Another over-looked, under-rated fighter stole the spotlight this year and cemented his place among the boxing elite. In front of a stunned crowd at the MGM Grand, Ronald "Winky" Wright made a legend of our time look foolish.
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Scored 120-107 and 119-108 twice (deduction for punching low) by the 3 veteran judges, (2 of whom were generous to Felix Trinidad) it was nothing short of a clinic by Wright. Frustrating Tito with the jab all night, Winky blocked everything thrown when necessary and came back with shots from every angle. Compounding the technical brilliance of Wright's performance were his focus, patience, and almost disrespectful calm in taking Trinidad to school. It was clear from the early stages of round one that Tito was going to be in trouble unless he made adjustments. Whether he didn't or just couldn't, will be debated as will the future in store for Winky Wright.
Here are the top ten reasons that fight unfolded as it did:
10.) Tito was looking past Winky. This was supposed to be a showcase (albeit a tough one) for Trinidad who would be in line for a big payday title shot: whether against Jermain Taylor or a big money re-match with Bernard Hopkins. Maybe the training suffered, maybe the focus wasn't there. It will be the last time Wright is under-estimated.
9.) Felix Trinidad took too big a step up after such a lengthy layoff. This is an especially valid point if you believe Ricardo Mayorga while tough, was easy to hit and too small, slow and predictable to ever be a threat to Felix and was chosen for exactly those reasons.
8.) Winky Wright, along with James Toney, Floyd Mayweather and Antonio Margarito (sometimes the best defense is a good offense) has the best defense in boxing. Trinidad landed nothing and after 2 rounds and Winky knew he could easily smother any of the few bombs that Felix bothered to phone in.
7.) Felix threw no body shots. Of the few areas Felix showed even a little success was with the odd body shot he threw...those above the foul line anyway. Rather than follow-up or even bother with including a body attack in the arsenal, Tito dispensed with it and continued the head hunting.
6.) No lead right hand. The other possibility that seemed to exist for Tito to best Wright's defense was to throw the lead right hand. While an unorthodox and risky move generally, Winky was eating up everything from the left side, always looking to throw the right jab and spread his gloves slightly as he poised to throw.
5.) No early counter punching. It was pretty obvious from the first few rounds that Winky had the quick hands and Tito's typical offensive style was going to be ineffective. There seemed to be a counter-punching opportunity that Felix might have explored...taking two to give one would have at least made Winky a little more cautious.
4.) Winky showed supreme conditioning, preparation and confidence. The underdog in this one seemed to know something the rest of us questioned. Wright never showed the slightest nerves or intimidation and owned this fight from the locker room to the press room.
3.) Felix Trinidad needs to hold a staff meeting. Everyone who watched the fight saw from the first few exchanges, that Tito's usual one-trick-pony approach was about to be frustrated. For some reason his corner either missed it or declared a mutiny against their man. You decide which is worse. All twelve rounds were almost identical as absolutely no adjustments were made to the Trinidad offense...that's the fault of the whole team, not just the fighter.
2.) Tito ain't bigger. The prediction of a Trinidad win seemed to hinge largely on the belief that Felix was just bigger and hit too hard...sooner or later he would tag Wright with something heavy and that would be that. Well, not only did Felix not land anything hard, he didn't land anything... and even if he had, Wright seemed to have the size and conditioning to take it and answer back. Wright weighed more at the bell and made the middleweight plot thicken.
1.) Winky Wright is great. Just in case any of the above was mistaken for excuses, his performance was equal in shock value to Leonard-Norris, Leonard-Duran 2 and maybe even Mayweather-Corrales.
The corner Wright has painted himself into is a difficult one to escape but one he is surely familiar with by now. He was so dominant that the fight was boring: two big reasons for opponents and promoters to look the other way. He will never again be under-estimated, but in this case that might be a bad thing. It may mean continued and even increased difficulty in enticing opponents.
However, there is another middleweight out there with exactly the same problem. A fighter who has, throughout his career, had difficulty securing fights yet still rose to the heights of the sport and now deserves some spotlight. His name is Kingsley Ikeke.
At 6’4” Ikeke is a tall and lanky. As one would expect he has a great jab that he lives behind. One of the Canadian’s biggest weapons also inspired his nickname. They do not call him “Sharp Knuckle” for no reason. Possessed of massive and pointed fists, opponents are often cut and in spite of the padding his shots are very painful.
Fortunately for Winky, he has an almost impregnable defense. That being said, offence is required in order to win a fight and the jab that Wright stuck in Tito’s face all night long would not be as effective against Ikeke who is smart enough to fight tall. He also demonstrated the ability to mix up the arsenal as he dismantled Antwun Echols in a decidedly lopsided beating. A clash between these two has the potential to be boring, but also to be a scintillating chess match from which the winner would be in prime position to challenge for the middleweight crown.
Felix, in the opinion of many observers is deserving of a return to the big show as well and may present an interesting option for Wright. No, not that Felix, the other one. Felix Sturm of Germany came out of thin air to give Oscar all he could handle and maybe more. In dropping a controversial decision to De la Hoya on the same card as Hopkins-Allen, Sturm gave a very good accounting of himself. He showed poise and a stiff, accurate and relentless jab behind a bomb-shelter defense. Whether Oscar was given a gift that night because of the looming showdown with Bernard Hopkins is open for discussion but whether Sturm showed top-flight skills is not. A performance like that deserves an encore but he has had difficulty getting big fights this side of the Atlantic.
Between Ikeke and Sturm, Sturm is the more marketable fighter. The close decision against the biggest name in the sport coupled with his matinee idol looks make him a more interesting opponent against Wright, at least to the casual fan. He is young, hungry, tough and deserving of another shot at the big time.
Do either of these guys have what it takes against a supreme fighter like Wright? A good blueprint for analysis is the list above. Neither Sturm nor Ikeke would get as mired in a ineffective attack as Tito did, but theorizing about how to beat a man is not the same as doing it. Let’s hope Winky gives one of them the opportunity to try.
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