Saturday, February 24, 2018
Sports

St. Petersburg boxer Winky Wright, former world champion, retires

A professional career that started at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa, wound its way through France, Germany and Monte Carlo, and found its brightest moments under the bright lights in Las Vegas, came to an end Saturday night in Carson City, Calif.

For St. Petersburg's most famous fighter, Winky Wright, the mind was still willing but the body was not. The 40-year-old dropped a unanimous decision to younger, stronger Peter Quillin, 28, in a middleweight bout at the Home Depot Center.

Wright told the Tampa Bay Times on Sunday he was retiring.

"I'm going to call this quits," the former world champion said. "If I can't be champ, I'm done. I'm not going to do this just to be fighting."

Wright (51-6) lost his last three fights, spanning five years.

Fighting for the first time in more than three years, Wright looked rusty. He was knocked down in the fifth round, his infamous turtle shell defense had holes in it, and he was not able to control the fight. His right jab-straight left combination, so effective over the years, lacked pop.

"I couldn't do what I wanted to," Wright said. "I could see what I wanted to do, but I couldn't pull the trigger."

Quillin was awarded the decision, 98-91 from two judges and 97-92 from the other.

Wright said he had decided before the fight that if he lost, he would retire. After talking it over with his family, and with adviser and close friend Jim Wilkes, he made it official Sunday.

He said he no plans other than "living life" with wife Pie, raising his kids and tending to some of his business interests, including his boxing promotional company.

"No regrets. I feel great," Wright said. "I'll miss the fans. They have been great. That will be the hardest part. But I wanted to be champ again, and it just ain't happening, and it was time to quit while I was ahead."

Starting in 1990, Wright fought his first 16 fights in Florida, most of those at the Hyatt Regency and USF's Sun Dome. Ten of his next 12 were in Europe after he signed with an overseas promoter.

In 1996 Wright won his first title, beating Bronco McKart for the WBO junior middleweight belt. In 1999 he made a name for himself by nearly beating Fernando Vargas in an IBF title fight. He dropped a highly disputed decision and earned a reputation as a guy no one wanted to fight because of his defense and awkward style.

It was almost five years before he got another marquee fight, when Shane Mosley gave him his big break. In stunning fashion, Wright — who held the IBF title at the time — dominated Mosley in 2004 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas to capture the WBC and WBA junior middleweight belts and unify the division for the first time in more than 29 years.

Wright won a rematch later in 2004, and then in arguably his greatest performance, he shut out Felix Trinidad in 2005. That led to a middleweight title fight against 2000 Olympic bronze medalist Jermain Taylor; the result was a controversial draw.

The contentious negotiations to get the Taylor fight continued into efforts to set up a rematch, which never happened. Wright was unable to build on his momentum and had to take difficult fights against Bernard Hopkins (at a catchweight of 170 pounds, which did not suit him), a prime Paul Williams and Quillin (after a three-year layoff).

Wright leaves as a popular former champion, particularly in Tampa Bay. He fought 13 times in Tampa and never lost, including his last win, in 2006 win over Ike Quartey, a unanimous decision in front of more than 13,000 at the now Tampa Bay Times Forum.

He sounded happy Sunday and said he has no regrets. "Oh man, I'm pleasantly pleased to come out of St. Pete and make a stamp on the game the way I did," Wright said. "I'm proud of the things that I've done. I feel great. I wouldn't take back or change anything."

tarver draw: Following Wright's bout, Tampa cruiserweight Antonio Tarver (29-6-1) rallied for a draw against Lateef Kayode (18-0-1).

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