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Winky Wright

BY Rick Folstad ON March 28, 2002
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Here’s a little secret. The third guy holding one of the three major junior-middleweight titles goes by the nickname of “Winky.”

He’s 30, a southpaw, is the single parent of two kids and he lives in the quiet city of St. Petersburg, Florida, where people usually go to retire and fish, not defend titles.

His full name is Ronald “Winky” Wright and he’s the IBF junior-middleweight
champion, though most of the world hasn’t caught onto it yet. Most of the world knows the two guys holding the other titles - WBC champion Oscar De La Hoya and WBA champion Fernando Vargas.

De La Hoya and Vargas will meet on Sept. 14 at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las
Vegas to whittle down the number of junior-middleweight champions from three to two It’s a pay-per-view fight because the two names - De La Hoya and Vargas - are familiar to most of the people you see walking down the street.

This fight has drawn so much attention, they’ve already started settling burning issues weeks ahead of time so there won’t be too many problems or distractions when the fight gets close.

The latest agreement is that Vargas will be the first to enter the ring (usually done by the challenger) and De La Hoya will be the first one introduced (usually the challenger).

Egos are at stake here.

Here’s another little secret. De La Hoya and Vargas aren’t the only guys defending their junior-middleweight titles in September. A week before the Vargas-De La Hoya extravaganza, Winky (43-3) will be defending his title against Bronco McKart (45-3) on Sept. 7 at the Rose Garden in Portland on HBO.

The two have met twice before, Wright winning both fights by decision, one of them by split decision.

If Winky beats Bronco, he’d like a shot at unifying the title against the Vargas-De La Hoya winner. It would be the first time any of the three fighters held a unified title. In fact, it’s believed the junior-middleweight title has never had just one champion.

There’s a chance for something historical to happen here.

You’ve got to believe that if Winky had his choice, he’d like another crack at Vargas, who beat him in a controversial majority decision in 1999.

Besides, Vargas has already promised Winky a shot at unifying the title if both win in September.

“Bring a lunch and get in line, (Winky) is next,’’ Vargas said during a recent conference call, saying he’d fight Winky in a unification bout.

If De La Hoya wins, no one knows what will happen.
“Fernando is a man of his word and I respect that,’’ Wright said. “He has publicly stated on several occasions that he would give me a rematch if he beats Oscar.’’

Winky, whose three losses were all close decisions, could use a fight like that. He’s spent most of his career lost in the shadows just outside the spotlight.

He’s close to being a marquee name, but he hasn’t quite made it yet.

If he gets past Bronco and goes on to beat either De La Hoya or Vargas, most of the people walking down any street will suddenly know who Winky Wright is.

Imagine that. After 12 years as a pro, Winky would become an overnight sensation.

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