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Wright and Taylor Fight to Draw

by Ryan Songalia - 6/18/06

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. Taylor, a Little Rock native, retained the middleweight title he had won from Bernard Hopkins last year, but sustained the first blemish on his previously perfect record. Wright, from St. Petersburg, FL, fought well enough to prompt another title shot. Taylor's record moved to 25-0-1 (17 KO), while Wright is now 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. Taylor won the undisputed middleweight championship last summer via a controversial split decision against Hopkins, the long-time middleweight champ. Despite repeating the effort later that year by more convincing margins, many fans remained skeptical due to the age difference between fighters as well some what some called questionable judging. Wright faced journeyman Sam Soliman in his last assignment, a WBC title eliminator. Despite having dominated future Hall of Famers Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad in the last two years, Wright struggled to win a flat unanimous decision and appeared surprisingly vulnerable.

Seeking to prove themselves to the masses, as well as add great credentials to their resumes, Wright and Taylor met for the undisputed title. Taylor, fighting for the first time under the guidance of the legend Emanuel Steward, weighed in at the limit of 160 pounds but put on 10 pounds overnight to fight at 170. Wright, who tipped the scales a pound under the limit at 159, gained seven pounds since the weigh-in to move to 166. The weight difference was apparent during the bout.

Both fighters set a quick pace in the first round, apparently unaware that they're allowed to feel each other out. Taylor came 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, right down the middle, halfway through the round. That right momentarily stunned Wright and might have been enough give him an otherwise close round.

Wright came back in the second round, and save an early right-hand flurry, 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, and for the first time effectively used his jab to set up combinations to the head and body. But Wright remained steadfast and aggressive, and continued to remain accurate his punches.

The fourth round began where the third left off - with Taylor coming forward aggressively and throwing power shots. Some of them actually made it through Wright's defensive fortress. While effective when active, Taylor would get caught after his throws because he would relax as Wright retaliated with combinations of his own. In the last minute of the round, Wright pinned Taylor in the corner and landed punches. But Taylor came back and was able to reverse the momentum of the round with hard body shots. Fighting in the posture that had been so effective during the bout, Wright trapped Taylor in the corner and landed combinations. Those combos scored favorably with the judges in a round in which, according to Compubox statistics, he tripled Taylor's connections. 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 down the smaller Wright.

Having weathered the storm of the previous 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 Taylor, however with less authority in his punches. That pattern would persist throughout the remainder of 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 him 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 head butt 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, 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 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, 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, trying not to make a mistake. It was a tentative round, which seemed to be antithetical to the pattern of the bout up to that point. In the last minute, 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 gave it to Wright by the same tally, and the third 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 weaker 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. While Taylor seemed to land with bigger thunder, Wright was the aggressor for the majority of the bout and was more accurate than the champion, who is seven years his junior.

Taylor was impressive in the match as he showed composure and poise dealing with a very difficult fighter. Unlike Mosley and Trinidad before him, he never seemed discouraged and continued to follow the same game plan that was so effective early in the bout. 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 Hopkins. He still needs to work on some of his technical deficiencies, such as holding his hands higher and his balance, but overall he gave a very good accounting of himself against one of the pound-for-pound elites.

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