No New Winkles Expected

Posted: July 20, 2007

Daily News boxing writer Bernard Fernandez analyzes tomorrow night's 170-pound catchweight bout between Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins and Winky Wright.

HOPKINS

STRENGTHS

Perhaps the most consistently well-conditioned boxer of the last 15 years, Hopkins claims to be stronger and have more stamina since he finally moved up from middleweight before his most recent bout with Antonio Tarver, which resulted in a one-sided points victory. But if being in tip-top shape is a constant, other things have changed as the Philadelphian has transformed himself from crude brawler to maybe the slickest 42-year-old in boxing history. B-Hop can match Wright move for move, trick for trick, and don't forget he's 10-0 with nine knockouts against southpaws.

WEAKNESSES

Having a new lead trainer shouldn't be a major adjustment for such a battle-tested veteran, but let's see how Hopkins reacts to Freddie Roach as his chief second instead of Brother Naazim Richardson, who is recovering from a stroke. And while Hopkins seems almost immune to the natural laws of diminishing returns, on some fight night even an age-defying physical marvel such as himself will discover that his skills have eroded just enough to make him vulnerable. Wright is just the sort of crafty opponent who can expose every unsightly blemish, provided there are any.

HOW HE CAN WIN

There is a school of thought among Hopkins supporters that their guy can win cute, outboxing even a boxing master like Wright, or win tough, landing the harder and more effective blows in the type of slugfest most analysts do not expect. Wright vows to take the fight right to Hopkins from the opening bell, the better to empty the older man's gas tank in the later rounds. Hopkins, who has won his last four bouts by decision, said such a strategy by Wright would open the door for his first victory inside the distance since he knocked out Oscar De La Hoya in nine rounds on Sept. 18, 2004.

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WRIGHT

STRENGTHS

Once a proficient if somewhat boring technician, Wright has made a concerted effort in recent years to develop a more fan-friendly style, which involves a tad less movement and a lot more punching. He's adjusted well to the stylistic retooling, retaining the best aspects of his almost impenetrable defense while ratcheting up his offense. His right jab is a thing of beauty (just ask Felix Trinidad), and more than ever he can make you miss then make you pay. At 35, he's 7 years younger than Hopkins, which could come into play if the pace is faster than many expect.

WEAKNESSES

Hopkins fought most of his career at middleweight and seemed very comfortable at 175 pounds for the Tarver fight. Wright, who at 5-10 is 2 inches shorter, is a lifelong junior middleweight who has had only four fights at middleweight. Adding another 10 pounds thus could be a problem, although he insists that won't be the case. But if Wright can't set the pace and finds himself trading punches with Hopkins, you have to figure he - as the naturally smaller man - will be at a disadvantage.

HOW HE CAN WIN

Jab early, jab often, slip, counter, move away. Repeat as necessary. It's a formula that has worked over and over for Wright, with some modifications, since he returned from his European tour to establish himself as one of boxing's pound-for-pound best. "Yeah, Bernard beat a lot of southpaws - but he didn't beat Winky Wright. Yeah, he beat Antonio Tarver - but he didn't beat Winky Wright," Wright says of the many wrinkles in his fight plan Hopkins presumably won't be able to iron out. If Wright can disrupt Hopkins' rhythm, which no one has done in a long time, he takes a long step toward winning.

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THE PICK

Some have described this pairing of aging technicians as a "chess match," which is codespeak for boring. And it just might turn out that way. But both men have something to prove. Hopkins wants to erase the taint of two disputed losses by decision to Jermain Taylor, and Wright wants to prove that he should have gotten better than a draw in his matchup with Taylor. This one will be more exciting than expected as Hopkins staves off Father Time a while longer en route to a unanimous decision.

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TALE OF THE TAPE

HopkinsWright

Hometown: Philadelphia

Residence: Newark, Del.

Birthdate: Jan. 15, 1965

Height: 6-1

Weight: 170*

Reach: 75

Chest: 42½

Biceps: 13

Forearm: 11

Wrist: 6

Fist: 12

Waist: 31

Thigh: 21

Calf: 14

Neck: 16

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WRIGHT

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Residence: St. Petersburg, Fla.

Birthdate: Nov. 26, 1971

Height: 5-10½

Weight: 170*

Reach: 72

Chest expanded: 43

Biceps: 15½

Forearm: 12

Wrist: 6¼

Fist: 12

Waist: 34

Thigh: 23

Calf: 14

Neck: 16½

* Official weigh-in is today

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