Has Lou DiBella veto’d Winky Wright’s Shot at Jermain Taylor?

08.12.05 - By Gabriel DeCrease: If Winky Wright gets by Sam Soliman on December 10th, he will have demonstrated beyond any doubt that he deserves to be first-in-line to fight Jermain Taylor in the new champ’s second defense of the fistful of straps he wrestled from Bernard Hopkins. Both the fans and the press are in a rare state of universal agreement about that. But news has surfaced that presents cause for concern that Lou DiBella, Taylor’s promoter, will nix the matchup, at least delay it indefinitely, before it ever gets off the ground.

Wright is a heavy favorite to run circles around the capable, yet largely untested, Soliman in their elimination bout that will determine who gets a crack at the now-vacant IBF belt. Unless the technically-deadly Wright breaks form and gives Soliman a big opening and Sam lands with unexpected force, Winky should be able to cruise past him.

And with both Taylor and Wright coming off crucial fights (as Soliman is ranked #1 by the IBF), would be in the perfect position to ink a deal and begin promoting a fight. The stage is set, but the agent for half the cast is trying to stop production.

Lou Dibella was quoted just after Taylor won his rematch against Hopkins as saying, "It would be a crime to put Jermain in another tough fight without a breather after going 24-rounds with Bernard Hopkins…we expect a fight with Winky by next summer, but Jermain deserves a rest.” DiBella is, arguably, the lesser evil in a sport where Bob Arum and Don King are neck-and-neck in their race to see who gets to wear the horns and hold the pitchfork in 2006—with Frank Warren a lock to walk in cloven hooves. However, DiBella’s decision could prove detrimental to his fighter’s reputation, and to boxing in general. Taylor’s detractors are many, and they ardently claim that Hopkins was the clear victor in both fights. In reality, it seems either fight could have gone either way, but it is neither here-nor-there now. It was no small test to go the distance in two world championship fights with “The Executioner,” but Jermain is young and fresh. He would not be the first fighter to take three consecutive bouts against top-competition. Diego Corrales fought a pair of brutal fights with the rugged Joel Cassamayor, and then slugged it out for ten-rounds with the free-swinging Acelino Freitas. Immediately after that, he went into his soon-to-be a trilogy with Jose Luis Castillo, which, by the way, has been hellishly bruising so far. That’s six wars in a row. Taylor can handle three considering his duels with Hopkins took on a decidedly technical tenor. Taylor has also not taken much punishment on his way to the top, certainly less than most. His talent protected him from eating leather and taking risks, but so did Lou DiBella. “Bad Intentions” needs to give the public proof that he is the top dog at 160-pounds if he has good intentions for his credibility as a unified champion. He needs to make a statement. He might not be in that position if he had knocked Hopkins out, or beaten him more convincingly.

Wright responded almost immediately to DiBella by saying, “I went 24-rounds with Shane Mosley and another 12 with Felix Trinidad, in a new weight-class, back-to-back-to-back, and I'm seven-years-older than Jermain. Sounds to me like Jermain's promoter doesn't have a high level of confidence in his fighter.” Whether DiBella has faith in Jermain or not, and he probably does, Wright is a risk. Fighting Winky is a risk for anyone. It is almost impossible to neutralize a well-conditioned, well-schooled veteran technician who is impervious to the ego-driven pride and bursts of rage that can derail a slick-boxer in a big fight. Winky is absolutely Zen in the ring. He has a plan and sticks to it, now more than ever in this surprising late-peak. Even Oscar De La Hoya seemed to want no part of him in the junior-middleweight division.

In one breath DiBella said he hopes to set up a fight between Winky and Jermain by summer 2006, and then in the next backed off a bit saying, “From there [after the breather fight], we're looking for the biggest fights possible. Winky Wright, the winner of Vargas-Mosley, if it's Vargas and the weight is right—we want the biggest fights possible. We're not going to duck anybody.” There are few who would maintain that the winner of Vargas vs. Mosley would provide anything like the test Taylor would get going up against Winky Wright. “El Feroz” has been shy of ferocious in his comeback, and looks a shadow of his former-self, and Mosely has looked shot ever since, well, his pair of decisive losses to Winky Wright. DiBella is off-base if he thinks that a move down to 154 will be lucrative or effectual. Taylor would lose something big if he cut weight; bear in mind, “Bad Intentions” walks around between fights at well over 175-pounds. And baiting Mosley or Vargas up to 160 would be an insult to the intelligence of boxing fans worldwide. Either guy would look as blown-up as Oscar De La Hoya did against Bernard Hopkins and Felix Sturm. If DiBella wants so badly to put Jermain in the ring with a junior-middleweight, he should ask Don King for Roman Karmazin, the tough and diabolically slick Russian champion doesn’t have a fight scheduled and would likely prove more than a handful for Taylor at 154, a 158-pound catch weight, or 160.

What happened to the days when a fight was made because it’s time had come, both fighters were in position, and the public demanded it?

Wright is the right choice for Taylor’s next matchup. Taylor isn’t getting any more credible, and Winky isn’t getting any younger. This one needs to happen while it is still mutually beneficial, at least potentially, for both fighters. In addition, no one has earned a shot more than Winky Wright, boxing’s perpetually left-behind workhorse. That said, Lou DiBella may well just be trying to find the biggest payday that offers the smallest risk for his man. That is, of course, a rotten approach to matchmaking, but in that case, Wright is not the guy to tangle with. But DiBella might then want to look at the still-green Kingsley Ikeke or Macelino Masoe, a guy who is a legitimate middleweight, at least. A tune-up defense against the likes of Edison Miranda or Randy Griffin, followed up with a dehydrated or pumped up (depending on who moves in weight) crack at Vargas or Mosley will do nothing but damage Taylor’s marketability and smother the fire that took him from bell-to-bell with “The Executioner” because from the sound-of-things Taylor will not need it to win where he’s going.

Article posted on 08.12.2005

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