With a tougher-than-expected 12-round, unanimous decision victory over Melbourne, Australia’s Sam Soliman at Mohegan Sun Casino Saturday night, Winky Wright is now the #1 contender for the WBC/WBA and IBF middleweight titles. Jermain Taylor is in possession of the WBC and WBA belts and Arthur Abraham – with a fifth round knockout of Kingsley Ikeke Saturday night in Germany - won the IBF strap that was stripped from Taylor earlier this year for agreeing to an immediate rematch with Hopkins. Taylor-Hopkins II took place one week before Wright-Soliman and Taylor emerged victorious once again.
While Wright, former undisputed junior middleweight champion, would likely have an easier time becoming a middleweight titleholder by facing Abraham, Winky isn’t trying to collect belts the easy way. He wants to become a middleweight champion by beating Taylor, the man who ended Hopkins’ 10-year reign as 160-pound king.
Taylor’s promoter, Lou DiBella, was quoted recently saying that after just facing Hopkins twice, Taylor should be allowed to face someone else in a hometown fight in Little Rock, Arkansas, before taking on Wright. He also feels both Taylor and Wright should fight someone else first before facing one another to help build up a Taylor-Wright showdown.
However, Wright and Gary Shaw, Wright’s promoter, both want Taylor now, rather than later.
“If we want the sport of boxing to grow and we don’t want to kill ourselves, then champs need to fight champs and the best have to fight the best, said Shaw. Although Abraham may now qualify as a world champion, it is Taylor and Wright, who has no middleweight trinket, who are generally considered the two best middleweights in the world.
“Jermain Taylor fought Hopkins twice, said Shaw. “It’s now his turn to fight Winky Wright. Winky Wright is the mandatory. The mandatory comes due in February 2006 and there’s no escaping.”
Wright said if the Taylor camp shows any reluctance to make him Taylor’s next opponent, “We’re going to put pressure on the WBC and HBO to make it happen.”
Shaw said he has heard the talk of possibly allowing Taylor a B-level fight in his hometown.
“They said, ‘Let him go to Arkansas and take a fight and Winky, you can take a fight.’ We just took a fight. You all got to see a fight. This was not a fighter that was tailor-made for Winky Wright.”
While Soliman lost a unanimous decision by scores of 117-110, 115-112 and 115-113, the numbers do not accurately tell the story. Soliman, with seven losses on his record leading into his bout against Winky, did better against Wright than Sugar Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad did in three fights against Wright. Wright did what he had to do to get the victory, but he was not utterly dominant.
In fact, Soliman, who jumped in and out with shots, threw punches from all angles, and registered 1,260 punches thrown, gave a great enough effort to elicit some boos from the crowd when the decision was announced for Wright. Soliman was more wild with his punches, and busier, but it was Wright who was more economical with his punch output, and more accurate.
Soliman didn’t exactly allow Wright, who was fighting a bad cold leading up to HBO’s last boxing broadcast of the year, to fight the kind of fight that would make people bet their house on Winky in a Taylor-Wright match-up. However, Soliman presented Wright with a style that was totally unconventional and unpredictable. The awkward Soliman often rushed in with shots while in a crouch, stayed busy with his hands and made himself a difficult target with his constant movement.
Does Wright’s less-than-dominating victory over Soliman mean Wright would likely lose against Taylor? Of course not.
“Styles make fights,” said Wright. “And this guy had one of the most awkward styles. Jermain is pretty much a conventional fighter so you know where everything Jermain’s throwing is coming from, so you can train for that.”
Wright added, “They made me fight the #1 contender (Soliman) so now it’s time for Jermain to step up to the plate.”
Shaw noted that while Taylor may be recognized as middleweight king, he, and any one else for that matter, cannot be considered the best middleweight in the world “until they face Winky Wright.”
“I don’t care if they have a thousand belts,” he added.
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