The chess game being played to bring about an eventual fight between middleweight champion Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright took another twist Monday when the WBC ordered the sides to commence negotiations for the mandatory fight.
After Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins in a Dec. 3 rematch to retain the Ring magazine title, as well as three sanctioning organization belts, he hoped to return to his hometown of Little Rock, Ark., for an April defense. After that, Taylor said, he would look to fight Wright in the summer.
However, Wright (50-3, 25 KOs) has campaigned loudly to face Taylor next, even though his subdued points victory against Sam Soliman on Saturday night did little to enhance the marketability of the fight.
Nonetheless, the WBC said if no agreement between Taylor promoter Lou DiBella and Wright promoter Gary Shaw is reached, a purse bid would be ordered for Jan. 20 in Mexico City.
The promoter who bids the most money wins the right to promote the fight. Taylor, as champion, would be due 75 percent of the winning bid with the remaining 25 percent going to Wright, the challenger.
Wright would certainly get a bigger cut than 25 percent under a negotiated deal, so it remains to be seen if he would settle for a purse bid.
Regardless, Wright said he was happy that a fight with Taylor drew one step closer Monday.
"I am extremely pleased with the WBC's decision to proceed with the mandatory title defense and I look forward to meeting Jermain head-on in the ring in my next fight," said Wright, the former undisputed junior middleweight champ who made his middleweight debut in May with a thorough thrashing of Felix Trinidad.
"Everyone knows that after every fight, I have always asked for another big fight. No breathers for me," Wright continued. "I only want the biggest fights against the best fighters because I am a competitor and I believe a champion should act like a champion. Now we are going to see who the best middleweight really is -- Jermain Taylor or me."
DiBella told ESPN.com that he hoped something could be worked out between the sides that would allow Taylor (25-0, 17 KOs) to fight in April before facing Wright, but if nothing can be they would consider Wright.
"We'll commence negotiations and see what happens," DiBella said. "I doubt we will reach an agreement but we could. If we don't and it goes to a purse bid we get the majority of the revenue, so it will be interesting to see if Winky is OK with fighting for 25 percent. But we're not going to give up the [WBC] title to avoid Winky Wright."
DiBella said he thought it was "idiotic" for the fight to happen next because it needed some more time to brew into a major event, reasoning that a Taylor fight on HBO in April would be a big help.
"I don't think it's out of the question that we could fight Winky next but I think it's idiotic and stupid," DiBella said. "Winky's fight on Saturday night didn't help Winky at all. He didn't look good and he only drew [4,682] fans. The fight with Jermain is not ready yet. After Winky's performance Saturday night, who's buying that on pay-per-view? I don't think it has been built sufficiently into a good performing pay-per-view event. If it does happen next, it would have to be on HBO, and I'm not sure the money is there to make it happen. I'll have to talk to HBO about that. We prefer to do the fight when it makes more sense, but we'll pursue the negotiation and see what happens."
Ideally, DiBella said he would like to work something out with Shaw that would delay the fight until the summer.
"We're not saying that we won't fight Winky next, but I think we can do something that works for everyone," DiBella said.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.