Peter Quillin vs. Winky Wright? Make it Happen!

by Geoffrey Ciani - Before Floyd Mayweather Junior and Miguel Cotto square off for their May 5 main event, there is already one bout on the undercard that pits rising youth versus aging experience.
That of course involves veteran ‘Sugar’ Shane Mosley’s return against emerging Mexican star Saul Alvarez. Even more interesting, however, is the rumored matchup between former undisputed junior middleweight champion Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright (51-5-1, 25 KOs) and the talented young Peter ‘Kid Chocolate’ Quillin (26-0, 20 KOs), which might also take place on that same undercard. If this actually happens the Quillin-Wright showdown will surely answer a lot of questions about where both fighters stand in the current boxing landscape.

At one time in the not so distant past Winky was on a short list of elite boxers in the game. He was first appraised with such universal recognition following a three fight winning streak that started with his upset victory against the aforementioned Mosley. Like Vernon Forrest before him, Wright was a tremendous talent who found himself stuck on the outside looking in until Shane Mosley gave him the chance to showcase his talents on the big stage. Wright seized the opportunity and put on a boxing clinic that was highlighted by a solid defensive guard, consistent punch output, and great conditioning. Despite all of Mosley’s talent and athleticism, he simply could not find a way around Wright’s impeccable blocking technique. Wright won a comfortable points decision after breaking Mosley’s will early.

Mosley made a better account of himself in the rematch, but Wright still emerged with a majority decision victory. It was only logical at this point that Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad now face the man who twice bested Mosley, and this paved the way for Wright to get a crack at the Puerto Rican superstar. The original plan was to have Trinidad return to the ring against Mosley, but Wright spoiled that party. So while Shane and Winky were preparing for their rematch, Tito made his ring return against Ricardo Mayorga whom he brutally bludgeoned over eight fairly one-sided rounds. With Wright’s pair of wins against Mosley and Trinidad’s triumphant return the stage was all set, and Wright once again took advantage of his fortunate predicament and thoroughly dominated Trinidad in a virtual shutout.

Winky Wright was now on top of the world and universally recognized by die-hard fans as one of the best of the best. He impressed fans again when he challenged middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and the two battled to a somewhat controversial draw in which many onlookers felt Wright deserved the nod. Since then, however, he has done nothing of note. His win over Ike Quartey was decent enough, but then Winky made the mistake of venturing too far north when he took on Bernard Hopkins at a contractually agreed upon weight of 170 pounds, which is 16 pounds and two weight classes higher than where he celebrated his greatest success.

Hopkins derailed Winky’s momentum with an ugly yet decisive win, and Wright was left with few viable options. He did have a fight almost two years later against ‘Punisher’ Paul Williams in April 2009, but he lost all twelve rounds in the process. Since then he has been missing from the scene entirely. A series of injuries and an inability to secure a worthwhile opponent has led to a prolong period of inactivity. He has only fought twice in the last five-plus years. Many doubted whether Winky would ever step foot inside the squared circle again, and therefore it has come as somewhat of a surprise to learn that Winky may be taking on a young gun like Kid Chocolate.

Quillin is a work in progress and has made tremendous strides in his development over the past two years. When he faced Fernando Zuniga back in February 2009 it certainly appeared as if this young prospect’s upside was limited. Despite winning nearly every round, Quillin looked ordinary. In fact he almost looked disinterested inside the ring. He was extremely lethargic and rarely threw more than one punch at a time. He had little or no sense of urgency. Quillin appeared content going through the motions and doing as little as possible to secure a dull points victory. In fairness to Quillin, Zuniga had a scrappy style that is difficult to excel and look good against, but even still Zuniga was having success when it came to neutralizing Kid Chocolate’s power shots. In no way did Quillin appear to represent the future of the middleweight division.

Things began changing for Quillin after he made the decision to move his base of operations from New York to California. More specifically he started training at the Wild Card gym and began getting in work with world class trainer Freddie Roach. All of a sudden Quillin began looking like maybe he could be the future of the middleweight division after all. This first became apparent when he faced Dennis Sharpe. While Sharpe may not have been a world class opponent, Quillin looked like a whole new fighter. He was utilizing a terrific jab like he had never done before, and this enabled him to put together some nice punches in bunches that flowed with great fluidity. He was more active, he was more aggressive, and he even appeared more confident and determined in his mannerisms and body language. Unlike his bout with Zuniga, Quillin displayed great intensity throughout.

Quillin’s progress continued in his next bout against Jess Brinkley. This was a big step up in class for Kid Chocolate and he rose to the occasion superbly with a great display of speed, power, and tenacity. Brinkley, who was always known for being a tough durable foe, was simply overwhelmed by this newly fine polished version of Kid Chocolate. In fact, Quillin even managed to stop Brinkley in just three rounds while it took IBF super middleweight champion Lucian Bute nine rounds to stop the tough battle-tested Brinkley. In arguably the best performance of his career Quillin most recently impressed again when he outclassed Craig McEwan en route to a sixth round stoppage, which may have been a bit premature. This was the same Craig McEwan who had previously given Andy Lee all he could handle before succumbing to Lee’s late fight rally that enabled the Irishman to score a last round KO victory.

Kid Chocolate became the next big thing, partly because of his noticeable growth and accomplishments, but also in part due to a process of elimination. Quillin had been one of four undefeated middleweight prospects who boxing observers had taken note of. The other three—Danny Jacobs, David Lemieux, and Fernando Guerrero—had all been defeated in upset losses. This enabled Quillin to rise above the rest where he now stands. Meanwhile Winky might finally be getting a worthwhile opponent that can show exactly how much the former elite champion has left in the tank. While this potential showdown might not yet be receiving much buzz on boxing message boards, it is an intriguing clash of styles that should prove entertaining.

Does Winky Wright have anything left to offer? If he can get by Quillin he most certainly does. A victory over Kid Chocolate could help resurrect Winky’s career and perhaps even put him in position for a big money fight at middleweight. In his two most recent losses Wright was bamboozled by the tricks of a seasoned veteran in Hopkins and overwhelmed with volume and height by Williams. Quillin does not quite fit the bill of either guy, so there is reason to believe Winky is capable of causing Pete some problems. After all, if a guy like Zuniga was able to fluster and frustrate Quillin then Winky can surely do the same if he is reasonably healthy and can successfully employ his trademark high turtle shell guard. If Wright can get comfortable, he can pick off Quillin’s punches while pressing forward behind his jab to score points and disrupt the younger fighter’s rhythm. This all becomes a matter of how much does Winky have left, especially considering that he is now 40 years old. Since Quillin is not an all out volume puncher like Williams, is shorter than Williams, and lacks the veteran craftiness of a seasoned pro like Bernard, the clash of styles could in fact favor Winky far more than observes might believe at the onset.

Can Peter Quillin continue to develop and progress as a prize fighter? The evidence seems to suggest he can if his recent transformation is any indication. Step-by-step, Quillin has emerged as someone who can shake things up at 160. He has good power, decent speed, tremendous self-belief, and a fundamentally sound skill set that still seems to be improving. Beyond that he has also proven that he has the ability to learn, employ new tactics, and utilize his strengths. His combination punching has improved tremendously and his punch selection now has a far greater variety. The key for Quillin is to find a way around Winky’s guard. This can be quite a daunting task depending on how much Winky has left. But even if the best version of Wright imaginable were to show up, Quillin still has the tools and talent to offset him if he can maintain his focus and not get discouraged. He may at times have difficulty maneuvering his shots around and between Wright’s stellar guard. How he reacts to such situations should they arise will tell the whole story.

This is an extremely intriguing matchup that very well could prove to be the most interesting and competitive fight on the card should it come to fruition. If things do come together then both fighters should be applauded for taking this difficult fight that poses high risks for both parties. I for one hope it happens and cannot wait to see it unfold!

Article posted on 23.02.2012

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