Monday, January 17, 2011
Winky Wright to return after layoff
By Dan Rafael
Winky Wright, the former undisputed junior middleweight champion, will end a two-year layoff by fighting European middleweight champion Matthew Macklin of England.
The nontitle bout is signed and will take place April 9 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on a pay-per-view card Golden Boy is putting together, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Monday.
"The winner clearly is set up for a middleweight world championship fight," Schaefer said. "For each guy this is an extremely important fight."
Schaefer said he is working to finalize a main event that would pit lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez defending against Mexican countryman Erik Morales, who is seeking to become the first Mexican to win titles in four weight classes.
Although Morales is past his prime, the fight with Marquez is the only one that hasn't happened among the star foursome of the era that also includes Manny Pacquiao and Marco Antonio Barrera.
"We are meeting this week with Marquez," Schaefer said. "We met late last week with Morales, and he is on board. He wants to do this fight. Now we're going to meet with Juan Manuel and work things out with him and get him on board. What we want to do is put together another 'Fight Freak' card with great fights, entertaining fights and fights where there is a storyline behind it."
Last summer, Schaefer put together Marquez's fight with Juan Diaz, a rematch of the 2009 fight of the year, and promised to load the pay-per-view with attractive fights to appeal to hardcore fans, which he did. Schaefer is aiming to do the same thing with the Marquez-Morales card.
He believes Wright-Macklin is a compelling match. It's a bout that Schaefer tried to make last year.
"I think the story here is that you have Matthew Macklin, who has worked himself up the rankings and put together a pretty impressive streak of wins and now is considered one of the best contenders from Europe, so for him this is a big step up," said Schaefer, who said Golden Boy has also signed Macklin to a multi-fight promotional contract. "A win over Winky Wright will make him a serious contender for the one of the world titles.
"For Winky Wright to come back and fight against an opponent like Matthew Macklin shows he is serious about coming back. If he wins, he's in line for one of the middleweight world titles. Winky understands this won't be an easy fight, but he also knows if he wins, he is perfectly positioned. Winky didn't want just a tune-up fight. He wants a fight that would set him for a fight with [champion] Sergio Martinez or [titleholder Dmitry] Pirog. Winky would really like a shot at Martinez."
Wright (51-5-1, 25 KOs), 39, of St. Petersburg, Fla., made his name in 2004 when he twice defeated Shane Mosley to become the undisputed 154-pound champion. A staple of the pound-for-pound list, Wright moved up to middleweight and defeated Felix Trinidad in 2005.
In June 2006, Wright fought to a disputed draw with then undisputed middleweight champ Jermain Taylor. But Wright has been chronically inactive. He has not won a fight since December 2006, when he easily outpointed former welterweight titlist Ike Quartey.
In July 2007, Wright moved up to light heavyweight and lost a decision to then-champion Bernard Hopkins at a catch weight of 170 pounds.
After a long layoff, Wright returned in April 2009 and lost a lopsided decision to Paul Williams in a middleweight fight and has not boxed since.
Macklin (28-2, 19 KOs), 28, is riding an 11-fight winning streak. He hasn't lost since September 2006 when he was stopped by Jamie Moore in the 10th round of a junior middleweight bout.
Macklin won the vacant European middleweight title by stopping Shalva Jomardashvili in the sixth round in September and defended it in December.
Schaefer is also working on the other undercard fights for the April 9 card as well as filling slots he has on various HBO shows in the spring.
He was hoping to finalize a lightweight bout between top contenders Robert Guerrero and Australia's Michael Katsidis for a March 5 HBO card headlined by junior middleweight Saul "Canelo" Alvarez, who will probably face Matthew Hatton, the younger brother of former junior welterweight champ Ricky Hatton. However, Schaefer said Katsidis told him he would be unavailable for March 5 because of the massive flooding near his home in Australia.
"The floods have really affected him," Schaefer said. "His focus and his mind aren't there. He won't be mentally ready. He said the floods are absolutely devastating. So we will see if he will be ready for a month later."
Schaefer said if Katsidis was available he might move Guerrero-Katsidis to the April 9 pay-per-view undercard. If Katsidis isn't available, Guerrero may remain on March 5 and fight another opponent.
Another fight Schaefer mentioned for the pay-per-view is a lightweight bout involving Jason Litzau, who is coming off a major upset of Celestino Caballero in November.
Schaefer said he has talked to Square Ring CEO John Writ, Litzau's promoter, about Litzau facing either Golden Boy blue chip lightweight prospect Adrien Broner or former junior featherweight titlist Daniel Ponce De Leon, a featherweight contender who would move up to junior lightweight.
"It would be a big step up for Broner, but we believe he is ready," Schaefer said of the 21-year-old from Cincinnati, who scored a first-round knockout on Saturday. "I think Adrien is one of most exciting young fighters in boxing. We spoke to Writ and made an offer. Whatever fights we make for the April 9 card, we're going to make some great fights. I am really pumped."
Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter.