Taylor - Wright II - Decision

Wright, Taylor19.06.06 - By Ryan Songalia, photo by Wray Edwards / ESB - In a very entertaining fight for the middleweight championship of the world, Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor and Ronald “Winky” Wright fought to a split decision draw in Memphis, Tennessee. Taylor, Little Rock, Arkansas, retains the middleweight championship that he won from Bernard Hopkins last year, but sustains the first blemish on his previously unmarked record. Wright, St. Petersburg, Florida, fought very well and will undoubtedly receive another title shot in the near future. Taylor’s record moves to 25-0-1 (17 KO), while Wright goes to 50-3-1 (25 KO). The referee for this bout was Frank Garza.

Leading up to this fight, both men felt like they had something to prove. Jermain Taylor won the undisputed middleweight championship last summer via a controversial split decision against long-time middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Despite repeating the effort later that year by more convincing margins, many fans still remained skeptical given the age differences of the two fighters as well what many perceived to be questionable judging. In Winky Wright’s last assignment, he faced journeyman Sam Soliman in a WBC title eliminator. Despite having dominated future Hall of Famer’s Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad in the last two years, Wright struggled to win a flat unanimous decision that had Wright for the first time in awhile appearing vulnerable.

Seeking to prove themselves to the masses, as well as add great credentials to their resume’s, they met for the middleweight championship of the world. Taylor was fighting for the first time under the guidance of the legendary Emanuel Steward. Jermain Taylor, who weighed in at the limit of 160 pounds, put on 10 pounds over night to go to 170 pounds. Winky Wright, who tipped the scaled a pound under the limit at 159, put on seven pounds since the weigh-in to move to 166. The difference in additional weight would show up during the bout as Taylor appeared to be the larger man.

Both fighters set a quick pace in the first round, apparently not being aware that they are allowed an opportunity to feel each other out. Taylor started out winging wide right hands around Winky’s guard, but most of the punches were blocked by Wright’s gloves. One of the right hands did get in down the middle halfway through the round, momentarily stunning Wright and might have been enough of to edge him the close round. Wright came back in the second round, and save for a right hand flurry early in the stanza, dominated the action. Taking advantage of Taylor’s tendency to hold his right hand at his waist, Wright effectively used his southpaw jab to touch up the champ’s face while landing power shots to the head and body. Taylor came out trying to make a statement in the third round, using his jab effectively for the first time in the fight to set up combinations to the head and body. Wright remained steadfast in his aggression however, and continued to remain accurate his punches.

The fourth round began where the third round left off, with Jermain Taylor coming forward aggressively and throwing power shots, some of them getting through the Winky Wright defensive fortress. While effective when active, Taylor would get caught after he throws because he would relax as Wright retaliated with combinations of his own. In the last minute of the round,Wright was able to pin Taylor in the corner and land punches but Taylor came back and was able to turn the momentum of the round in reverse with hard body shots. Fighting in the posture he had been effective in during the bout, Wright trapped Taylor in the corner and landed combinations that scored very favorably with the judges in a round in which he tripled Taylor’s connects according to Compubox statistics. Taylor spaced some right hands out through the round, but there was no arguing Wright’s superiority during that stanza. After a slow start to round six, Taylor picked up the pace in a big way, landing hard right hands and body blows that appeared to be wearing the smaller Wright down.

Having weathered the storm of the last round, Wright was wobbled and hurt by a flurry of left hooks and overhand rights delivered by the champion. Showing his steely reserve, Wright battled back and outworked the champion, however with less authority in his punches. That pattern would persist throughout the fight. Feeling the need to make a statement in light of Taylor’s dominance in the two preceding rounds, Wright went back to outworking Taylor with his volume punching. While he outworked Taylor for long stretches of the round, particularly when he had his opponent against the ropes, he began to seem cautious about letting his hands go in respect of Taylor’s heavier blows. Towards the end of the round, both men lunged forward simultaneously resulting in an accidental headbutt that Wright clearly got the worse of. The butt caused some swelling above Winky’s left eye. In the ninth round, swelling above Taylor’s left eye initially caused by Wright’s jab was significantly worsened by another accidental clash of heads. As badly compromised as Taylor’s vision was, he continued to let his hands go freely and with bigger fire power than the challenger.

Early in the tenth, referee Frank Garza warned Taylor for the second time about pushing Wright to the floor. It appeared more to be an issue of Wright coming in low and with the strength difference being so pronounced, Wright was forced to the canvas. Following the warning, Wright exploded with a burst of energy, letting his hands go with jabs and right hands. Following the champ’s flurry, Wright followed him to the ropes and let go with combinations that did little to no damage to Taylor. After that exchange, the body language of Taylor suggested his absence of fear for the punching power of Wright. Taylor fought back and seemed to control the rest of the round with his pronounced advantage in the power category. By the eleventh round, both combatants started to exhibit signs of exhaustion. It was a close round in which neither man took clear control of the stanza, but Taylor landed the harder blows. Going into the twelfth and final round, the fight appeared close enough that whoever won it would be the frontrunner to pull out the decision. Wright started out by using his feet more than he previously did in the round, just trying not to make a mistake. It was a tentative round, which seemed to be antithetical in context to the pattern of the bout up to that point. In the last minute of the stanza, Taylor opened up with a showy combination and seemed to win the round.

When the scorecards were announced, one judge saw the fight 115-113 for Taylor, another judge gave the fight to Wright by the identical tally, and the third judge scored the bout even at 114-114. I scored the bout 115-113 for the champion Jermain Taylor, preferring his harder and flashier blows to the sheer accumulation of the lesser powered Winky Wright.

Following the announcement of the decision, Wright left the ring without confronting his adversary in the customary post-fight show of sportsmanship. While arguments could be made for both parties, a draw seemed reasonable given the competitiveness of the bout. While Winky landed more blows, his punches were not nearly as powerful as the champion’s were. While Taylor seemed to land with much bigger thunder, Wright was the aggressor for the majority of the bout and was much more accurate than the champion who is 7 years his junior.

Taylor was impressive tonight as he showed composure and poise dealing with a very difficult man to fight. He never became discouraged like Mosley and Trinidad before him, continuing to fight the same fight that was working for him from round one on. Taylor appeared to have been galvanized by the lack of punching power in the challenger’s gloves, which perhaps explains his more active pace than in the two fights against Bernard Hopkins. He still needs to work on some of his technical deficiencies, such as holding his hands higher and balance, but overall he gave a very good accounting of himself against one of the pound for pound elites.

To Wright’s credit, he came in and fought the fight he has achieved great results with, but fell just short because of his lack of punching power. He was able to neutralize Taylor’s jab and make him miss, but failed to capitalize with punishing blows. The difference with Wright’s inability to dominate Taylor like he had with the other two showy names on his dossier in the last two years may be that Taylor is the stronger man, which is something that Wright hasn’t faced in a few years.

Naturally, given that they fought to a stalemate, the first option should be in the direction of an immediate rematch. In a return bout, I would definitely favor Taylor over Wright for a number of reasons. Down the stretch of the fight, Taylor asserted a psychological advantage over the challenger as Wright began to become very cautious of Taylor’s punching power. Taylor was able to maintain his confidence the whole way through and his conditioning held up well, enabling him to edge some close rounds late. Being that Taylor is only 27 and Wright is 34, time is more favorable to the champion than the challenger. To be perfectly honest, as good as Wright’s showing was, I don’t think he can come back and fight a better fight than he did the first go around. All signs appear to point towards Taylor in a rematch.

In a toe to toe, seesaw fight, Taylor holds on to his foothold on the middleweight division via a draw. Both men exhibited their hearts, stamina, skills, and will in one of the more exciting fights of this year. Elevating both of their standings to the boxing public, they will hopefully meet each other again later this year to decide, once and for all, who is truly the best 160 pounder in the world.

My pound for pound rankings alter slightly following this bout. Wright, ranked number two last month, slips to third while Taylor remains at number five. Tarver, who suffered a wide-margin loss to Hopkins last week, exits the rankings making room for Jorge Arce to debut at number 10.

1. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
2. Manny Pacquiao
3. Winky Wright
4. Marco Antonio Barrera
5. Jermain Taylor
6. Ricky Hatton
7. Diego Corrales
8. Jose Luis Castillo
9. Joe Calzaghe
10. Jorge Arce

Ryan Songalia is a syndicated columnist. If you have any questions or comments, his e-mail address is . You can also contact him at Myspace at . Special thanks to Matt Nash.

Article posted on 19.06.2006

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