Forgotten Classics: Jermain Taylor vs “Winky” Wright

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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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Father Time Ticking, Antonio Tarver Refuses to Clock Out.

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MIAMI (September 4, 2014) – The long, arduous journey continues later this month for 5-time world light heavyweight champion and 2004 U.S. Olympian Antonio “Magic Man” Tarver (30-6, 21 KOs). The ultra-confident 45-year-old southpaw is on a mission to capture the world heavyweight title, undeniably securing his legacy as one of the greatest boxers of all-time.
 
Tarver returns to the ring September 29 against veteran Johnathon Banks (29-2-1, 19 KOs) in the 10-round main event, on a Golden Boy Promotions card, airing live on Fox Sports 1 from State Farm Arena in Hildalgo, Texas.
 
“Al (Haymon, his adviser) has given me this chance,” Tarver explained. “If I retired tomorrow, I would feel unfulfilled despite so much I’ve done as a fighter. The only reason I get up every morning to train hard is to win the world heavyweight championship. I’m on a dream path again. Outside of falling a little short in Atlanta (he won a bronze medal, losing to eventual champion Vassiliy Jirov), I’ve never had a dream in or out of the ring that I didn’t accomplish. I won the world light heavyweight title, made it to Hollywood (starring as Mason Dixon in Rocky VI), and did commentary for a major network.
 
“I will be world heavyweight champion and I’ll break George Foreman’s record as the oldest. I don’t want to beat just any guy with the world title belt, I want Wladimir Klitschko, and to set-up that fight I will challenge and defeat David Haye, if he has the guts to fight me. Even at 45, I have so much fight in me, and there isn’t a heavyweight I can’t beat in a 12-round fight, unless they knock me out, something nobody’s been able to do in my entire career.”
 
First, though, Tarver needs to win in impressive fashion against Banks, who, ironically, also trains Klitschko. “Banks is a good fighter,” Tarver continued, “but I’m going into this fight in top shape, weighing 220 pounds, and totally focused. I’ll be sharp, quick, elusive and throwing combination punches should be the keys to victory. I will prevail and continue my journey.”
 
Tarver, fighting out of Tampa, believes he’s as much a threat today as he was during his “Murder’s Row”-like 4-year, 9-fight stretch between 2002-2006, in which he had a 6-3 record, defeating Roy Jones, Jr. in two of three, splitting a pair with Glen Johnson, defeating Montell Griffin, Eric Harding and Reggie Johnson, and losing to Bernard Hopkins.
 
“I never won a close fight and in my mind I’ve lost only twice, one to a 14-years younger version of myself, Chad Dawson, and Bernard Hopkins. Kelly Pavlik’s the only other fighter than me who knows what it’s like to be decisively favored and beaten by Hopkins, who is going to beat (Sergey) Kovalev, too. I never got a rematch with Bernard.
 
“I’ve never gotten the credit I deserve. I’m going to quiet my critics who never mention me as a Hall of Famer. I’m the best defensive fighter in boxing history. I’ve never been cut or hurt and that’s why I’m still here. Defense is a lost art. This is going to be sweet! I love boxing and I’ve forgotten more about it than kids today will ever know. I have a lot of experience. People have been sleeping on my abilities for a long time. I’m on a mission!”
 
Tarver will be headlining the card his 26-year-old middleweight son, Antonio Tarver, Jr., will making his professional debut. The Tarvers train at Brazilian Rocky Fight Club in Miami, under the guidance of head trainer Orlando Cuellar, who, ironically, trained Johnson for his two fights with Tarver.
 

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“I believe in Antonio because of his dedication, discipline and willingness to do what it takes to do as well as he possibly can,” Cuellar commented. “I’ve been sold on him since he walked in the gym and said he was ‘in it to win it.’ I’m not looking at his age. Hell, he’s been pushing me in training camp. I studied him carefully when he fought Glen and now I’m training him. It’s not so much about winning with Antonio, it’s really how much he hates to lose. People can’t write this guy off. There is a reason he’s a 5-time world champion. When the lights come on, he’s going to turn it up, and Banks is going to need his A game to deal with Antonio.”
 
The clock is ticking for Tarver. Every fight for him is now a must win.
 
“My record speaks for itself,” he concluded. “Writing me off is a big mistake. I’m going to do something big before I retire. People are going to see on September 29th the magic that’s been missing for a long time. My last few fights I didn’t scratch the surface of my abilities. I’m back…The Magic Man is back!”

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Beyond the Ropes: Bernard Hopkins Silences Doubters & Redefines History

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BhopBy: Heath Harlem
Follow Heath @PittGrad0214

At approximately 11:00pm Bernard Hopkins entered the ring at the Barclay’s center in Brooklyn, NY to face Tavoris Cloud as the underdog according to“experts” in Vegas. While Hopkins relishes playing the role of underdog (the only role he has ever played in his life), he entered the ring for this fight with a legacy as one of the greatest fighters of his generation. Despite the legacy, the underdog had a fire burning inside. He was desperate to settle an old score, while proving to the many who have doubted him over his four decade career in the ring how wrong they were. Approximately one hour later Hopkins left the ring once again proving the Vegas odds wrong after putting on a picture perfect boxing clinic and gaining IBF Light heavyweight Championship Belt. At 48 years of age Hopkins broke his own record for being the oldest belt holder, eliminated his former promoter/adversary from boxing relevancy, and sent another strong message to those who doubted him for this fight, or at any point in his life by showing them how wrong they were about him.

Bernard Hopkins grew up in one of the toughest neighborhoods in Philadelphia. At a young age he turned to a life of crime and was ultimately arrested and sentenced to 18 years in Graterford prison for multiple felonies. Built in the 1920’s Graterford prison is a maximum security facility in Pennsylvania with a reputation of hosting one of the toughest inmate experiences for its residences. Hopkins felt the wrath of that experience while in Graterford witnessing murders and rapes. Despite being in an environment surrounded by such horror, Hopkins was able to change his outlook on life and he also discovered the sport of boxing. Statistics showed that most of Graterford’s inmates return to prison shortly after leaving and when Hopkins left prison via an early release he was told that he would be back by the warden when leaving. Hopkins vowed to the warden he would never be back and instead of returning to his old ways, devoted himself to the sport of boxing. 25 years later, Hopkins has proved the doubters wrong and is living a life that is nothing at all like life in Graterford as the warden and the statistics predicted.

Shortly after his release from prison, Hopkins made his pro boxing debut on October 11, 1988 against Clinton Mitchell. Mitchell was also making his pro debut that evening and beat Hopkins via a four round unanimous decision. Clinton Mitchell did not go on to have a significant boxing career, as one may think beating a future legend in his pro debut would. Mitchell went on to only fight three more times in his career with his next fight not taking place until 1995. When you lose your pro debut to a fighter of such low stature in the boxing world, you’re not expected to become a fighter of any stature let alone become one of the game’s greats. However Hopkins stayed devoted to the sport and returned to the ring 18 months later and secured his first win defeating journeyman Greg Paige at Philadelphia’s legendary Blue Horizon. Hopkins would go on to win 22 straight fights and 47 of his next 48 counting his win against Paige. During this stretch Hopkins became Middleweight Champion of the world. After such an anonymous debut not much was expected of Hopkins’ pro career. However, Hopkins proved those doubters wrong by becoming one of boxing’s all-time greats during a career that has spanned four decades and has yet to end.

During Hopkins’ ascent through the middleweight division, the division was dominated by James Tony and Roy Jones Jr. Hopkins was seen as second tier to this pair, and it was never on top of his management team’s list of priorities to secure the “big payday” fights. Second tier fighters are supposed to become great contenders but not champions. This was highlighted when Hopkins’ promoters were never able and/or willing to secure a rematch when Hopkins suffered his unanimous decision loss to Roy Jones Jr., despite Hopkins’ prominence in the Middleweight division. Despite being seen as second tier, Hopkins became IBF Middleweight Champion on April 29, 1995 when he defeated Segundo Mercado. While not promoted as a top tier talent, Hopkins went on to hold that title for 10 years. During 2001, Hopkins was promoted by Don King and King’s biggest box office draw, Felix Trinidad moved up to Middleweight after dominating the Welterweight and Light Middleweight divisions. In an effort to set Trinidad up as champion and dominate box office draw in boxing, King organized a Middleweight tournament matching IBF Champion Hopkins, WBC Keith Holmes, WBA Champion William Joppy and Trinidad. While Trinidad was seen as the up and coming younger star and favorite, Hopkins was seen as too old at 36 years of age to win the tournament.

Feeling cheated and angered due to Trinidad getting King’s attention, Hopkins used those emotions and feelings as motivation to train harder than ever and shocked the world by winning the tournament, defeating first Holmes then Trinidad. Don King couldn’t present the trophy to Hopkins that night and many people believe it was because Trinidad’s name was already engraved on it. While King and Hopkins had many battles during their working relationship, the issues surrounding this tournament and the trophy presentation have stuck to the top of Hopkins’ mind. By winning the tournament, Hopkins became the WBA, WBC, and IBF Champion of the World. Hopkins held those titles through July 2005 when he lost them to Jermaine Taylor via split decision. Taylor also defeated Hopkins in the rematch via unanimous decision in December 2005. Despite being seen by many in the boxing world including his own promoters as a second tier attraction, Hopkins made a successful ascent through the Middleweight division, ultimately becoming champion and holding belts for over 10 years. He also proved the boxing world wrong by dominating the Middleweight tournament setup by his own promoter to crown another younger, more marketable champion.

After the Taylor fights, it was easy for many to assume that Bernard Hopkins was finished as a world class fighter. Hopkins was after all 41 years old and coming off two losses in 2006. However, Hopkins once again determined to shock the world, decided to continue his career by moving up two weight classes to face former Lightweight Champion Antonio Tarver. Tarver had recently become the first fighter to knockout Roy Jones Jr. Hopkins was a 3-1 “Vegas” underdog but had no doubts in his own ability, and made a $250,000 bet with Tarver on the outcome of the fight. Hopkins shocked the boxing world again, by scoring a dominating unanimous decision victory. Determined to go out on top but not willing to leave the ring for the last time just yet, Hopkins made a commitment to himself to stay in the spotlight he felt he deserved to be in for years. In order to do so Hopkins committed to face only the highest level of competition the Light Heavyweight division had to offer. Over the next three years Hopkins defeated Ronald Wright, Kelly Pavlik and Enrique Ornelas. His only loss was a split decision loss against Joe Calzaghe, in a fight where Hopkins sent Calzaghe to the canvas in round one. After his great success in the Light Heavyweight division it was only natural for Bernard Hopkins to decide to take on his biggest challenge in his career; a fight to become the oldest boxing champion. On December 18, 2010 Hopkins almost 46 years of age faced Jean Pascal for the Light Heavyweight Championship of the world. The fight which many boxing experts felt Hopkins won easily, ended in a majority draw. Determined to right the wrong, Hopkins returned for a rematch against Pascal on May 21, 2011 in Pascal’s hometown of Montreal. Hopkins 46 years of age, dominated the fight, tormented Pascal with head games (highlighted by doing pushups in between rounds late in the fight while the 17 year younger Pascal sat gasped on the stool) and won the Light Heavyweight Championship of the world. At 46 years of age Hopkins became the oldest fighter in boxing history to become a World Champion, passing the previous record set by the legendary Heavyweight George Forman. While it would have been easy to walk away from the sport on top (or at least end facing lesser competition) after the second Pascal fight, Hopkins was determined to prove that he wasn’t finished.

Immediately after the Pascal fight, Hopkins called out Chad Dawson (seen by many as the top Light Heavyweight in the world). Dawson agreed and they first met in October 2011. During the second round Hopkins injured his shoulder as a result of an accidental foul. After shoulder surgery Hopkins returned to face Dawson on April 28, 2012, and he was defeated via a 12 round majority decision. Hopkins’ performance against Dawson was not up to the standard the boxing world had become accustomed to seeing and he was seen after that fight by many as a finished top level fighter. After his two defeats against Jermaine Taylor at middleweight, Hopkins determinedly shocked the world by coming back and dominating the Light Heavyweight division over a five year period. Hopkins once again proved his doubters wrong by climbing through the ranks of the division. While his ascent to the top of the Light Heavyweight Division and reign as champion was not as long in tenure as his Middleweight experience, it was seen by many as more remarkable as it began when Hopkins was 41 years of age. It appeared to have ended with Hopkins as the oldest boxing champion in boxing history at 46 years of age, something his doubters never thought would happen.

After the loss to Dawson almost everyone in the boxing world felt Father Time had finally caught up to Hopkins and we had finally seen the last of him in the ring. However, after almost a year away from the ring Hopkins returned on March 9, 2013 to, make history once again, prove his doubters wrong, and also to settle an old score. Hopkins returned to the ring to face Travoris Cloud, the IBF Light Heavyweight champion. Hopkins’ first goal was to take Cloud’s belt and break his own record as oldest belt holder and prove the doubters who said he was finished after the Dawson fights. Hopkins also wanted to use this fight to settle an old score. Cloud is promoted by Hopkins former promoter and adversary Don King and is the last fighter of significance under Don King’s control. Never forgetting how King set him up as second tier during his time in the Middleweight Division, as well as setting up Trinidad to win the Middleweight tournament, Hopkins was determined to get even and put King out of the boxing business. Once again Hopkins entered the ring as the “Vegas” underdog and many in the fight world thought Hopkins would be disposed of and we wouldn’t see him again. Once again Hopkins proved his doubters wrong. Putting on a clinic, showing the world how the sweet since is meant to be seen, Hopkins dominated the fight and won via a 12 round unanimous decision. Once again Hopkins made history (becoming the oldest belt holder in boxing history), and also proved his doubters wrong. Immediately after the fight, Hopkins confronted King in the ring, proud that he accomplished his secondary goal of putting King out of the boxing business.

From the day that Hopkins left Graterford prison in 1988 through today, Hopkins has proved doubters wrong time and time again. Statistics and doubters said that he was going to return to prison, and his pro career wasn’t going to amount to anything. Hopkins proved the statistics and doubters wrong. He has had a legendary boxing career that has spanned 4 decades and he is living a lifestyle nothing like life in prison. Hopkins was doubted every step of his career, including his accent through the Middleweight division, his improbable jump to the Light Heavyweight Division, and is age defying run holding championship belts. Hopkins has proved the doubters wrong again and again, most recently when he entered the ring March 9th, 2013 at 11:00pm with intentions to make history and settle old scores. After his dominating and history making performance against Cloud, Hopkins announced that he isn’t done with boxing yet. When Hopkins returns to the ring there will be many doubting his ability to accomplish his next goal. Those doubters should look at history, and think twice before they bet against Hopkins again.