To get to Stanley Wright’s Pro Boxing Gym off Woodlawn Road, you go left at Captain D’s or cut through the parking lot at Captain D’s. I couldn’t remember which, so I chose the latter. I didn’t see the gym so I called Wright. He stood in front of a small office park across the street and waved.
To find boxing in Charlotte, you take a similar route. You pass the major thoroughfares of football, basketball and baseball, cut behind the PGA Tour and NASCAR, and call somebody who cares.
“People really want boxing,” says Wright, who stands next to the 16-by-16 ring that dominates his small but efficient gym. “But nothing has come here to make boxing blossom.”
That changes March 7. Roy Jones Jr., by any measure one of the greatest boxers who ever lived, will headline a card at the Park Expo & Conference Center. The Expo is next to Bojangles Arena on Independence Boulevard.
Tickets range from $50 to $300, and VIP tables are available upon request. For more information, go to www.Carolinabrawl.com.
“I love going to places others don’t and bring the sport to the fans,” Jones said by telephone from Pensacola, Fla., where he grew up and lives. “Why should I do what everybody else does? I fought in Indianapolis. Who fights in Indianapolis?”
Jones has never spent a night in Charlotte, but he’s passed through. He and his son were on their way to Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski’s basketball camp in Durham.
Jones turned 46 on Friday. But this isn’t seniors boxing. At 5 feet, 11 inches and 193 pounds, he remains fit and strong. His record is 59-8 with 42 knockouts, and he hasn’t lost since May 2011. He’s won his past five fights.
The most recent was Sept. 26 in Krasnodar, Russia. His opponent, Hany Atiyo, was 31 and had a record of 14-2.
Jones is a cruiserweight (200-pound limit). That’s a long ride up the scale from his 154-pound roots. He’s won titles in nine weight classes, among them heavyweight. But he is neither a heavyweight nor a natural 200-pounder. He’s always the smaller man. He invariably is the quicker man, too.
Jones popped Atiyo with a first-round jab and followed with a crushing shot to the body. The younger and larger man went down and did not get up.
“I think I have a couple more good fights in me, and then I’m going to fight for the title,” Jones says.
An opponent for Jones has yet to be named; three candidates for the Charlotte fight are being considered.
Thomas Hearns is the last big-time boxer to fight in Charlotte, and that was 21 years ago. If you go to local cards, you’ll see good fighters. But unless you follow the sport closely, you won’t know their names.
Fans who want to see boxers they know stay home and purchase fights on pay-per-view. Jones will be a pay-per-view fighter in a Charlotte ring.
“Even for the people that aren’t hard-core boxing fans, this will be an event,” says promoter Mike Long, who grew up in and lives in Union County. “That’s the cool thing about the sport.”
Long, who has promoted a variety of cards and concerts along the East Coast, envisions a Las Vegas-style crowd of elegantly dressed men and women. They’ll come to watch Jones and, he hopes, appreciate the Carolinas’ fighters that fill the undercard.
One of those fighters is Stanley “The Kid” Wright, son of Stanley Wright. The Kid, who had his first pro fight in July, is 2-0. He has an annoying habit; you know how boxers are. He won’t stop calling me sir.
“To think that I would be able to compete on the same card as Roy Jones Jr. is hard to fathom,” says “The Kid,” 24. “He’s like a living legend. I can’t wait to compete in the same ring as him.”
Wright sounds like a Mecklenburg Aquatic Club swimmer who learns that he or she will swim in the same pool as Olympics champion Michael Phelps, albeit Phelps at 46.
In his prime, Jones fought a style that was his alone. He was so talented he could invent his own fundamentals. His hook was legendary, as was his power and speed.
Can he do at 46 what he could at 26? He can’t, but neither can you.
“He’s going to have that moment,” says the senior Wright. “Everybody is going to get that moment.”
What else will they get?
“Oh. Man,” Jones says excitedly, his words coming fast. “I’m going to be so handsome, so fast and so entertaining.”
His assignment is simple. Put on a show and save a sport.