Winky Wright betthat he could dethrone Jermain Taylor with masterly defense, but the judgeswanted something more
When Winky Wrightis enveloped in his carapace of gloves and elbows, he is a virtuallyunassailable target. There's nothing to hit. This presents a problem for hisopponent, who can do little but bounce blows off Wright's shell. It alsopresents a problem for judges, who must decide whether to reward the obduracyof the opponent--a stubbornly offensive Jermain Taylor in this case--or thered-alert status of Wright's homeland security.
This dilemma hasresulted in several strange decisions during Wright's 17-year career, includinglast Saturday evening's, a draw that allowed Taylor to escape with all of hismiddleweight belts. Wright, whose defensive style (not to mention his southpawstance) has forced him into foreign exile for most of his career (during onesix-year span he had 20 fights in eight countries), is used to beingmisunderstood or at least unappreciated. But the scores, announced after apretty lively 12 rounds in Memphis's FedExForum, were too much for Wright thistime, and the former junior middleweight champ stormed petulantly from thering. "Another Vargas," he muttered, recalling a long-ago robbery inwhich the up-and-coming Fernando unfairly slithered by him.
This one was notso bad, not even a robbery, really. Wright's style forces everyone intouncomfortable choices. The first is whether to fight him at all, which justabout everybody chose not to do until he became unavoidable after back-to-backwins over Shane Mosley in 2004. Still, Taylor, a bronze medalist in the 2000Olympics, could have put this one off, having already beaten BernardHopkins--twice--in 2005 to take over the middleweight division. That's a goodenough year for most fighters. But the 27-year-old Taylor, eyeing a $3.75million payday and national stardom, picked out Wright.
The next decisionwas how to fight him. For that challenge the undefeated Taylor reached out toveteran trainer Emanuel Steward, a special-assignment guy who comes in to beefup offenses. But not even Steward, on short notice, could come up with a planto penetrate Wright's thicket of arms and elbows.
Wright's famousright jab seemed to be doing all the damage against Taylor, anyway, scouringhis left eye until it closed late in the fight. Taylor countered that Wrightlacked meaningful power and that "I always answered with a little somethingof my own." But his powerful flurries rarely got through, and the fightproceeded in a manner frustrating to Taylor's cause: one guy hammering awaywithout appreciable effect.
But that, finally,creates the most critical decision: Do the judges value the hammering or themasterly endurance of it? In this case they seemed to like the effort ofviolence. As Steward pointed out, Taylor "punches so hard, he was moving[Wright's] whole body." But is that how you win fights, producing secondaryeffects? Or is the Wright kind of fight simply so unfair--what can you do tothis guy?--that any measurable impact counts?
Wright may wellagain be sent packing into exile, because he has certainly become anunacceptable risk here. Would Taylor want a rematch? Lou DiBella, Taylor'spromoter, suggested they would fight "Clarabell the Clown" first andthat neither Hopkins nor Wright was eligible for consideration for a long time.He felt Taylor deserved somebody who could help showcase his power--"astraight-ahead kind of guy"--so he could finally get his due.
Even so, it willtake more than a few of those fights to restore Taylor's star power. He willalways have this pesky draw on his record. Then again, he fared better thanmost of the guys who've tried to make a living in the ring with Wright.
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