TAMPA -- Winky Wright and Ike Quartey are congenial rivals who've known each other since the early 1990s when they were young boxers competing in France.
They were roommates for a time, ate many meals at the same dining table, and shared the same promoter. When their careers took off, they followed one another's success.
"I was there when he won his first world title," Wright recalled, "and he was there when I won my first world title."
The former champions, both coming off controversial decisions in their most recent fights, will put their friendship on hold tonight when they meet in a 12-round middleweight bout that could position the winner for a big-money fight down the road.
Wright (50-3-1, 25 knockouts) is looking to rebound from a disappointing result against Jermain Taylor, who retained his undisputed middleweight title in June with a draw that left Wright feeling robbed.
"Everybody who saw the fight knows I won," Wright said.
Quartey (37-3-1, 31 KOs) dropped a tough 10-round decision to Vernon Forrest Aug. 5, the former World Boxing Association welterweight champion's first loss in four fights since resuming his career in 2005 after a four-year hiatus.
Wright watched that fight and felt his friend won.
"Ike and me, we go way back," Wright said. "It's bittersweet that we're going to have to fight, but at the end of the night we're both going to make a lot of money and enjoy ourselves."
Although they spent a lot of time together and fought on some of the same cards as young boxers, the 35-year-old Wright and 37-year-old Quartey never faced each other. That didn't stop them from adopting similar styles.
"We've known each other a long time," said Quartey, who walked away from boxing six years ago after losses to Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas. "We know what the other one is going to do in the ring."
The native of Ghana added he doesn't have any reservations about facing someone so close to him. "We have to do what we have to do," Quartey said. "After the fight, we'll be friends."