Winky Wright Hangs His Gloves Up – Retires
Wright was on a golf course in his hometown of St. Petersburg, Fla., on Monday morning moving on with his life after announcing his retirement from boxing.
“I’m gonna call it a day. I’m gonna chill out and play golf and live life,” the 40-year-old Wright told ESPN.com.
Wright, one of the best defensive fighters in boxing history and a two-time 154-pound champion, ended a layoff of more than three years to face rising middleweight contender “Kid Chocolate” Peter Quillin on Saturday night in Carson, Calif.
But Quillin, 26, was too young, too quick and too strong, scoring a rare knockdown against Wright in the fifth round and rolling to a lopsided 10-round decision victory.
For Wright (51-6-1, 25 KOs), the writing was on the wall after losing three straight fights, which were spread out since his last victory, a unanimous decision against former welterweight titlist Ike Quartey in December 2006.
Since then, Wright lost a competitive decision to Bernard Hopkins for the lineal light heavyweight title — at 170 pounds, way heavier than his best weight — in 2007, a near-shutout decision to a prime Paul Williams in 2009 and then Saturday’s fight against Quillin.
“I figured I’m 40 and if I can’t be champion again, I don’t want to do it anymore,” Wright said. “I’m not here just fighting to be fighting. Boxing is supposed to be fun and if it ain’t fun anymore I don’t need to do it so I am done for good. I had fun. I fought a good fight [against Quillin], I didn’t get hurt, I was in shape. My timing was off but I take nothing away from Quillin. He fought a good fight. He was strong. So I’m going to go ahead and get out of the game.
“I accomplished a lot. I want to be true to my fans. I don’t want to be fighting just to be fighting. I don’t need that. I got money, but if I can’t be champion again, I’ll do something else. I’m retiring from the ring. The ring didn’t retire me. If I wanted just to fight I would have come back with an easier fight. I always wanted to challenge myself which is why I took a tough fight like I did.”
Wright, a southpaw who was born in Washington, D.C., is a probable Hall of Famer. He had a remarkable 22-year professional career in which he was a two-time junior middleweight titleholder and a regular on the pound-for-pound list from the late 1990s until the late 2000s.
Because of his excellent skills combined with his lack of name recognition or ability to generate money, Wright spent many years fighting on the road. From 1993 to 1998, he fought all over the world and was later dubbed “The International Man of Misery” by his then-publicist Fred Sternburg because of his foreign exploits. In all, Wright fought in eight different countries: the United States, Luxembourg, France, Germany, Monaco, Argentina, England and Namibia.
It was those road trips that toughened him, Wright said.
“Being in fights on the road helped me to know I could fight anywhere against anyone, no matter what,” he said. “That overseas thing worked out great for me. I got a lot of European fans. If I wanted to, I could still fight. A lot of people have wanted me to come back over there to fight.”
Wright won his first world title by outpointing Bronco McKart in 1996 in the first of their three-fight series. After winning the belt in McKart’s hometown of Monroe, Mich., Wright made three defenses — all in England — before losing a controversial decision to Harry Simon in 1999 in his home country of Namibia in Africa. The fight was originally ruled a draw before a scoring discrepancy was discovered, giving Simon the title.
Two fights later, Wright finally got a significant fight in the United States as a mandatory challenger for then-rising star Fernando Vargas. Fighting on HBO for the first time, Wright lost a disputed majority decision and struggled to get another marquee fight, even though he outpointed Robert Frazier to win a vacant junior middleweight belt in 2001.
But after four defenses, Wright got the big break he needed when Shane Mosley, who had won two of the other major belts in the division in his previous fight against Oscar De La Hoya, surprisingly offered to fight him.
The fight changed Wright’s career. They met in Las Vegas in March 2004 and Wright won a unanimous decision to become the first undisputed 154-pound champion in 29 years. Mosley invoked his right to an immediate rematch and lost a majority decision in November 2004, cementing Wright’s place among boxing’s elite.
The first win against Mosley ranks as the highlight of Wright’s career.
“That was my coming-out fight,” Wright said. “Everyone knew him. He beat Oscar twice. That was the fight.”
Wright became a regular on HBO and then moved up to middleweight. Felix “Tito” Trinidad, one of boxing’s biggest stars, had ended a retirement by beating Ricardo Mayorga in his comeback fight. For his second fight of the comeback, Trinidad surprisingly picked Wright to fight in what was a major HBO PPV event.
“Tito had destroyed Mayorga and nobody gave me a chance. They thought he’d knock me out and we just did what we did,” Wright said.
What Wright did was put on a clinic in a virtual shutout that sent Trinidad back into retirement for nearly three years before he fought one more time against Roy Jones Jr.
“That fight with Tito was a big fight. That was No. 2 to me because it got me a lot of fans,” Wright said. “Tito was a good guy and everything worked for me in that fight. We still respect each other. Tito became good friends with me after that fight.”
Wright and Mosley also have had a friendship since their two fights.
“He came to my dressing room before and after the Quillin fight,” Wright said. “I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at if Shane didn’t give me a shot. So I thank him a lot for that. Before that nobody would fight me, nobody with a name would fight me, so I owe a lot to Shane.”
Two fights after beating Trinidad, Wright got a shot at then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and fought him to a disputed draw in one of the biggest fights of 2006. Wright was offered $5 million for a rematch but wasn’t happy with the offer. He turned it down and never saw that kind of payday again. He returned six months later to face Quartey in what turned out to be his last win. Wright said he has no regrets about how his career wound down following the draw with Taylor and the long layoffs caused, in part, by other fights falling through and the inability to get other top fighters to face him.
“I’m glad people know me and respect my accomplishments. It was a great career,” he said. “I always tried to carry myself like a champion and respect people.”
Now, Wright said he will kick back and enjoy time with his four kids and his wife, Pie.
“I got my man, Jim Wilkes, my friend and my attorney who I do some business with. We’ll make sure my money is right and I’ll enjoy my life. I think I had a great career. I love my fans, I love how they stayed behind me no matter if the boxing world wasn’t behind me. They were behind me.
“That motivated me to want to beat everybody and become undisputed champion. But there is life after boxing. So you’ll see me around. You’ll still me at ringside. You’ll see me in Las Vegas. I can relax and watch all the young kids come up and do what they need to do.”