The Fan's Guide to Jermain Taylor-Winky Wright

14.06.06 - By Ryan Songalia, photo by Wray Edwards: On June 17, Jermain Taylor and Ronald "Winky" Wright will meet in one of this year's most highly anticipated bouts. Fighting for supremacy in the middleweight division, this fight will decide who is the dominant force in one of the sport's most glamourous divisions. The fight will take place in Memphis, TN, a city known for being the the end of the road for Tyson and Jones' careers in recent years. Taylor-Wright, while not expected to be a candidate for Fight of the Year honors, is perhaps the year's most important bout.

Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor, 25-0 (17 KO), is the universally recognized champion of the middleweight division. Fighting out of Little Rock, Arkansas, Taylor took home the bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. Upon turning pro, he quickly compiled a 23-0 record and was widely considered the heir apparent to longtime middleweight king Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins..

However, there were many who claimed that Taylor had built up his record against faded and undersized former champions. Wishing to quell the criticism, Taylor signed to fight 20-time defending middleweight legend Bernard Hopkins.

When they met in July of last year, Taylor was anxious to make his statement to the boxing world. Attempting to make an early impression, Taylor was very aggressive in the first half of the fight. However, Taylor began to tire down the stretch as a result of his failure to pace himself appropriately. Hopkins took advantage of Taylor's fatigue and started to press the action, landing very effectively with hard straight right hands. In the last third of the fight, Hopkins rocked and stunned Taylor on several occasions, but Taylor showed his heart and survived Hopkins' late rally.

When the judge's handed in their scorecards, Taylor was awarded the undisputed middleweight championship in ending Hopkins' legendary title defense streak. However, after the fight, many boxing pundit's were left with a sour taste in their mouth, arguing that Hopkins' deserved the victory in their initial encounter. Once again electing to prove the critic's wrong, the two fighters agreed to face each other to settle the score once and for all.

Hopkins, who had started very slowly in the first fight, began his attack a few rounds earlier this time around. Taylor had also apparently watched tape of the first fight, as he made key adjustments as well. Taylor appeared to be much more relaxed and was able to make his jab effective, two issues that were of serious detriment in the first fight. With his conditioning holding up well, Taylor was able to maintain tactical control of the fight and survived Hopkins' desperate twelfth round assault. When the verdict was announced, Taylor was awarded a second victory over the future Hall of Famer.

Jermain Taylor has alot of attributes at his disposal. His jab is a punishing punch that he uses very effectively to set up his damaging right hand. One main criticism of him is that when you take away his jab, he becomes a simple fighter. At 27 years old, he is in the prime of his career and at the peak of his skills. He posesses excellent physical strength, particularly in his upper body. This will come in handy in imposing a physical imprint on the fight.

Almost all of the vulnerability he exhibited came in his two fights with Bernard Hopkins. Fighting too anxiously, he unnecessarily wasted alot of energy and ran out of gas and almost imploded in the first fight. His right hand, while powerful, is often thrown with a bow and arrow action and leaves him open for counter punches. He also has been vulnerable to straight right hand leads in the past, suggesting some defensive liabilities.

Taylor's ability to adapt to Hopkins' difficult style and maturity in handling adversity garnered praise from the major boxing press. While he fought well, he also exhibited some defensive and stamina liabilities that had him on the verge of failing in his championship bid. Even after twice defeating one of the greatest middleweight champions in boxing history, Taylor still sought another career defining opponent by which to validate his championship against. Enter Winky Wright.

Ronald "Winky" Wright, 50-3 (25 KO), is considered by many to be Taylor's ultimate foil. Wright, who fights out of St. Petersburg, FL, is the former undisputed super welterweight champion of the world. With his tricky and defensively solid style, Wright is considered to be the sport's hardest to hit fighter. Seeking to become one of the sport's brightest stars, he will attempt to unseat Taylor as middleweight champion.

Wright posesses a number of qualities that make him a tough guy to beat. A natural orthodox fighter, Wright fights in a southpaw stance which makes his right jab a very hard weapon. Wright posesses incredible defensive abilities, being very effective blocking punches with his elbows and gloves. After blocking the punches, Wright goes back to applying the jab in a strategy designed to make his opponent's fight harder than they want to. He is very physically strong for his weight, and has a very sturdy chin.

The knock on Wright has always been his lack of a big punch. He has 25 knockouts in 50 wins, a 50 percent knockout percentage. His career has been hampered by his lack of marketability, a fact attributable to the lack of excitement generated by his tedious southpaw style.

Wright has fought most of his career in relative obscurity. Without a crowd pleasing style and big punch, Wright has fought the majority of his career attempting to get the attention of the boxing public. However, given the fact that he wasn't an attraction in America, Wright elected to take his career overseas, fighting in a half dozen of different countries.

After failing in his first 2 bids for a world title, he faced Fernando Vargas in 1999. On the biggest stage of his career, he appeared to outfight and outhustle the younger champion, only to find himself on the short end of the judges' decisions.

After winning the vacant IBF light middleweight title against Robert Frazier, he defended the title four times against little known opposition. Then he got the biggest break of his career when "Sugar" Shane Mosley, seeking a replacement opponent for the recently defeated Ricardo Mayorga, elected to risk his WBA/WBC belts against Wright in a bout that would declare the first ever undisputed junior middleweight champion.

Despite being a 3-1 underdog, Wright seized the initiative from the beginning of the bout, walking Mosley down and backing him up with his hard right jab and straight left hands. Wright dominated the fight from start to finish, appearing to be too skilled and too strong for the naturally smaller Mosley. After winning the fight, the two did it again, with Wright winning again in a slightly more competitive fight.

After his eye opening victories over Mosley, Wright then signed to face Puerto Rican ring legend Felix "Tito" Trinidad. Leading up to the fight, the consensus opinion was that this was going to be a classic boxer versus puncher showdown. Instead, Winky Wright was totally dominant, humiliating the great Felix Trinidad and winning a one-sided shut out that sent Tito back to a second retirement.

For Taylor to win this fight, he must fight more intelligently and patiently. He needs to throw short punches from different angles. Winky Wright is almost impossible to beat when you stand directly in front of him, so giving Winky angles goes a long way. Taylor will also have to move exclusively to his left and throw his jab over Wright's jab, offsetting his rhythm. He must not make the mistake that Trinidad made when he moved to his right all night and was a sucker for Winky's jab all night long. Wright is very adept at blocking straight punches, so throwing his right hand with a sweeping arc to it will also be very effective.

Winky Wright needs to fight the fight that he is accustomed to in order to give himself the best chance to take the title from Taylor. Winky will need to use his jab religiously and set up combinations up top. When Wright is effective with the jab, he is able to back his opponent up. Taylor cannot fight going backwards, and it is imperitive that Wright make him fight in reverse. Wright also needs to work the body to try to take some of the steam out of Taylor's punches. Keeping the pressure on Taylor after he punches will wear him down gradually and leave openings for Winky to take advantage late in the fight.

From the opening bell, this fight will be a tactically fought match. Taylor will win some early rounds based on his activity and energy, but Winky will be on him tight. In the middle rounds, Wright will begin to assert his imprint on the fight, frustrating Taylor with his defensive capabilities. Taylor will rally down the stretch, impressing the judges' with his activity, regardless of the limited damage it inflicts. They will both make closing statements, but Wright will get the better of the exchanges down the stretch.

In a fight that has no other choice but to go the distance, Jermain Taylor will prevail with a close, controversial decision that many in the media will irresponsibly refer to as a robbery. This fight will be very difficult to score, as it will be for the most part devoid of flashy punches and devastating combinations. This fight will be the type of close competition that is measured in inches, not feet. However, Taylor's popularity and status as champion may wind up being influencing factors that enable him to receive the benefit of the doubt in a close fight.

In the event that Taylor loses, it is possible for him to regroup. He is a marketable young fighter who brings decent paydays, something that will make him a very attractive fight for alot of the champions in his weight range. He is in the peak of his career and has a tremendous upside to his career. Should he lose this bout, it is conceivable that he will be champ again in the next two years.

If Wright loses, he will have a much harder time rebuilding. He is a very dangerous opponent that has the ability to take world class fighters to school. There will not be a line of top caliber opponent's waiting to take on Wright. Wright earned this title shot by becoming the number one contender in one of the governing bodies' rankings. Given the nature of the credential for getting this opportunity, Wright is not eligible for an automatic rematch clause, mandating him to look for another opponent by which to get back to the top.

This is the type of fight that boxing needs. What boxing has lacked in recent years is matching the best fighters in their divisions fighting against each other. This calendar year has brought us Mormeck-Bell and Calzaghe-Bell, fights that have helped to rejuvenate and validate those divisions and brought back needed life to the sport. This fight pits the two best fighters at middleweight in a pivotal bout for prominance in both the 160 pound division and pound for pound rankings. Taylor-Wright will be a landmark fight for the middleweight division and one of the sport's can't miss matchups for 2006.

Ryan Songalia is a syndicated columnist. If you wish to contact him, his e-mail is . His Myspace is . He is a proud member of Team Pinoy.

Article posted on 15.06.2006

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