This Saturday, HBO presents a middleweight matchup between former world champions Winky Wright and Ike Quartey that could very well be a remarkable showdown, and if history is any indication, the man that loses is probably going to be griping about it for a while.
Wright, a former light middleweight champion, and Quartey, who was once welterweight kingpin, have both been the guy that no one wanted to fight. In the late 1990s, Quartey was regarded by many to be one of the best fighters in the world, with a perfect mark before a draw against Jose Luis Lopez in 1997, followed by controversial decision losses in 1999 and 2000 to Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas. Quartey was so convinced that he had won those fights -- and many agreed with him -- that he quit the sport after the Vargas fight.
Five months prior to Vargas/Quartey, Winky Wright had lost a heavily disputed decision to El Feroz, as well. Earlier this year, both again dealt with decisions that they disagreed with in a big way, Quartey losing to Vernon Forrest at Madison Square Garden, and Wright drawing with Jermain Taylor in Memphis.
So what's the deal here? Obviously, both of these guys are championship caliber fighters. Quartey has good power in both hands, going up against Wright, who is maybe the toughest fighter in the world, with arguably the best chin in the game.
For Quartey, it's do or die time. "Bazooka" turned 37 just a few days ago, and he's taking on one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in what may be a last-ditch attempt to get back into a world title picture. Wright, on the other hand, is still probably the top contender at 160, and really should be fighting Taylor again this weekend instead of Quartey, but that's the politics of boxing for you.
I don't like to state things as fact so much, but I'll say it here: Quartey cannot knock Winky Wright out. He will have to seriously outbox Winky to get a decision win in Tampa, which is Winky's turf.
As for Winky, well, the fight is his on a platter, and he'll have to genuinely lose it to come out on the short end this time. He's younger, he's fought better competition, and despite the fact that he's been to the top, Winky Wright remains a hungry fighter to this day, the same as he was when he was considered the sport's most-ducked opponent. Ike Quartey is going to have to put on a better performance than he did against Oscar or Vargas or anybody else to win this fight. He may well have to knock Winky Wright out to win on Saturday. I don't think he can.
The card also includes Jeff Lacy's return to the ring. Lacy, like Winky, is a St. Pete fighter, but unlike Winky, there was no disputing his last fight, which was his first career loss. Lacy looked completely out of his league against Joe Calzaghe in March. Saturday, he takes on Ukranian southpaw Vitali Tsypko, who has a 17-1 mark with 10 knockouts. This will be the second meeting between the two fighters, their first in 2004 in Joplin, MO, which ended in a no contest after an accidental headbutt in the second round. That was also the last time Tsypko fought in the States. It would seem that this is a fight designed to get Lacy back on track, but those fights can be as dangerous as any. Expect a Lacy win, regardless.
Remember, we'll be live on Saturday with round-by-round coverage of both fights on HBO, as well as Showtime's competing card (Margarito/Clottey and Quintana/Cotto).