Winky Delivers the Wright Stuff vs. Trinidad

By Wallace Matthews
Special to The Washington Post
Monday, May 16, 2005

LAS VEGAS, May 15 -- The bell had just sounded to end the 11th round of Saturday night's middleweight bout between Winky Wright and Felix "Tito" Trinidad when Wright, by no means a flashy performer, decided to indulge in some early celebration. As Trinidad tottered back to his corner on wobbly legs, Wright stepped to the ropes, faced the crowd, raised both gloves above his head and offered a courtly bow.

"The people seemed to appreciate my performance," Wright said, "So I wanted to tell them 'Thank you.' "

Although there were still three minutes left to fight, the argument had long since been settled and the point made. Winky Wright, a 15-year veteran whose itinerant career had taken him to Luxembourg, Germany, France and Argentina, had finally arrived at his destination, at the top of his game and near the top of the 160-pound division.

Nearly a 2-1 underdog to Trinidad when the fight began, Wright dominated from the opening bell using the most basic of weapons -- the jab, delivered repeatedly and with gusto. By the second half of the bout, the normally cautious Wright began experimenting with hooks and the occasional left cross. And by the 12th round, Trinidad did all he could to remain upright for the final bell.

It was a resounding performance, in some ways superior to the 12th-round technical knockout Bernard Hopkins had administered to Trinidad in 2001, so convincing that one of the judges had Wright scoring a shutout. The two other judges could find only a single round to award to the former middleweight champion.

"I said I was going to win every round one by one, and that's what I did," Wright (49-3) said. "Once I saw I could hit him with my jab and hurt him with it, I didn't deviate from my game plan."

So dominant was Wright's performance despite the overwhelming Trinidad support among the crowd of 14,176 at the MGM Grand Garden at the start of the fight, by the end of the bout the arena shook with chants of "Winky! Winky!"

Even Trinidad (42-2) sounded as if he had been won over. "The fighter who beats me has to be one of the best in the world," he said. "And Wright is one of the best."

Wright's performance was even more remarkable considering that on Wednesday he was taken to the emergency room of Valley Hospital to have a boil (caused by an ingrown hair) lanced on his neck. He was examined by boxing commission doctors at Friday's weigh-in and Saturday afternoon before the fight was allowed to go on.

Despite Wright's convincing victory, both camps were talking as if a rematch clause insisted upon by the Trinidad camp might still be invoked.

At the post-fight news conference, Don King, who has promoted all of Trinidad's fights, shouted "Encore! Encore! Tito was discombobulated but like a good soldier who is defeated, he doesn't quit, he reconnoiters."

Sunday, a more subdued King said: "I think the rematch is gonna happen. If it doesn't, it would be a surprise to me. This guy [Trinidad] is a guy of honor and he ain't gonna renege on a signed contract."

Neither Trinidad nor his father, Felix Sr., who serves as his manager and trainer, appeared at the post-fight news conference and neither could be reached for comment Sunday. But immediately after the fight, Trinidad, who retired in 2002 only to return to the ring last year, said, "I'll have to speak with my father, my wife and family about my future in boxing."

For the 33-year-old Wright, the future appears bright. He was paid $5 million to Trinidad's $10 million Saturday night, terms that likely would be reversed if the rematch is made. If not, he has lucrative fights potentially awaiting him against Oscar de la Hoya, Shane Mosley and the winner of the July 16 middleweight title bout between Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. And, he is that rarest of boxing rarities, a free agent with no long-term commitments to any promoter -- King has an option for one bout -- or network, although both King and HBO are sure to come calling now.

"The money is certainly in a rematch for us," said Gary Shaw, an advisor to Wright. "We'd love to have it, but it's entirely up to Felix Trinidad's whim now. If not, maybe we can suck Oscar [de la Hoya] up to 160, or we'll fight the winner of the Hopkins-Taylor fight, either of which is an easy fight for Winky. I think Winky has risen to a new level."

Note: The Wright-Trinidad bout will be rebroadcast Saturday on HBO at 9:45 p.m.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company