July 28, 2001 – Exclusive interview by Paul Upham: Ronald Wright, the IBF’s No.1 contender, gets another chance at the IBF junior middleweight title on September 28. “Winky” (pictured right) faces IBF No.2 Robert Frazier on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights.
They square off for the title vacated by Felix Trinidad when “Tito” moved to middleweight, and Wright wants to use this opportunity and title to get the big fights that have thus far eluded him – including a big money match with Oscar De La Hoya.
Wright, 41-3 (24), is a slick southpaw from Florida and has had his fair share of bad decisions and missed opportunities over the last few years. But with all the big names converging at 154lbs, now is the perfect time for Ronald “Winky” Wright to make his mark on the sport.
“It’s going to be real nice. I’ll win the IBF title and then just look good defending it. Then HBO or whoever are going to have to come and give me a deal. If I have got one of the titles, they got De La Hoya and Vargas and they are going to want to see them fight somebody so it is time to get into the ring with me,” said Wright.
“I can get some good fights. Finally, everybody can stop running. I can get good big name fights, because in the past, nobody wanted to fight me. I will have a title and hopefully HBO will make them fight me. Everyone can’t fight De La Hoya, so if they want to get their name out there, they will have to come and fight Winky Wright. Then hopefully the fans will say we want to see Winky Wright and De La Hoya.”
On December 4, 1999 Wright fought a close 12 round title fight with then IBF champion Fernando Vargas. The judge’s scores read 115-113 and 116-112 for Vargas and 114-114 in a fight Wright and many other people thought he had won.
“It upset me then, but I realise there’s no point thinking about it. Everyone knows I won that fight. It messed me up financially with money. I could have been making a lot of money if I still had the title. Other than that, everyone knows I won the fight. Everywhere I go people are saying, ‘hey, you beat Vargas and they cheated you’. I know I won and they know I won. They just held me back making a lot of money,” said Wright.
“I watched it one time on tape. When I went into that fight, my left hand was injured, so I couldn’t really do as much as I wanted to. If you watch the fight, you will see me mainly throwing a lot of right hands. I did great going in there with one hand and doing the business. I beat him at his own fight. I could have easily outboxed him but they would have said I was running. I decided to beat him at his own fight. I dictated the fight at his game plan. Coming forward and seeing who could stand there and take the harder punches. He never hurt me in that fight.”
In 1993, Wright was promoted by the Acaries brothers and fought almost exclusively in Europe for the next six years.
“They did a great job as far as getting me world exposure overseas,” said Wright.
“It was a good experience, facing class fighters in their home country. A lot of fighters get used to fighting only in their home towns or city. I was going over to other fighter’s countries and winning. It let me know that if you fight a good fight, the fans appreciate it no matter who they are really cheering for. If you do good, they appreciate it.”
His time fighting in Europe included a shot at WBA junior middleweight champion Julio Cesar Vasquez in August 1994, where he lost a 12 round points decision.
“That loss really shouldn’t have been a loss. I should have been champion. It was just little things that happened to me in that fight. A lot of slips that they called knockdowns that cost me points. That fight showed me that I could be world champion,” said Wright.
After winning the WBO junior middleweight title in May 1996 with a 12 round points win over champion Bronco McKart, Wright made three successful defences of the title before losing it in controversial circumstances to Harry Simon in South Africa in August 1998. The fight result was originally announced as a draw, only to be corrected a short time later with the cards reading 117-113, 115-113 and 114-114 for Simon.
“I thought I won that fight. Harry Simon put up a good fight. He threw a lot of punches and that’s what I thought Harry Simon did. He came in great shape. I didn’t think the atmosphere down there would bother me, but it did. The altitude, it caught me in the middle of the fight. Later on I seemed to get used to it and I thought I won the fight,” said Wright.
“The way they took that fight was what I did not like. They called the fight a draw and then after I go to my dressing room, then they find a mistake. How are you going to find a mistake after 10 minutes? I walk around, take pictures and then go back to my dressing room and change, then you find the decision all of a sudden and take my title like that? I did not like it and the WBO upheld that, so I do not think I ever want to fight for the WBO again.”
“That was a bad loss because of the way they took it. I don’t mind if I lose a fight that’s boxing. Every man is going to lose a fight in their career, that’s part of boxing. You win and you lose, but the champions come back. I don’t mind losing, but don’t take it from me. Let me lose my title in the ring. Don’t take it from me because I haven’t got the TV network behind me like Vargas or I am in another country and you want to give him the benefit of the doubt. We are fighting for our lives right here. If we win the fight, give us the fight.”
Although he has had plenty of disappointments in his career, Wright feels that he is a better fighter as he has not been given the easy tasks.
“I wasn’t the type of fighter that had the big promoter to hide me and give me the easy fights. I had to go fight everybody. I feel that I am a better for that. I went and fought everybody and went and did what I had to do.”
Wright grew up in Washington DC and was very athletic in high school, “I always wanted to box, but I was playing others sports. I was good at baseball and basketball so I was playing those sports.”
At 16 he moved to Florida and decided to go to train a local boxing club to keep busy.
“I used to love watching Pernell Whitaker and Sugar Ray Leonard. That’s the style I loved. I wanted to be a real slick boxer with skills that can move around and stay in there and make you miss with great defence. I idolised that. That’s why I worked on my defence so much.”
Promoted by Top Rank, Wright is now managed by James Prince, someone who he feels can really help him with his boxing career and his business career after he finally retires from the sport one day.
“He got in touch with me and we talked and met each other. He can help us to be successful in and out of the ring. He’s got his own money so he ain’t going to settle for anything less for his own fighters. Finally I have got someone in there fighting to get you a lot of money.”
Wright has not seen much of Robert Frazier who he will be facing in the ring on September 28 at a venue to be confirmed.
“I’ve only seen him one time on tape so far and he seems to be a good boxer. We are just going to prepare for him and do our thing,” said Wright, who has been getting into a routine of setting up training camp in Florida. “The weather is nice and it is a good place to train. I always train at home.”
With Fernando Vargas facing Jose Flores for the vacant WBA junior middleweight title on September 22, the division will soon have three new champions after Oscar De La Hoya’s defeat of Javier Castillejo in June for the WBC title.
Wright says that Jose Flores is another boxer who didn’t want to fight him.
“He didn’t want to fight me either. I was going to fight him a while back for the NABF title and he turned the fight down, then I went on and won the NABF title against Andrew Council. I’ve seen him fight. He’s a good fighter, but still no one that can beat me,” said Wright, who is unsure how Flores will handle facing Vargas in a real fight.
“They have been sparring partners and they have known each other for a long time. If Flores doesn’t fall into the sparring partner syndrome of not trying to win, he should do good. But if he falls into that syndrome, then Vargas is going to win.”
Vargas unimpressive return in May against Wilfredo Rivera makes Wright think that Felix Trinidad’s win put a tremendous physical strain on him.
“Vargas looks like he was slipping a bit in his last fight. It shouldn’t have played on his mental aspect, but it did. He just don’t look the same. Trinidad beat him down. They fought a good fight. Vargas gave a good fight, but he just got worn down until finally Trinidad knocked him out.”
With a five year-old son and eight year-old daughter, 29 year-old Winky Wright can now see the opportunity to really set up his family for life.
“I can set my kids up and they don’t have to worry about nothing.”
Have we seen the best of Winky Wright yet?
“No, not at all. They haven’t seen the best of me because I haven’t had the chance to let them see the best of them. I haven’t had the opportunity. They haven’t given me the opportunity so I can fight these big name fighters. Give me the chance to fight these big name fighters so I can bring in other people to do different things, like hiring a nutritionist. Do all the things that these big million dollar fighters are getting. When you are fighting for only a little bit of money, you can’t go out and hire all these other people to help you,” said Wright.
“I want to fight Oscar De La Hoya because I have already beaten Vargas. I will fight Vargas and everyone wants to see it and I definitely want to fight him, but I don’t think he wants to fight me. I want to fight De La Hoya and I wanted to fight Trinidad. I hate the fact that Trinidad moved up to middleweight. He is a great fighter and I want a chance to fight the great fighters so I can go down in history saying I fought and beat the great fighters. Everybody keeps running and it is hard. I want to fight the best so I can say I am the best.”
“First I am going to concentrate on getting the title. When I get the title I am going to call them all out, De La Hoya, Trinidad, Vargas, Mosley. Whoever wants to step up, I’ll fight any of them.”
Seen as an awkward boxer and a tough fight, having boxers avoid him has good and bad points to it says Wright.
“It makes me feel good and bad. It’s good because I know that they are scared to fight me because they know there is a chance they could lose. But then it is bad because I can’t get the opportunity to make the big money or be on TV. It’s hard to find fights,” said Wright.
“You have to say I am one of the best fighters out there, because I have been on top for so long. Even though I had all the bad decisions and I have had a lot of bad things happen to me, I always come back to number one. Those big names won’t fight me until I am the No.1 contender. You don’t hear no one calling out after they win the fight, ‘I’m going to fight Winky Wright’ or ‘I want Winky Wright’.”
If he wins the IBF title in September, Wright has two goals for the future. The first is to take the title back to England, and defend it in front of the fans who have supported him in the past.
“I want to say hello to all the fans overseas, especially England. They were great fans and they supported me against their fighters. They accept that a good fighter is a good fighter. I want to say, what’s up, to all those English fans. One day when I get the title, I’m going to go back over there and defend it,” said Wright, whose other goal is to fight the best he can and the big money fights will finally come to him.
“The big names can call out who they want and they can try to run. But the fans will dictate who they want to see. If I win my fights and look good and get my name out there calling them out on TV, then they will have to fight me.”