Fernando Vargas vs. Ronald Wright

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1999-12-04 : Ronald Wright 154 lbs lost to Fernando Vargas 154 lbs by MD in round 12 of 12


  • Both boxers weighed 154 pounds at the official weigh-in. On the night of the fight, Vargas weighed 160 and Wright was 164.
  • According to CompuBox, Vargas landed 266 of 770 total punches (35 percent) and 244 of 623 power punches (39 percent). Wright connected on 229 of 672 total punches (34 percent) and 131 of 353 power punches (37 percent).
  • Harold Lederman, HBO's unofficial judge, scored the fight 115-113 for Wright.

By Chris Bushnell | BoxingChronicle.com

Fernando Vargas hardly seemed upset about breaking his 17 fight kayo streak against tougher than expected Winky Wright, but only because that was the only streak that came to a halt. After 12 rounds of toe to toe action, Vargas was relieved to have retained his title in a fight that Boxing Chronicle.com, and many ringside observers, felt was won by the challenger.

It wasn't supposed to be this difficult. Left handed Winky Wright was expected to box and move, a style that had led him to 39 victories in 41 contests. But instead of playing it cute, Winky instead came to fight. Although he lost the first round to the champion, it was clear in that opening stanza that Wright had come prepared.

Indeed there were fireworks only moments after the opening bell, as the fighters quickly found range and fired combinations in turn. Wright began most of the exchanges with a quick snapping jab and a dipping left hand. Vargas relished his counterpunching opportunities, busting his opponent to the ribs and head with the excellent leverage. Vargas' blows landed harder, and a bit more often, but one thing was clear: both men were prepared to test and be tested. It was already a war of attrition.

Winky stepped up the tempo in the next round, adding a sneaky right hook to his arsenal, and making sure to pay back Vargas for every counter he landed. Although Vargas was clearly the heavier puncher, his blows lacked the snap that Wright was demonstrating. As Vargas would club to the body and then look for a straight right down the pike, he often found his weapons muted by the tight defense of Wright, who didn't dare to drop his hands.

There was little letup in the third round, as both men set a furious pace in center ring. Toe to toe, neither would give an inch, matching blow for blow, combination for combination. Yet despite giving up the advantage in power, Wright was winning points, never failing to answer back. He began and ended most of the exchanges, making Vargas' task doubly difficult. And although his corner would have preferred to see him use his legs to create angles, Wright instead used them to pursue the champion, who was already breathing hard through an open mouth.

Needing to slow things down, Vargas banked valuable body work in the fourth frame. The problems normally encountered while trying to land flush body blows to a southpaw were eliminated with Wright's aggressive gameplan, and Vargas was landing jabs, hooks and uppercuts to Wright's midsection with frequency. Hanging in, Wright kept it close by continuing to punch in yet another very even round.

But in the fifth round, Ronald Wright started to put it all together. Rediscovering his jab, he pumped it repeatedly into the lazy guard of the champion. Vargas, unable to plant himself for his return, frequently moved side to side, only to find Wright right on top of him, shadowing his every step. Wright may not have hands of stone, but his relentless pursuit and high output were dictating the pace, and banking rounds.

Wright took the fifth, stole the sixth on output, took a short break to begin the seventh, but then cam back to win the eighth and ninth all with the same m.o.: fluid punching and unceasing pursuit. This strategy paid dividends, nullifying many of Vargas' best moments over time. In many of these rounds, Vargas would start quick, punishing Wright for the first 30 seconds of the round only to then yield to fighting in spurts. As Wright's attack maintained a steady course throughout, he earned rounds by fighting the full three minutes, backing up Vargas (who looked for even 2 consecutive seconds to gather himself), and punching punching punching. Make no mistake, this was a fight without lulls, and it was the challenger who made it this way.

Although Wright was outperforming expectations, Vargas was not fighting without merit. He showed excellent improvement on the left hand, firing potent hooks to both the head and the body, and sampling a left uppercut that actually pierced Wright's defense. Countering beautifully at times, Vargas was doing a million things right. He just had the misfortune of doing them between bookends of Wright combinations.

Winky punctuated the ninth round by knocking out Vargas' mouthpiece and then pumping a wonderful right jab into his face for good measure. Tiring and appearing to be trailing, the final rounds became do-or-die contests with little room for error. As Roger Bloodworth asked Vargas for a gut check, he answered with a determined finish that showed the young champion's considerable will-power.

Needing badly to turn things around, Fernando Vargas put the hurt down in round ten. Charging at Wright like a bull, Vargas punished him with laser guided right hands and wrecking ball body shots on both sides. Committing every ounce of himself to 99 seperate punches, Vargas punished Wright and for the first time the challenger stopped throwing back. For the last half of the round, Wright pinned his elbows to his sides and waited anxiously for a bell that seemed to never come. It was a crucial round for Vargas, whose exhaustion melted under sheer determination.

Wright finally became convinced that he should indeed move a bit, and in the eleventh round stemmed Vargas' attack by tightly spinning left and then right, never allowing Vargas to square up and get off. As Wright showed some of the crafty boxing he had built his reputation on, the two men were forced to watch each other through four swollen eyes.

In the crucial final round of a fight that was too close to call, Vargas again stormed out and took the fight to Wright. This time it was Vargas who dictated the pace and Wright who was in retreat, as Fernando pushed a number of right hands into Wright's bruised face. Stopping only to slip on an advertisement painted on the canvas, Vargas would not relent. Leaving this strong final impression with the judges, as it so often does, paid dividends for Vargas when it came time to finally read the scores:

114-114 and then 115-113 and 116-112 for the winner by majority decision......Fernando Vargas. (Boxing Chronicle scored the fight 115-113 in favor of Winky Wright).

Let's make no mistake. This was a close fight. A very close fight. And while Wright captured this publication's scorecard, and those of many observers, this was in no way a robbery. While Wright had outhustled Vargas in many rounds, and controlled the pace in many others, clearly Vargas had landed the harder more damaging blows for most of the fight. If the bout were scored on expectations, then Wright swept the contest. But instead the contest is scored on punches, and there were enough to score this fight either way.

Now lined up to face Ike Quartey in April, Vargas (18-0/17) was quick to disclose that personal family problems had disrupted his training and resulted in a sub par performance. While he wouldn't go into specifics, Vargas indicated that his distractions were unrelated to a scuffle that has left him with a large baseball-bat shaped scar across his back and pending felony charges that threaten his entire career. Certainly this was not a peak level performance by the 21 year old world champion, however it was not a poor outing, either. Showing true grit and good conditioning in his first 12 round decision, the newly bald Vargas can only learn from this fight. Paired next with a conventional fighter with a taste for power, Vargas should look better next time out.

Winky Wright was beside himself. Having ditched his normal boxing style for a more aggressive, and effective, gameplan, Wright obviously felt that he had won the fight. Certainly he had kept nearly every round close, and looked to sweep a majority of the middle rounds. Feeling that he could not win a decision over Vargas, Wright (now 39-3/24) did not seem particularly shocked by the verdict, despite his protestations to the outcome. Having raised his profile on HBO with a gutsy, crowd pleasing display, perhaps Wright will again find himself in the title picture with David Reid, or Vargas again down the line. [1]