by Cliff Rold
The idea of four fights can be better executed on paper than in the ring. Even if all of the fights go the distance, there can be enough action to make it worth the marathon. Saturday night on Showtime, we got four distance contests that occasionally brought about the question:
“They passed up Carl Froch-Lucian Bute for this?”
Most of those occasions occurred during Austin Trout-Delvin Rodriguez. The rest of the night had its moments, as did an extra full fifth fight on Showtime Extreme. All of the contests affected the BoxingScene Divisional ratings, on resulting in the announced retirement of one of the better fighters of the last twenty years.
Let’s go to the report cards.
Pre-Fight: Speed – Antonio Tarver B; Lateef Kayode B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Power – Tarver B+; Kayode B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Tarver B; Kayode C+/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Tarver B+; Kayode B/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Speed – Trout B+; Rodriguez A-/Post: A-; B+
Pre-Fight: Power – Trout B; Rodriguez B/Post: Same
Pre-Fight: Defense – Trout B; Rodriguez B/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Trout B; Rodriguez A-/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Speed – Peter Quillin B+; Winky Wright B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Quillin B+; Wright B-/Post: A-; B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Quillin B; Wright A/Post: B; B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Quillin B; Wright A/Post: B+; B+
Pre-Fight: Speed – Leo Santa Cruz B+; Vusi Malinga B+/Post: B+; B
Pre-Fight: Power – Santa Cruz B; Malinga B/Post: B-; B-
Pre-Fight: Defense – Santa Cruz B+; Malinga B/Post: A-; B-
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Santa Cruz B+; Malinga B-/Post: A; B
The ratings update below will address three of the four contests graded above. For now, the focus is on the man who suffered what appears his final defeat.
Ronald “Winky” Wright hadn’t been seen in a ring for over three years before Saturday’s contest with Peter Quillin. Who knows what makes a 40-something former elite fighter feel the need to shake off the doldrums of inactivity, but clearly there was an itch needed scratching.
Wright announced via Twitter on Sunday that the itch was satisfied. He went out like a champion.
Wright wasn’t always the most exciting fighter, but he had an admirable career and is likely to end up in the Hall of Fame five years from now. He showed some of why against Quillin. Despite clear rust and a lack of prime handspeed, he used his southpaw jab to solid affect in spots and tried to fire back as hard as he could.
Quillin was ultimately too young, too quick, and too hungry and this stage. He scored a rare knockdown of Wright in the fifth, a feat some will ignore because of Wright’s depleted state but one worth noting. It was the first time in memory Wright had been dropped since 1994.
In 1994 it happened five times in the same fight. Challenging for his first title, Wright was dropped five times by Julio Cesar Vazquez and still managed to be within three and four points on the final cards. It takes moxy to get up more than once. It takes talent to be within shooting distance of the win in a five knockdown affair. Wright showed the internal stuff he’d need in the years ahead.
Over the ensuing years, he would win and lose the WBO belt at 154 and go on to unify the IBF, WBC, and WBA titles. He is the only man to do so and, along with Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, and Joe Calzaghe, the only fighter to have won all four major sanctioning bodies in a single weight class in his career. Competitive losses to Harry Simon and Hopkins, a draw with Taylor, and a debated loss to a young Fernando Vargas combine with a trilogy of wins over Bronco McKart, two wins over Shane Mosley, and drubbings of Ike Quartey and Felix Trinidad to fill out a strong resume.
On Saturday, he was hurt bad and dropped against Quillin. He survived only to be hurt again later in the fight. Both times, he fought back. Both times, he remained trying to win. His defensive abilities and lack of knockout power over the years weren’t everyone’s cup of tea but those final gut checks with Quillin were a powerful reminder.
Wright was a fighter.
He’s earned his peace in the next part of life beyond the ring and is wished well.
Report Card Picks 2012: 29-6
Cruiserweight: Tarver maintains his place in the ratings and was seen as the winner on this card by the narrowest of margins. Kayode, who could easily have been seen as the victor as well, moves into the top ten and displaces Rakhim Chakhiev for now.
Middleweight: Quillin moves up a couple slots but may be stuck in the middle. The men ahead of him represent some serious Middleweight talent and Wright exposed enough flaws to make one wonder if the awkward Quillin may have hit his ceiling. This much is certain: Quillin has fast enough hands and enough pop to make a tough go for anyone. He’ll have his chances to prove his mettle with the best down the line.
Jr. Middleweight: Trout-Rodriguez was a dull fight, confirming the ratings both men previously held and giving little cause to move either. Rodriguez was disappointing in that this was likely his last big shot and he never really seemed to let loose. Trout made some sharp adjustments after getting nailed with some rights in the second, even if the punch created problems late. The necessary removal of Paul Williams allows Trout to move a spot. Entering between he and Rodriguez is the streaking Gabriel Rosado, successful in stopping Sechew Powell.
Bantamweight: Santa Cruz moves up a couple slots and picks up his first belt. It was a fine performance, a model of volume punching and sharp defense as he made Malinga miss heavily. Winning a belt is fine, but let’s take the win for what it was. Malinga is fringe at best in the still crowded Bantamweight top ten and, in a world with fewer belts, was really just a solid stepping-stone win. Santa Cruz showed enough to whet the appetite for more, but still has some more scalps to claim before ‘champion’ is a real moniker. He’s well on his way.
The full ratings update is a click away.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Yahoo Pound for Pound voting panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]