Forgotten Classics: Jermain Taylor vs “Winky” Wright

By: Steve Gallegos

In today’s boxing, we very rarely see the best facing the best. The boxing landscape is more political than ever. Managers and promoters focus more on protecting their investment; therefore some of the more significant bouts do not get made. However, when the best do face the best, it can provide a treat for the fans. That was the case in 2006, when lineal middleweight champion JermainBad Intentions” Taylor faced off with RonaldWinkyWright.

Jermain Taylor was groomed for the boxing spotlight very early on. He was a stellar amateur who represented the U.S.A. at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, winning the bronze medal. He turned pro in early 2001 and signed a huge contract with DiBella Entertainment. He was a crowd favorite from the very beginning. He had the complete package as he possessed the speed, power and skill. He knocked out 17 out of first 23 opponents.

In July, 2005, Taylor would get his shot at a world title as he took on the legendary, long time king of the middleweight division, Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins had been unbeaten for 12 years and made a record 20 defenses of his middleweight title. Taylor stepped up to the plate and showed the world that he was the future of boxing by dethroning the longtime champion in a close, but convincing split decision victory. He would decision Hopkins again in a rematch just five months later.

RonaldWinkyWright’s descent to the top was not an easy one. “Winky” was a very slick southpaw, known for his excellent defense and piston-like right jab. Wright had fought all over the world and was a huge draw in France as he fought there nine times in his career. Due to his difficult style, “Winky” had a hard time getting big fights and was often avoided. The fight that put “WinkyWright on the map was a close majority decision loss to Fernando Vargas in 1999; a fight that many felt “Winky” had won.

He would win the IBF Jr. Middleweight title in 2001 and successfully defended it four times before finally getting the break he was waiting for, which was a title unification bout with fellow titleholder “Sugar” Shane Mosley. Wright shined on the biggest stage of his career by outpointing Mosley twice in decision victories. After unifying the 154 lb division, Wright would move up to Middleweight where he would have his career defining fight against Felix “Tito” Trinidad.

Trinidad was in the second fight of his comeback when he faced “WinkyWright in May of 2005. Many beleived Trinidad would steamroll Wright; however “Winky” showed why he was one of the most avoided fighters in the sport by dominating every second of every minute of every round. Wright used his piston like jab to good effect and never let the hard punching Trinidad have any moments of the fight as he won a lopsided unanimous decision victory.

Wright would close out 2005 with a unanimous decision victory over Sam Soliman, which earned him a shot at Jermain Taylor’s middleweight crown. June of 2006 was a big month for boxing and HBO as there were two huge fights in back to back weeks. You had Antonio Tarver vs Bernard Hopkins in an HBO PPV event and 7 days later you had Jermain Taylor vs “WinkyWright.

Taylor and Wright met on 06/17/06 at the FedEX Forum in Memphis, TN for the “Undisputed” Middleweight championship. The first round wasn’t much of a feeling out process. Taylor dominated the first round with quick, crisp combinations to the the head and body. “WinkyWright started out a little slow and was trying to walk Taylor down; however with little success. As the bell to start the second round sounded, “Winky” Wright raced out of his corner and immediately began pressuring Taylor, landing combinations. Taylor would respond with some fire of his own and the fight was beginning to turn into a slugfest.

Taylor, the more natural middleweight, was the bigger puncher; however Wright showed his great chin and was able to walk through Taylor’s shots. “Winky“, known for his slick boxing, had to switch gears and move forward, pressing the fight. “Winky” was able to get Jermain in a corner and land some good left hand shots. It was a much better round for Wright and Taylor knew he was in a for a long, tough fight. The fisticups continued to fly in the third round as Taylor fought well on the outside, setting up his combinations with his left jab. Wright was able to shake off the punches well, blocking some of Taylor’s shots while pressing forward, landing his own shots.

Wright would pick up the pace in the fourth round, keeping the fight close and landing good combinations. Taylor’s activity slowed down a notch and he wasn’t doubling up on his shots as he had in the previous rounds. While Taylor still fired combinations, Wright was still able to pick alot of shots off with gloves. Round five was more of the same as the fight was fought in close quarters which favored “WinkyWright. While “Winky” wasn’t the bigger puncher of the two, his shots were making an impact.

Taylor regained his composure in the sixth by keeping Wright at a distance while landing quick, hard combinations. The seventh was fought at a very fast pace in which both fighters would have their moments; however Taylor had the slight edge based on his power punching. Wright would control the eighth as he was able to keep Taylor at close quarters and landing good combinations as he had Taylor on the ropes and in the corner.

The ninth was more of the same as “Winky” would would impose his will and his shots were making an impact as Taylor’s left eye began to swell shut. In the 10th, both men stepped it up a notch firing and trading punches. Taylor would fire off a quick combination and Wright would answer with a combination of his own. Neither man backing up, it was the most exciting round of the fight. The 11th round belonged to “Winky” as he was the more active and accurate puncher, pressing Taylor who was waiting on Wright to make a mistake.

The fight appeared to be on the table going into the 12th. The 12th round wasn’t very action packed as neither fighter went for the gusto. Both men had fought at a blistering pace throughout the fight and they both seemed to rest in the final minutes. While neither man did much, the edge in the round went to Taylor as he was the more active of the two. The fate of the fight rested in the hands of the judges. Chuck Giampa scored the fight 115-113 for Taylor. Judges Ray Hawkins scored the fight 115-113 for Wright. The final judge, Melvina Lathan scored the fight 114-114, making the fight a split draw.

Both men felt they won the fight and “WinkyWright immediately left the ring, not waiting around to be interviewed by HBO. It was a great fight that warranted a rematch, however it didn’t happen. Wright would close out 2006 with a landslide decision victory over former champion Ike Quartey and he would only fight three more times over the next five years, losing all three bouts to Bernard Hopkins, Paul Williams and Peter “Kid Chocoalate” Quillin. He would retire in 2012 with a record of 51-6-1 with 25 KO’s.

Taylor would defend his middleweight title twice more against smaller opponents moving up versus both Kassim Ouma and Cory Spinks. He would lose his title in September of 2007 when he was stopped by Kelly Pavlik. He would lose the rematch to Pavlik five months later and then move up to Super Middleweight. He would defeat former champion and olympic teammate Jeff Lacy and then in early 2009 he would challenge for a super middleweight title against unbeaten champion Carl Froch.

After knocking Froch down early, Taylor ran out of gas late and was stopped in the 12th round. Later that year, Taylor participated in Showtime’s Super Six boxing tournament but withdrew from the tournament after suffering a bad KO loss to Arthur Abraham. Taylor would remain inactive for over two years and returned to the ring in 2011, moving back down to middleweight. He has been 4-0 with 2 KO’s in his comeback.

In August of 2014, Taylor was charged with two felonies after an altercation in his home with one of his cousins. The altercation would result in Taylor alledgedly shooting his cousin. Taylor is scheduled to fight brand new middleweight titleholder Sam Soliman on 10/08/2014 in Biloxi, Mississippi. The 2006 battle between Taylor and Wright was one of the few instances in which the best faced the best and the end result would be both fighters giving it their absolute best effort.

 

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