This is why there's no nobility in boxing: It doesn't pay. All
Shane Mosley was trying to do last Saturday was perform an act of
kindness, extend a professional courtesy. And for this he gets
his pants beaten off, his career short-circuited? Giving Winky
Wright a shot at megabucks glory was simply a gesture of
generosity, doing for a hardscrabble fighter what nobody else had
been willing to do. But, really, should so much decency end up
costing Mosley $10 million?
There's no telling what the final tab for doing the right thing
is going to come to. The $10 million was Mosley's projected purse
for a now-ruined November bout with Felix Trinidad, who was
willing to come out of retirement to face Mosley. That prospect
curdled through most of the 12 rounds of last Saturday's junior
middleweight title unification bout in Las Vegas, while Wright
kept floating his right jab into Mosley's astonished eyes.
Trinidad, sitting ringside with promoter Don King, tried to keep
smiling but by evening's end was only a little less miserable
than Mosley himself.
But this is what Wright's been saying for the last several years:
All a fighter needs is a chance. Wright turned pro two years
ahead of the 1992 Olympics so he could pay some bills, then
labored in Europe for much of the next decade. ("I was fighting
in places you can't even pronounce," he says.) He fought lefty,
was defense-minded and without the box-office appeal that might
lure a more established fighter into a fray.
Nobody of money-making might would fight him, certainly not Oscar
De La Hoya, the rainmaker in these divisions. Wright, now 32, did
get a piece of the 154-pound title in 2001, but it was against
Robert Frazier, and nobody noticed, or paid.
Until Mosley agreed to get his long-suffering peer on the
national stage--even if it was promoted as a setup for a bigger
bout--Wright was doomed to small-time matches at the margins of
boxing. His second defense: Bronco McKart, in Portland. It was
Mosley knows what it's like to be kept in the cold, having
suffered from poor management early in his career. "It's
frustrating," he says, "terribly frustrating." The reward for his
great upset of De La Hoya was having to fight in casino
ballrooms. Even his second defeat of De La Hoya (which restored
some of his reputation after two straight losses to Vernon
Forrest) couldn't launch him into the truly big money.
In order to circumvent De La Hoya and meet Trinidad, Mosley had
only to get through Wright, whom he respected as an overlooked
outsider. But, see, there's a reason nobody fights Wright. For
just a $750,000 purse (compared with Mosley's $2.1 million),
Wright completely flustered Mosley with his right jab, catching
him whenever the shorter Mosley tried to bore in. Mosley grew so
frustrated that, at times, he abandoned his superior boxing style
and just loaded up with right hands. Even with Mosley mounting a
charge in the 12th round, Wright maintained a huge margin on all
Mosley wasn't quite as gracious in defeat as he'd been during the
promotion (when the two broke up laughing during the normally
fierce face-off) and complained of "dehydration." But why
wouldn't he be disappointed, bitter even, to see so much money
fly out the window--all for trying to do a guy a favor.
Joe Mesi (above, left) did not announce himself as the savior of
the heavyweight division, even though he remains undefeated after
surviving former cruiserweight Vassiliy Jirov last Saturday. Mesi
was decked three times in the final two rounds; if the fight had
gone 10 seconds longer, he might have been shuffled back to
Buffalo, the site of many of his fights. Still, in a division in
which upcoming bouts such as Chris Byrd-Andrew Golota and John
Ruiz-Fres Oquendo pass for important fights, and where Evander
Holyfield can still cause a stir at 41, who's to say?