By all accounts, this fight was supposed to be a chess match between two master technicians. Few expected many fireworks to blast off the chess board. But this was an important bout nonetheless because it was between future Hall of Famers who are among the best boxers of their generation.
At stake for Wright, who moved up from middleweight to this catch-weight of 170, was a chance to put a huge notch on his resume, and add stature to his legacy. If he lost, he would not suffer any damage in his ranking at middleweight. Hopkins, on the other hand, had much more at stake. At age 42, a loss here would not damage his set-in-stone legacy, but it could put a damper on his marketability for future mega-fights. A victory would enable him to continue bragging about being the self-proclaimed baddest man on the planet.
As it turned out, it was a chess match between two guys with bad attitudes, and proved to be far more exciting than predicted. In what appeared to be a very close, hard to score fight, Hopkins emerged with a surprising, wide margin unanimous decision, 116-112 and 117-111 twice, on the judges' scorecards.
Wright, who usually stands in the middle of the ring and fights off his jab, built on his more aggressive last fight with Jermain Taylor and took the action to Hopkins throughout the fight. Hopkins seemed content to fire rapid combos and hold, for which he got warned twice and was finally told the next time he did so he would lose a point.
While Wright threw more punches and seemed to land cleaner shots, Hopkins had the edge in power shots. In the end, Wright's coming out of his turtle shell defense may have hurt him in the final decisive rounds.
Unused to chasing and moving around the ring in the role of aggressor, Wright seemed to lose steam in the final three or four rounds.
An accidental head butt by Hopkins opened a big cut over Wright's left eye in the third round, and while Winky's corner did a great job of stemming the blood, Wright said the cut hampered him through out the fight.
"The cut really bothered me, but it was not intentional," Wright said.
Before the 12th round, Wright's trainer Dan Birmingham told him the fight was even and he had to take it to Hopkins. Unlike in the final round of his fight with Jermain Taylor, in which he lost the last round by fighting passively and ended up with a draw, Wright tried to constantly let his hands fly.
It was, if anything, a typical fight for two boxers who have never been beaten up. Every round was close, neither seemed to establish a clear edge, and in the end it apparently came down to Hopkins' precision power punches weighing more than Wright's aggressiveness and overall work rate.
What lies ahead for Hopkins (48-4-1)? Money. Lots and lots of it. His most likely target would be super middleweight Joe Calzaghe, who has expressed a lot of interest in fighting him. But the unbeaten (43-0) Brit must first get past fellow belt hold Mikkel Kessler (39-0), in their Nov. 11 unification fight in England, no sure thing.
Hopkins called out Calzaghe in his ring interview with HBO commentator Max Kellerman.
"I want to fight Joe Calzaghe in Yankee Stadium in the late fall or winter," Hopkins said.
Barring a fight with the Brit, Hopkins has talked in the past year about getting revenge against Roy Jones Jr., who beat him in 1993. That would be a solid money-maker, based on Hopkins current marketability, and a large and loyal fan base for Jones, who is in the process of rehabilitating his reputation with two victories on the comeback trail. Or he could simply choose to eat his way through the title holders of the light heavyweight division.
Wright (51-4-1), meanwhile, will not have his star greatly diminished by losing to a bigger man at a weight he was not comfortable with. Wright had said win or lose he will be returning to middleweight, where the big trophies are Jermain Taylor, whom he fought to a draw with last year, and another title holder, the unbeaten German-based Arthur Abraham. Kelly Pavlik, should he beat Taylor in their expected match-up in September, would be another. As always with Wright, the price has to be right.
In losing for the first time since 1999, Wright was puzzled by the wide margins on the scorecards.
"I felt I won. I brought the fight to him. His legs were better than I thought." Wright told Kellerman. "That (wide margins) was crazy. I thought it was a close fight."
Asked who he wanted to fight next, Wright singled out the cash cow of boxing: "I want Oscar."
Posted 12:00 AM | Jul 21, 2007
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