- Michael Woods, Boxing
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I did a double take, no, a triple take, when trainer Billy Giles gave a scouting report on Junior Wright, the man his fighter, Steve Bujaj -- pronounced Boo-yay -- will be taking on in the main event of a Dmitriy Salita show Thursday night in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn.
"Good boxer ... tough guy ... fair puncher," said Giles, a New York institution who trained Hector "Macho" Camacho, and Paulie Malignaggi early on, "but he's in there with the wrong guy. It's the best fighter in the world he's in with. The world. You ever seen any of the prospects I've had progress this fast? He's the best in the world. ... I'm the best trainer in the world. All my kids can fight. Never been a time when you can say my kids couldn't fight. Even the bums! What other trainer would take a chance with a guy, like Bujaj, 12-0, against a guy like Wright, 10-0, with nine KOs?"
I can't speak to that, but there is some solid local buzz on this bout, which will top a card at the Millennium Theater, and for which the vacant WBC international cruiserweight title will be up for grabs. And as for Bujaj being the best in the world, well, let's table that talk for a spell until he gets to glove up for the No. 1 WBC cruiser strap, shall we? I will give Giles props for believing heavily in his fighter, who was born in Albania, and lives in Yonkers.
"Everybody will get their money's worth," Giles said before a Wednesday presser at a restaurant across from Barclays Center. Bujaj, who won two New York Golden Gloves, had a bum right shoulder, but that is fully healed. "We got no excuses. I predict a 10-round decision win. Wright's a good fighter, we didn't pick no bum. But he's gonna be beat up."
Wright disagrees, no surprise there. The 27-year-old told me he doesn't really watch tape of foes, but thinks Bujaj will come straight forward so the bout will be a "head-on collision." Wright says he likes to pursue, be first, and he told me he wants to test himself, see where he's at as a pro. The out-of-town hitter told me that boxing has been a lifesaver for him, because he got into trouble, as he had a penchant for theft as a teen. At 17, he saw the light and got pushed into boxing after getting turned onto it via a boxing video game. "I kinda changed my life around," he said. "This fight may go the distance, because this guy ain't going to go down easy, and neither will I."
The 23-year-old Bujaj said Wright "is a solid opponent, but he's never fought anyone like me. I'll figure everything out in the first round. ... I can't say what's gonna happen, how it will play out, but I know I'm gonna be the winner."
Heavyweight Jarrell Miller, junior middleweight Steve Martinez, super feather Amanda Serrano and lightweight Dimash Niyazov will also see action on the Salita card.