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Wright relieved to put bout behind him

Whew.

That was more the reaction of Winky Wright after his dismantling of Ike Quartey Saturday night than euphoria.

After weeks of distractions and worrying about how the whole thing would come off, Wright could finally let out a sigh of relief as he talked to reporters, eager to join the mini-family reunion that was taking place a few feet away.

After more than a decade fighting on the road but always craving a hometown performance, the St. Petersburg middleweight was happy to put this one behind him.

"I wanted to do this fight, and I did, and I tried to put on a show for the fans,'' said Wright, 35, the first to humble the once-great former welterweight champ. "I'd like to come back and wouldn't mind closing my career here.''

While Wright didn't mention Jermain Taylor by name, he did half-jokingly call out Oscar De La Hoya, whose company was the primary promoter of the St. Pete Times Forum card in Tampa. De La Hoya meets Floyd Mayweather, considered the sport's No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter, on May 5 in Las Vegas.

"I want the winner of that one,'' Wright said, favoring the 33-year-old De La Hoya to pull out the victory.

In 1999, it was De La Hoya who needed a last-round knockdown to pull out a controversial decision over Quartey.

Wright (51-3-1, 25 knockouts) was credited with two suspect knockdowns Saturday, but didn't need them in handing Quartey, 37, the worst loss of his career. While promoter Lou DiBella said Quartey (37-4-1, 31 KOs) would move back down to 154 pounds and keep fighting, he skipped the postfight news conference and likely will follow Felix Trinidad - another victim of a lopsided beating from Wright - into retirement.

Wright's game plan of keeping his distance and using a steady and hard right jab and straight left to fluster Quartey never took shape. He and Quartey were close enough to trade mouthpieces all night, with Wright clearly hoping for his first knockout since 2002.

"I knew the fight was going to end up in the trenches because Quartey can't back up. He comes straight at you and he lays right there,'' trainer Dan Birmingham said. "I think Wink wanted to prove to him he was stronger.''

Usually concise and accurate, he threw a career-high 1,011 punches and missed 742. He landed only 68 of 487 jabs (14 percent).

But looking for the kill, Wright threw 524 power punches, probably a career high, and connected on 201 (38 percent).

His renowned defense, however, was strong again, especially against Quartey's formidable jab. Of the 210 Quartey threw, only 23 were deemed to have gotten through, an 11 percent success rate.

Wright wants to stay active and is likely to take a match in March or April. His handlers say a rematch of June's draw with Taylor would be ideal, though it would take a minor miracle to bring the sides together over money.

John C. Cotey can be reached at (727) 869-6261 or cotey@sptimes.com.

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