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Fight Reports
CBZ Staff

December 5, 1999

by Chris Bushnell (

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, 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.

On the undercard, an out of shape but determined Diego Corrales made the first defense of the IBF 130 lb. title he acquired only six weeks ago in a thrilling come from behind knockout over Roberto Garcia. Needing three attempts to scale 130, and gaining 18 pounds between weigh-in and fight time, Corrales had every reason to be worried going into the ring with rugged John Brown.

Luckily, the 6’ tall Corrales dwarfed the 5’4" Brown and was able to use his reach to keep Brown at bay for the entire bout. Firing rapid jabs and left hooks off the jabs, Corrales peppered Brown every time he tried to get close, which is to say that he peppered him constantly. Forced to charge the champion, Brown’s overhand right looked like a windmill punch and he strained to reach the champion’s lofty chin. Brown was staggered across the ring on his heels after a Corrales right hand banged straight into his mouth during a third round exchange. Brown recovered only to have Corrales damage both his hands on Brown’s head for the remainder of the bout. So powerful is the tall champion, that for much of the second half it was Brown who clung onto Corrales’ midsection when he finally got inside. Diego threw and landed everything but the kitchen sink to last the distance and hear a wide decision of 117-111, 116-112 (twice). Corrales improved to 30-0/24 while Brown falls to 20-7/10.

.....Chris Bushnell

Corrales beats Brown, Vargas in a close one

By BoxingRules

I am glad to see Oregon is finally being put on the boxing map. As someone who has lived there all of his life, in my three years of boxing loyalty I have not once seen a fight televised from the Beaver State. Last month, John John Molina & Jorge Luis Gonzalez won matches in the Rose Garden in Portland. Tonight, it was Lincoln City where Diego "Chico" Corrales and "Ferocious" Fernando Vargas stole the spotlight.

The deprived crowd in the Chinook Winds Casino caught a glimpse of HBO's Boxing After Dark program for themselves. Unfortunately, I was not among those people... but I digress. Now on to the fights themselves.

Corrales started the show, as six weeks prior he had decimated Oxnard, California's Roberto Garcia to take the IBF Jr Lightweight strap, tonight he fought a pugnacious John Brown who was spotted 8˝ inches in height looked almost miniature compared to the lanky 6'0" Corrales.

The fact that he was under-conditioned and graced an injured right hand into the fight did not slow down Corrales. After a slow first round, he easily began to catch on and pinpoint shots at Brown. Brown was wobbled badly in the 3rd round, enough to cause Merchant and perhaps some other viewers to score the round 10-8.

The HBO Commentator's Team, only two because Roy Jones reportedly could not make it to Lincoln City due to bad weather in Portland (actually, I live in Portland and there wasn't a drop of rain this evening), was surprised of the power that Corrales maintained by viewing his skinny figure. Brown would come back in the fifth but it was short-lived as Corrales quickly went back to work on "The Eastern Beast".

After that, it was easy picking for Diego. There were no knockdowns, none were necessary. My final tally was 118-110 for the champion. In his first defense, he made $100,000 more then in his title-winning performance against Garcia. His record now 30-0 with 25 by knockout. Brown, on a roller-coaster ride heading downward in his career, fell to 20-7 which includes a 2-3 record in his last five bouts.

The next fight's conclusion was completely unexpected, however. Fernando Vargas, who sported 17 wins with just as many knockouts coming into the match, found himself in the biggest test of his career against former WBO titlist Ronald "Winky" Wright.

Vargas entered the ring from the cage of a wild animal. This cage next to one that a tiger had inhabited. His head now shaved completely bald, the gold spiked hair was now behind him. Coming in he was to be known surely as the Real Deal of the Jr Middleweight division. But perhaps that title is no longer his. Whose is it? I'm not exactly sure. It could still be Vargas.... maybe his opponent tonight, Winky Wright. Maybe David Reid... maybe Wright's previous conquerer, Harry Simon

But tonight Vargas did not steal the spotlight like I had previously said. For this was not his best night in the ring, perhaps his worst. Not knowing anything about Wright except what was on paper, and that he was a slick southpaw... I was not expecting much tonight. Twelve rounds later, my mind is left in confusion.

Wright started fast, doing something even more unexpected then the thought of a close fight, he stood toe-to-toe with Vargas. As Merchant had said, if this had been brought to his attention he would think that "Winky" was on a suicide mission. But Wright held his own, winning most of the opening rounds. Vargas finally retrieved himself in the fourth round. He would win a few of the middle rounds, but the biggest tiebreaker was the rally in the final three rounds. That won him the fight.

By the beginning of the 9th round, I had doubts about Fernando pulling this off. Since December '98, he had been IBF Jr Middleweight Champion. He rattled veteran Yori Boy Campas and had since made two defenses. One a hard-fought but one-sided win over Raul Marquez.

He was trailing by three points on my card, and maybe it all came to me at once.... could this guy've been over his head all along? Think about it, he had never been in this situation before, aside from a cut caused by a punch or such. He was used to coming in and blowing guys out. Wright had gave him a severe lesson, but it didn't quite seem like a boxing lesson.

Vargas still rallied from all of this to take the last three rounds on my scorecard, which was dead even at 114-114 in my points total. One of the judges saw it the same, and the other two favored the champion by scores of 115-113 & 116-112. It wasn't the judges that bailed Fernando Vargas out as I say all to often, Fernando Vargas bailed Fernando Vargas out.

It was an interesting display indeed to see Vargas in that situation, even more interesting to see how he reacted. Afterwards, the IBF Jr Middle Champ stated that he had some personal problems crawling up on him coming into this fight. He would let it go just as that and did not further elaborate on these problems. Wright made the popular claim of how he won the fight. I have to say I was impressed in ways by both of these fighters. But the division was effected dramatically.

Thanks for taking the time to check out my report on this fight, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it.


Wright Wrongfully Robbed Against Vargas, Corrales Rightfully Decisions Brown
By Francis Walker

On Saturday December 4, 1999 from Lincoln City, Oregon, IBF junior middleweight champ Fernando Vargas (18-0, 17KOs) was forced to go the distance, as he was lucky to be given a close, 12-round majority decision over mandatory challenger, Winky Wright (39-2, 24KOs). It was Vargas' third, and should have been his last, defense of the IBF 154-pound title in 11 months.

Vargas-Wright co-featured Diego Corrales' (30-0, 24KOs) 12-round unanimous decision over John Brown (20-7, 10KOs) in his first defense of the IBF 130-pound crown. The fight was televised on HBO's Boxing After Dark.

Although boxing has had another rough year, its nice to say that Vargas, who turns 22 in a matter of days, has proven to be one of boxing's shining stars. On March 13, under the dreaded Lewis-Holyfield I show at Madison Square Garden, Vargas was involved in an exciting fight, that featured him knocking his opponent down five times before stopping Howard Clarke (KO 4) in the fourth.

Vargas, in another high profile fight on July 17, stopped former IBF champ, Raul Marquez (TKO 11).

Just when things were going well in his life, Vargas and a couple of his friends, several days afterwards, were accused of burglary and assault with a deadly weapon.

Nonetheless, Vargas, who has been shafted by the boxing press when giving his side of the story, confines and is willing to prove his innocence, as he continues to resume his boxing career.

Vargas had his hands full with a gentleman boxing expects like to call "Winky" Ronald Wright, a cagey, crafty, and slick southpaw-boxer, who has not had much opportunities in the past to dazzle the mainstream media. The bout was so close, Wright could have been given declaired the new champion.

Vargas, whether against a southpaw or conventional, displayed great ring technique, but Wright proved to be the better boxer of the two.

Vargas fought well stepping back behind straight-rights and left hooks to Wright's body. Wright, however, fought well, as he was willing to exchange with Vargas. Wright's left-hooks found their mark in the early rounds, as Vargas was forced to step backwards from time-to-time.

In the third round, Wright, continuously stalking Vargas behind right-jabs and combinations. Vargas, as soon as he would spot an opening inside, would go hard to Wright's body.

The longer the bout carried on, the more entertaining it became, as Vargas opening with three-four punch combinations that forced Wright to take caution and guard his face between his gloves. But Wright, probably the best boxer Vargas has faced, punished the champion with his right-jabs, moving around the ring, and giving Vargas difficult angles to work with.

While Wright set the pace of the bout and was the busier and more active puncher, Vargas missed wildly each time he got inside close. Wright caught Vargas with a sharp left-hook in the sixth. It was clear that Wright, at the time, based on his activity, was indeed winning the fight.

Wright, in control of the fight-tempo, knocked Vargas' mouth piece from out of his mouth in the ninth. Although Wright's eyes were swollen, so was Vargas who was the recipient of the majority of leather thrown between the two.

In the tenth, Vargas put forth a spirited effort, as he opened-up with combinations to Wright's body, highlighted by a flurry of punches and a big burst of energy that perhaps won the round for him.

In the closing minutes of the contest, Wright, I felt did enough to hold-off Vargas, whose passion was not enough to make-up for his lacklusterness earlier in the fight. I felt Wright did well enough in the middle rounds to walk home with a close, but deserved decision.

As always, the judges felt differently...

Judge Dave Hess scored the bout 114-114 even. Jim Howard scored the fight 115-113, and judge Debra Barnes, I don't know what fight she was watching, but she scored the fight 116-112, all for Vargas?!

Give me a break!!

In the CO-feature, the 6' 0," Corrales, who soundly out-boxed and overpowered Robert Garcia (KO 7) underneath the Tyson-Norris card six weeks ago, boxed real well against a guy who barely reached 5' 4" in Brown.

Corrales' left-jabs and straight-rights found their mark, as Brown, who in his first world title opportunity in April, was stopped by Sugar Shane Mosley (KO by 8), tasted leather all night.

Brown was able to land a couple of good right-hooks up-top, but Corrales' shoulder-movement and excellent defense against Browns' body-attack, made it difficult for Brown to land any significant shots. Corrales, who looked to tire as the bout reached the ladder rounds, had enough strength to hold-off Brown's aggression and take advantage of his height and lack of reach.

Through 12-rounds, during a fight in which the smaller man got tagged, regardless if he was on the outside of if he was on the inside because either he was too damn small, or the fighter he fought was too damn tall, all three judges scored the bout 116-112 (twice), 117-111 respectively for Corrales.


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