Wright fighting to add to his legacy

Against Hopkins, he'll seek to buttress his hall-of-fame credentials.

Posted: July 19, 2007

LAS VEGAS - Winky Wright showed up for an informal news conference yesterday with a bruise under his left eye, which he suffered last week while training for this Saturday's fight against Philadelphia's Bernard Hopkins at Mandalay Bay.

"This comes from hard work, and it lets the fans know that I am here working," said the 35-year-old Wright, who was born Ronald Lamont Wright and given the nickname "Winky" by his mother when he was 18 months old.

Considering Wright's track record, there should never have been any doubt about whether he would prepare properly for the dedicated Hopkins, who, at age 42, remains one of the best-conditioned fighters in the world.

Wright (50-3-1, 25 knockouts) is a former two-time junior-middleweight champion who twice decisioned Shane Mosley at 154 pounds before moving to middleweight and getting the nod from all the judges in a 2005 bout with Felix Trinidad.

In June 2006, Wright earned a hard-fought draw with Jermain Taylor, the fighter who edged Hopkins twice to establish himself as the undisputed middleweight king.

There was a time when being a part of such high-profile outings on American soil was nothing more than a distant dream for the 5-101/2 Wright, who will challenge the 6-1 Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) for the latter's Ring Magazine light-heavyweight belt at an agreed-upon weight of 170 pounds.

Early in his career, Wright found it difficult to get the top fighters to take him on, so he signed with French promoters. They set up the boxer with 20 fights in eight countries and on four continents.

"When I fought in Europe, I was always in the other guy's backyard," said Wright, who went undefeated during the run. "I had to win big, or I wasn't going to win at all. It let me know that despite the crowd, despite where I am, man-to-man, I can beat anyone."

Born and raised in Washington and now living in St. Petersburg, Fla., Wright is coming off a unanimous decision over Ike Quartey in December 2006.

Wright, a natural righthander who fights out of a southpaw stance, has made a reputation as one of the sport's best defensive fighters. He has not lost since dropping a majority decision to Fernando Vargas in an International Boxing Federation 154-pound title fight in 1999.

Against Hopkins, who took Antonio Tarver's International Boxing Organization light-heavyweight title with a unanimous decision in his last outing, in June 2006, Wright is favored.

He has vowed to bring the action to his crafty opponent.

"I expect him to come to fight, and I don't mind beating you up for 12 rounds," Wright said. "I expect to outwork him. I'm going to make him fight, and do things he don't want to do. I'm not going to follow him around the ring like Tarver did. Of course, he's going to come into this fight throwing a lot more punches, and it's going to be a great fight."

The father of three children - a 14-year-old girl and sons 11 and two weeks - Wright said he took the fight with Hopkins to add to his legacy and improve his hall-of-fame credentials.

"This fight is to prove I can beat Bernard Hopkins," Wright said. "I feel I just want to be the best out of my era, you know what I mean? My career is already defined for what I accomplished, for being an undisputed junior-middleweight champion, for going up to middleweight and beating [Taylor] but not getting the decision. So this fight can't define my career."

Of course, Hopkins had something to say about what fight fans can expect.

"There's a choice that's going to have to be made from the referee, or the commissioner, or [Wright's] corner," he said. "A mercy call."

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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