Friday, February 9, 2007


Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to have a boring night in Las Vegas. If you doubt that, ask those who were in the Mandalay Bay Events Center last night to witness the second Jermain Taylor versus Bernard Hopkins Middleweight Championship affair. Heck, for that matter, ask the ones who saw the first one last July across the street at the MGM Grand.

Everyone knows what happens in boxing when you match two counterpunchers together and give them something to fight for - a whole lot of nothing. The loudest cheer of the night from the crowd was when ring announcer Michael Buffer thankfully announced the beginning of the twelfth and final round.

The chatter now is all about Jermain Taylor and who he will face next now that he has rid himself of a rare Philadelphia albatross called Bernard Hopkins. Taylor’s future is one of promise and optimism. He’s described as the only professional sports franchise in Arkansas. Taylor is young, cleans up good, has a pretty wife and a new baby, looks as good in Armani as he does Everlast and says, "I’m taking on all comers. Just call me up baby! We’ll fight whoever".

The boxing intelligentsia – now there’s an oxymoron – is calling for Taylor to put his title belts on the line against Ronald "Winky" Wright. A former long reigning 154-pound champion, Wright had toiled away somewhere between anonymity and Luxembourg while he plied his trade in Europe for a number of years. When Winky finally got his chance against some well-known opposition he systematically dismantled Shane Mosley twice and exiled him from the 154-pound division. The spanking that Wright administered to Felix Trinidad earlier this year was so stinging that it forced Trinidad and his father/trainer to reconsider their employment in the fight game. Those two are now living out their golden years in Puerto Rico.

The general consensus by those that suffered through the viewing of both Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins fights is that youth was served and that Taylor has supplanted Hopkins. In the interests of the public good most generally agree and hope that there will not be a third fight. About a trilogy, HBO’s newest employee Max Kellerman summed it up best, "There is probably a public demand to never watch it again. These were awful fights."

All logic and sense would dictate that the fight for promoters to pursue is the champion Taylor against the top rated contender – in this case Winky Wright. However, this is boxing and this is no time to adopt logic and sensibility. A Taylor versus Wright match-up, in all likelihood, would be a fight as painful to the eyes and as challenging to sleeping pill sales as the twenty-four rounds of Taylor versus Hopkins ultimately proved to be. Wright has a conservative style with a tight defense and lukewarm punching power. Besides that he’s a lefty, and you know what Duke told Apollo Creed about Rocky Balboa in particular southpaws in general, "They’re all wrong."

From Taylor’s standpoint a fight against Winky Wright presents high risk with low reward. That Wright’s style and manner of fighting has never caused fight fans to jump from their seats in fits of passion should be enough to disqualify him from the Jermain Taylor sweepstakes straight away. Wright has a small, unidentifiable fan base and has never sold many tickets on his own as a headliner. As part of a boxing promotion he’s typically more hindrance than help. Winky Wright is a nice guy, but we all know where they usually finish. Incidentally, next up for Wright is a December 10th bout against the unknown but highly rated middleweight contender Sam "King" Soliman at the Mohegan Sun Casino.

In another marketing and promotional blunder characteristic of the manner in which Wright has usually been sold to the public: It’s a native Floridian against an Australian, in the cold Connecticut woods two weeks before Christmas. Who will have the time to attend or the money to buy a ticket at this time of the year?

Jermain Taylor is certainly obliged now to an easy homecoming title defense in his native Arkansas and no matter the opponent he’s guaranteed a standing room only crowd . The support for Taylor in Arkansas is at a furious boil everywhere from Hot Springs to Little Rock. Many say that Taylor has the potential to be a crossover sports star and that he has tremendous untapped Madison Avenue marketing promise. Winky Wright is certainly not a part of any career marketing plans that Taylor’s brain trust are now beginning to plot.

Emanuel Steward, the wise boxing sage from Detroit exasperatingly said it best about a potential Jermain Taylor versus Wright fight, "Winky Wright is going to be a very difficult fight. I mean even though that is the logical person I don’t really get too excited about the fight. I think it’s going to be another fight similar to what we saw tonight - a technical fight. When you have fights where if one person can just land one punch in that round he’ll probably win the round - those are not the type of fights that I like to watch".

Sounds like another boring night in Vegas.

December 2005

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