip on an offensive gameplan against Tall Paul.
Now, after another three years out of the ring, Wright is back. Some welcome the return, others are keeping a skeptical eye on the matchup and little more. What should be assumed is we will not be seeing the Winky Wright of 2005 ever again. The question now is whether Wright has enough left in the tank to beat a guy who has proven he's ready for a step up to world class competition, but has yet to prove he truly belongs on the biggest stages in the sport.
12 years Winky's junior, Quillin (26-0, 20 KO) has suffered career setbacks due to various injuries that have kept him in the prospect stages of his career at age 28. At the press conference in late April to formally announce the June 2 card, both Quillin and main eventer Lateef Kayode, who faces Antonio Tarver, wound up with their shirts off, boasting about how they would tear up their older foes.
Wright essentially laughs all of that off.
"Young guys, young guys. Inexperience and all of that," Wright said at a media workout on Tuesday. "The nervousness is getting to them and they want to prove this and prove that. The only time you've got to prove something is in the ring."
Quillin got his career back on track in 2011, posting dominant stoppage wins over Jesse Brinkley and Craig McEwan, going 4-0 on the year overall. He was impressive in last year. But none of those opponents were the sort of frustrating, cool customer that Wright can be. And Winky doesn't even need to be at his best to produce the sort of effort that could be trouble for Quillin, who recently signed with Al Haymon and seems to have taken on a more outspoken, brash persona.
That sort of demeanor can make a star out of a fighter. But it can also lead to laughs from the peanut gallery if the quality wins don't follow.
It's a fight many aren't sure how to take right now -- in large part because it's basically impossible to gauge what kind of fighter Winky Wright is in 2012. But Wright says he's coming to impress, and coming to fight.
"Fans cans expect a great fight. They can come to see Winky Wright knock Kid Chocolate's head off - not knock him out - knock his head off. He thinks I'm going to run? We'll see. I'm going to show him a fight."
Only one thing is for sure: Winky Wright has been on bigger stages than this one, but he's never been in a corner quite like this.
A third straight loss, at his age, with the generally accepted quality of the opponent declining each time out, would be tough to swallow, and nearly impossible to rebound from. Winky Wright's career is on the line against Peter Quillin. We'll see if he's got enough left in the tank to make this more than a one-and-done comeback.