Monday, July 10, 2006

:boxing: From "Winky" to "Wimpy" Wright?

(Originally, I wanted the first boxing post to be about the Pacquiao-Larios bout, but then I found out it was on PPV, aka "out-of-my-reach." So instead, I went to "Plan B" and looked to a different topic... :D )

After the June 17 bout with middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, Ronald "Winky" Wright seemed to be experiencing another round of deja vu. He came out of his controversial loss to Fernando Vargas a few years ago in a surly mood, very certain that he was the victim of a "hometown decision" in a fight that he, as well as those at ringside and on television, thought won. Now, yet again in the hometown of an opponent, has he been handed down a decision that is in no way beneficial to him, a draw, and again he is livid at the results of his labor. Refusing to attend the post-fight conference, Wright stayed in his dressing room afterwards and vehemently turned down a rematch with Taylor. The staunch veteran may think that a second bout is more of the same; however, it seems that there are more to the circumstances than this that go against his thinking.

Firstly, he does not have to fight him again in his hometown (or at least in the area of influence, which was the case with many of Taylor's Little Rock, Ark. fans who made the pilgrimage to Memphis, Tenn.). If the ghosts of the Vargas fight haunt him still, he could have asked for it to be held at another spot, such as venerable boxing hubs Las Vegas or New York City. Either place would almost guarantee tremendous ticket sales for the promoters. Alternatively, if he wanted a better chance at evening the score (in the wins column, not the judge's scorecard), the fight could take place in his home state of Florida. When considering what happened to him before, one has to wonder why Wright did not push for the Taylor bout to be contested in a place outside of the realm of the champ's neighborhood. With the belt and recognition as the top in the division, including the top spot of many a P4P list, on the line, he should have at least factored this discrepancy in as a safety measure.

Secondly, the fight itself was very close. Both fought voraciously for twelve rounds, landing strong blows and punching through the gameplan of their opponent for the duration of it. Taylor was game, but made far too many errors, the most egregious of them all being when he allowed himself to get pinned into the corner and the ropes and get pummeled with little or no guarding whatsoever. As young, headstrong, and powerful as he is, the champion is not exactly Ali, or for this matter, Winky Wright, and lacks the know-how to be completely successful. However, the challenger was definitely not without flaws. Wright entered the ring with his usual, defensively-tight fight blueprint, which he aimed to use against the youngster's oft-times ungainly style, only to have his tried-and-true method poked through by Taylor's strong jabs and hooks. Despite the power that consistently pressed him backwards and chipped away at his defenses as the fight lengthened, Wright continued to use it. The visual display alone, whether Taylor's attempts were successful or not, could have very well played a part in the results. In the end, the bout could have gone to either and was a difficult affair to judge.

Taking this into account, Winky now has the knowledge in how to make the championship his, what worked and what did not. Taylor, even after two consecutive close contests with previous champ and soon-to-be Hall-of-Famer Bernard Hopkins, has yet to shake off the technical problems that have placed him in trouble in the ring. They can be exploited in the rematch should new trainer (also future HOFer) Emmanuel Steward not manage to remedy them. While he and his own trainer have to patch the holes in his own gameplan, Wright still has a good chance at using the greenness of Taylor to his advantage. The real issue, though, stems from the Winky's attitude post-fight, where he made clear his intentions to not go into a rematch.

Wright gave off the air that he was flawless in the battle, untouched and undeterred by Taylor's attacks, though the red-hued bruises on his face and his performance in-ring said otherwise. And lest not we let the twelfth and final round slip from our memory, which he very well may have let slip from himself as he appeared to have taken a page from Oscar De La Hoya's Trinidad plan book and back-peddled a good chunk of the last half (Taylor may not have thrown much of anything either, but he at least was combatively-active).

Do his antics in the last round and unwillingness to fight in a rematch signal a change in Ronald Wright? Is he now more "Wimpy" than the brave "Winky" that we all remember, taking down ring monsters of the likes of "Sugar" Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad?

It would be a bit drastic to go as far as to call him out in such a manner. Instead, he is suffering from what many boxers catch when their name reaches prominence and their skills become widely-recognized--"egoitis." Like his long-time friend, Roy Jones, Jr., everyone knows about Winky and they greatly respect what he is capable of inside the rope-adorned square, but with the enhanced fame comes an enhanced ego. In this case, he believes that Taylor is not worth fighting again because in his mind, he beat him. While it is natural to hear this from a fighter who just drew, it was his above comments afterward that served to underline this. By holding onto this rationale, he is missing out on a prime opportunity to capitalize and potentially capture the middleweight title from Jermain Taylor. While Taylor has a style that can counterattack his own (akin to Sam Soliman's, only much stronger and more controlled), Wright showed that he can still defeat him by taking the fight to him and alleviating a little off from his mainstay defensive approach.

Raul Marquez, soundly beaten by Jermain two years ago, is riding on a two-fight win streak and wishes to become Winky's next opponent. As good a boxer Marquez may be, Wright should not place any heed in an encounter and should focus on changing his stance and going for the title once again in a "fair" location. The champion is more than eager to go at it again, much to the chagrin of Steward, so now it is all on Wright to make the right decision and take up the call. The opportunity to any title shot can be "one and done," and if Winky refuses to fight again, then he may have seen his sole chance at the gold slip away, all due to not cowardice, but an overdose on ego.

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