Taylor and Wright Star in "The Puncher vs. The Boxer"

Jermain Taylor19.06.06 - By Frank Gonzalez Jr.: Saturday night in Memphis Tennessee, down South, right next door to Arkansas, Ronald "Winky" Wright took on the WBA, WBC and WBO Middleweight Champion, Jermain "Bad Intentions" Taylor in what had to be one of the most exciting Middleweight fights I've seen in a long time.

Taylor's willfully wild aggression, strength and power punching vs. Winky's slick defense, effective counter punching and masterful ring generalship was all you could ask for as a boxing fan. Intelligence vs. emotion, math vs. gym, Sith vs. Jedi, call it what you will, just thank God it wasn't on Pay-Per-View because this was the kind of fight that truly promotes the sport of boxing.

Jermain Taylor (25-0-1 Draw, 17 KO's) proved that while he may lack elite caliber boxing skills, he has a lot of heart and determination to fight-and win. A few years ago, when he was still fighting soft comp, I didn't figure his unpolished skills would ever propel him past great fighters like Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright. Some may argue that they still haven't, but Jermain has shown his quality..

Taylor has a good jab (when he uses it) and solid power when he connects. He puts it all on the line and can outfight opponents with better technical skills by outworking them. He comes to fight and fights every round. With his new trainer, Manny Stewart and his new training grounds (the Kronk Gym), high expectations were on the menu.

Winky Wright (50-3-1, 25 KO's) has taken the hard road to boxing glory. His style is difficult to look good against. For a long time, he had trouble getting big names to fight him. Though Wright is an amazing technician in the ring, always cool under pressure and smart on his feet.

For the purist, Winky's boxing skills are exciting to watch, as he can turn lions like Trinidad into sheep, with timing, a good jab, great blocking skills and overall ring smarts. He does not knock guys out too often though. He hasn't KO'd anyone since March of 1999 (Derrick Graham in Miami). But Winky's not KO artist. He's a strategic minded boxer, who fights to win rounds.

The Fight

Round 1

In the first round, Taylor missed a few wild round house like punches and Wright kept out of harm's way, mindful to work his jab and keep close to the slugging Taylor, to nullify his power by keeping him out of his optimal range. Taylor did manage to land a few shots that didn't bounce off Winky's gloves and forearms. 10-9 Taylor.

Dan Birmingham gave Wright specific instructions that Winky carried out well in the second round. Wright was more aggressive, getting inside, countering well and blocking most of Taylor's shots. Winky controlled the range, staying inside and landing at a higher percentage when he attacked Taylor who was allowing himself to be steered against the ropes. A cleanly connecting, flush straight left punctuated the round for Winky. 10-9 Wright.

In the third, Taylor's aggression paid off as he tagged Wright a few good times. Wright returned fire as he rallied and also scored well. There was a lot of back and forth, tit for tat aggression. Another tough round to score. Both did well in turns. 10-10 Even.

In the fourth, Taylor continued to throw a lot of punches, many missing but a few landing between the guard of Wright. At times, Winky countered beautifully with clean shots from either hand. It was clear that Wright possessed the superior boxing skills but Taylor's aggressive punching was serving him well, forcing Wright to focus too much on defense, while Taylor outworked him. 10-9 Taylor.

Taylor's harder punches were dictating the tempo in the fifth, but Winky rallied and scored some good clean punches as Taylor kept his hands too low and was more interested in punishing Wright than protecting himself. Lots of action. Taylor cracked Winky with a right left combination. Taylor's strategy was to wear Winky down. But Winky showed good stamina and rallied again, pressing Taylor into the ropes and landing shots that bobbled Jermain's head a few times. Taylor took it all in stride but Winky's more effective punching with less effort won him the round. 10-9 Wright.

In six, Taylor was busier, throwing a lot and landing on occasion. Wright again was able to press Taylor into the corner and get his best work done. Taylor appeared to accommodate Wright with his backing into corners where he couldn't back away from whatever Wright was throwing. The momentum was shifting in favor of Taylor's aggressiveness as Wright struggled to keep up with the young Champion, who was able to outwork him again. 10-9 Taylor.

Winky's corner instructed him to throw more combinations and be busier in the last moments of the rounds. Winky came on strong in the seventh, out boxing Taylor and landing some flush shots in the process. Taylor managed to rock Wright in the corner with a shoeshine of punches. Wright took some of Taylor's best shots, sucked it up and then rallied to control Taylor by strategically positioning himself so Taylor couldn't wind up his power to hurt him. Taylor was more aggressive but Wright was more effective. Taylor whacked Wright with a right hand for good measure right before the bell. 10-9 Taylor.

There were a few head butts sprinkled into this fight and Taylor's left eye was noticeably swelling. Wright continued to find Taylor against the ropes and do his best work. Though Manny Stewart often reminded Taylor to stay off the ropes, sometimes, nature just takes over in the heat of battle and fighters do what comes natural in a given situation. Wright landed a clean left hand, maybe his best punch of the fight, Taylor's eye was closing and so was the left side of his vision. Wright capitalized on it frequently. Taylor took to boxing outside, popping Wright with shots on the move. Both had some good moments. There were a few head butts in this round too. Winky's brow was swelling like a golf ball. 10-10 Even.

The referee, Frank Garza, warned Taylor about pushing down on Wright's head in clinches. Both fighters were suffering from the damages of the head butts, Wright looked like Frankenstein and Taylor looked like Popeye. Wright relied on his jab and range, while Taylor relied on instinct. Taylor was attacking Wright with a ferocity common to a wounded animal in a corner. His punches had bad intentions. Unfortunately, they did not have good enough aim. Another head butt occurred. Wright scored the better punches and Taylor's eye was practically swollen shut by the end of the ninth. 10-9 Wright.

The ref stopped the action at the start to remove excess grease from Wright. When they engaged, Taylor again pushed down on Winky's head during clinches. I felt it was borderline dirty. Garza stepped between the fighters to warn Taylor about the pushing. Taylor was half blind by this point and Wright was able to score well in spots. Taylor was wilder. Winky was smarter. Taylor wandered back against the ropes and Winky made him pay. Another head butt made me wonder about Taylor's level of frustration. A high work rate and aggression won him tenth round in my eyes. 10-9 Taylor.

Two head butts set the tone for the eleventh. Both guys were hurting. Both guys were giving all they had. Again, Taylor found himself against the ropes and Winky's gloves all in his face. Blood flowed from Taylor's nose, either from the head butts or Winky's combinations against the ropes. Taylor walloped Wright with a right left combo. Wright kept his poise and effectively landed his jab and left hand with well-timed punches. 10-9 Wright.

In close, Taylor almost looked to intentionally butt Wright but missed. His eye closed and getting beat to the punch too often had Taylor frustrated in the twelfth round. Both guys were tired. Both were slower. Taylor managed another head butt, Wright boxed outside cautiously, playing keep-away defense for the last round as if he knew he won the fight. Big mistake!

That Winky elected not to press the action in the last round vs. Taylor was a critical error in judgment. Winky ought to know that when you leave the result to the Official Judges, reality isn't always the deciding factor.

To my amazement, my score of 115-115, a Draw, was the same result the Judges rendered. It was too close a fight for either guy to make any assumptions. Had Wright at least rallied for the last 30 seconds of the twelfth, it might've been the penny that tipped the scale in his favor. Boxing is not American Football; defense alone does not win a fight, especially a close fight in the final round.

Both guys had some shinning moments and valid arguments can be made that either guy won. Winky had superior defense and landed at a higher clip, while Taylor landed the harder punches and was busier.

After the decision was announced, Wright exited the ring, aggravated by the officially decided Draw. Taylor was gracious during the post fight interview, crediting Winky for being a very tough opponent with a good jab and defense. He also said he'd like to have a rematch with Wright. After all, it truly was a great fight that left neither man the victor.

Wright had to be followed to the locker room for his interview. Winky expressed his disappointment at the decision, saying he thought he won the fight and that though he didn't do much in the final round, neither did Taylor. When asked if he wanted a rematch, he defiantly said, "No. For what? So I can get another one of these type decisions?"

While I understand Winky feeling that way, he could've done more in the last round to make his case for winning. He didn't. On the record, the issue of who's the better fighter between them remains unresolved. I hope Winky changes his mind because Wright vs. Taylor II would make a lot of money and be a hell of a rematch. Who says the venue has to be Taylor's choice?

If Wright does not want another shot at Taylor's Titles, there are other fish to fry. How about the dangerous IBF Champ, Arthur Abraham or the WBA's Sub-Champ, Felix Sturm. If unification is part of Camp Taylor's plan, then Taylor vs. Abraham should be next on the agenda.

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Article posted on 20.06.2006

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