Winky Wright Bio - Biography

Name Winky Wright
Height 5' 10
Naionality American
Date of Birth 26 November 1971
Place of Birth Washington, District of Columbia, USA
Famous for
On July 30, 1992, Ronald Wright, an undefeated junior middleweight out of St. Petersburg, Florida, knocked out Carlos Santana in the second round of a scheduled eight-rounder in Tampa, Florida. For that, his sixteenth victory, he earned $800, which was $200 short of his largest purse. The ring announcer called him Winky Wright.

Five months and three days later, Wright knocked out Darryl Lattimore in one round in Differdange, Luxembourg. Little changed. Wright was still undefeated and underpaid. Sure, the language was different. The pay was in francs, but they still only added up to a couple of thousand dollars. And, the ring announcer called him Roland, a first name that would stick for the all-world junior middleweight champion's international period, a 5 1/2 year span of 20 fights in seven countries and three continents.

The bridge from Tampa to Europe for Wright was erected by Dan Birmingham. After moving to Florida in 1977 to operate a construction business, Birmingham opened his now famous gym in St. Petersburg, that has also produced Jeff Lacy, the IBF super middleweight champion. Wright walked into Birmingham's gym when he was 16, and he's never left.

After Wright had nocked out Santana for his 16th victory, Birmingham called Don King. He called Bob Arum. He called Lou Duva. He called every major player he could think of. He called all of them twice, some of them three and four times. Nobody called him back. Then he got lucky.

He called Art Mayorga who said he knew some people in France and would he and Winky consider talking with them. A few weeks later, Wright and Birmingham were on a plane to France to meet with the Acaries brothers. A deal was struck. For his European debut, Wright would exchange the warm climate of Florida for the cold wintery season of Luxembourg.

The first trip was a bitterly frigid nightmare. Birmingham and Wright flew to France, then rode a hard-benched train for six hours to Luxembourg. From there, it was another hour by car through the mountains in a snow storm to reach their lodgings in Differdange. Their rooms were inexpensive and spartan. That's where they spent Christmas and New Year's Eve. A few days before the Lattimore fight, Wright came down with the flu.

The late Arye Fain, who had signed on as Wright's agent, suggested a remembered remedy of honey and onions. "You take a whole cup of honey and a whole onion and you leave the onion in the hney for a whole day," said Birmingham. "An hour before the fight, you remove the onion and drink all the honey. I'll tell you, it really works. It only lasts for an hour or an hour and a half, but while it is working, it dries up and makes you feel great."

Wright dropped Lattimore three times, stopped him in the first round. It was better than onions and honey.

Still fighting six and eight-rounders, Wright went on a tear, ripping off eight straight victories in France, Germany and a sporting club in Monte Carlo, with a brief stop in Punta Gorda, Florida. He was undefeated in 25 fights. His highest purse had been $5,000. There still were no calls from King, Arum or Duva. Looking back, Wright has to laugh. "I was fighting in places I had never heard of, that I could not even pronounce."

Then the Acaries brothers offered him $50,000 to fight WBA super welterweight champion, Julio Cesar Vasquez in August 1994, in another place Wright could not pronounce, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, France. The undefeated Wright had yet to fight a main event, had not gone more than eight rounds, and that far only twice. Vasquez was 50-1 and had fought just five less championship rounds than Wright had fought in his whole career. "Where do we sign?" asked Wright.

"In France, they do not have screens for the windows," said Birmingham. "It was hot and the mosquitoes feasted on Winky. The food was bad, the training facility was terrible. I kept wondering what else could go wrong."

Vasquez knocked Winky down in the second, seventh, ninth and twice in the last round."The first three were slips," said Birmingham. "Winky was wearing new shoes and he was slipping all over the place." The first knockdown in the last round was legitimate," said Wright. "He caught me good. The last knockdown was a push; I was so tired my daughter could have pushed me down." Vasquez won by just three points on one card, by four one one, and by five on the third.

Undaunted, Wright went back into some of boxing's more unheralded trencvhes. All were victories, raising Wright's record to 34-1.

His 35th fight, against Andrew Council in Norfolk in March 1996, was on the USA Network Tuesday Night Fight series. Six months earlier, Council had gained prominence with a decisive victory over former WBC welterweight champion, Buddy McGirt. That was McGirt. This was Wright. Council had no chance. Wright barely broke a sweat as he swept all three cards in his second defense of the NABF super welterweight title. (His first two North American Boxing Federation championships happened in France. He took the title from Tony Marshall in February 1995 in Beziers, and he defended it against Anthony Ivory three months later in Levallois.)
The door that Wright had been banging on for so long, opened slightly for him after the Council fight. April 1996 found him in Monroe, Michigan, the hometown of newly crowned WBO junior middleweight champion, Bronco McKart, where he picked up $50,000 and McKart's title with a split decision in an ESPN Friday Night telecast. "Well, at least I could pronounce Monroe," Wright joked.

King, Arum and Duva still failed to return calls. The Acaries brothers switched Wright's base of operations to England, where he earned a small but welcomed fortune defending his WBO title against Ensley Bingham, Steve Foster, and Adrian Dodson. For the three fights, he received approxmately $300,000, which was about what most American champions were taking down as expense money.

With his contract with the Acaries running out, Wright agreed to defend his title against South African, Harry Simon for $300,000 in Hammanskraal, South Africa in August 1998.

"Do they have mosquitoes in South Africa?" Wright asked Birmingham.

"They have screens," responded the trainer.

"How do you pronounce this place?" asked Wright. "South Africa," said the trainer.

They both laughed.

Simon, a Nambian by birth, was 16 and 0. Wright was only Simon's second 10-round (plus) bout. In his first, he knocked out Kasi Kaihau in Sheffield, England.

When it was over, the three WBO judges decided that it was a majority draw, which mean that Wright had retained his title. A few minutes later, while Wright was unwrapping his hands in his dressing room, an official came in to tell him there had been an error in the scoring. He had lost by a majority decision. Boom! Then they released the new scoring. No one explained how there had to be at least a three-point swing in one of the judge's scoring to change the decision.

Wright's contract with the Acaries expired. Wright returned home to St. Petersburg. "We were not unhappy with the Acaries," Birmingham said. "Far from it. They did everything they said they would do and more. Winky was just tired of all the travel. They understood and wished us well. In fact, I speak with them even today."

Once resettled, Wright began Phase Three of his career, "Winky Does the United States." He opened by knocking out Derrick Graham in three in Miami in March 1999. In December of that year, he went toe to toe with "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas for the IBF junior middleweight title, only to be saddled with another controversial loss by majority decision. One judge scored it a draw, the other two leaned to Vargas, though the media and fans at ringside thought Winky had won.

"People keep waiting for me to go away. It ain't gonna happen", the undaunted Wright said. He then scored his second decision over McKart for the NABF and USBA titles. Three months later, he successfully defended his USBA title, this time against former world champion, Keith Mullings.

Felix Trinidad's move up to middleweight left an opening at the top of the IBF junior middleweight division. Wright stepped in and filled the void in October 2001 by scoring a unanimous decision over highly regarded, Robert Frazier.

In his first defense, Wright stopped Jason Papillion in the 5th round and he then turned to mandatory challenger, Bronco McKart for a second rematch, this one for the championship in September 2002. After referee, Michael Fischer had penalized McKart five points for low blows, he was disqualified in the 8th round.

After all the years of fighting in places like Lincoln City, Nebraska and Beziers, France, the lights of Las Vegas finally blinked welcome to Winky Wright. In his Las Vegas debut, he was a little tight in scoring a decision over Juan Carlos Candelo in March 2003.

His fight against Angel Hernandez in Vegas eight months later, was a blowout: 119-109, 118-110, 117-111, in favour of Wright.

Then to Wright's astonishment and delight, up stepped Shane Mosley who owned two victories over Oscar De La Hoya, but was having trouble nailing down a big money fight. With a $10 million dollar fight with Trinidad in the wings, Mosley offered a junior middleweight unification fight to Wright. Mosley did not want another fight with De La Hoya.

Using a jab honed in far away places, Wright stayed on top of the bemused champion all night, never allowing him to use his speed. Mosley rallied in a furious final three-minute burst, but it was too little, too late against a guy who had found the brass ring and was not going to let go. Winning on all three scorecards, Wright became the division's first undisputed champion in 29 years, and the first man to ever hold all three major belts simultaneously.

"I've chased the big guys my whole career. Shane is the only one who would step up. We will do this again," Wright said. "Just show me the money." They showed him $1.6 million and he said "yes". They did it again in November 2004. It was a better fight, with Mosley spurred by the memory of his first loss. As in many of the really good fights, the last round, one that truly ebbed and flowed, decided it. One judge called it a draw and two others scored it for Wright.

Winky moved up to middleweight and challenged WBC/WBA No.1 middleweight contender Felix Trinidad, a world champion in three different weight divisions, May 14, 2005. The pay-per-view fight, proved to be Winky's best yet. Most ringside media, and one judge, had Winky winning all 12 rounds, while the two remaining judges gave Winky 11 of the 12 -- perhaps the most dominating performance by a fighter ever.

Winky, already the WBC and WBA No. 1 middleweight contender, followed that victory with a thrilling 12-round unanimous decision over Sam Soliman, the IBF’s top-rated middleweight contender, in December 10, 2005, further solidifying his mandatory challenger status to the middleweight title as the undisputed No. 1 contender.

In June 2006, Wright fought Jermain Taylor in a middleweight championship bout that was declared a draw.

Most recently in December 2006, Winky Wright won a unanimous 12-round decision against former world champion, Ike Quartey.

Winky Wright Photos