By Steve Kim Updated on August 18, 2023

Winky Wright, the Road Less Traveled

Picture for Winky Wright, the Road Less Traveled

Once again, there isn't anything that is particularly interesting taking place this weekend in boxing (no disrespect to Kurt Scoby and Galal Yafai, who are good young fighters). So I'll take this column space to pay tribute to a boxer who I have long admired, who was often overlooked and dismissed, but forged a highly productive and lucrative career.

Ronald 'Winky' Wright.

And while he's best known for his battles against the likes of Fernando Vargas, Felix Trinidad, Jermain Taylor, Ike Quartey, and Bernard Hopkins, it's what he he had to do to get to that point that I find most intriguing and admirable.

Unlike many other talented American boxers, this southpaw from Washington DC, who boxed out of the St. Pete/Tampa area, had to take his punch his passport as an undefeated prospect, and basically become a European boxer, fighting out of France as he plied his trade. 

Picture for Winky Wright, the Road Less TraveledDan Birmingham

This story really begins with the man who trained him throughout his career, Dan Birmingham, who developed him from scratch.

"Winky came in my gym when he was 15," recalled the noted trainer. "I asked him, 'Are you right-handed, or left-handed?' He said 'I'm actually right-handed, but I slap fight in the streets as a southpaw. Can we try that?' I said, 'sure'"

And like Roy Hobbs, he was a natural -- in either stance.

"He had great speed, good eyes, good reactions, good balance, all of that," said Birmingham. Wright turned pro in October of 1990, and most of his fights took place in Florida at the Hyatt Regency in Tampa, the Diplomat Hotel in Hollywood, and the Sun Dome.  Wright eventually worked his way up to a 16-0 mark by the summer of 1992. 

But there was a stark reality to his situation, Birmingham told, "He wasn't making any money."

The other issue was that he was virtually unknown as he wasn't with a major promoter such as Top Rank or Main Events. Birmingham balked at Wright signing a long-term extension with Alessi Promotions. With relatively limited options, they signed on with the Acaries, who were based in France.

And from 1993 to 1998, Wright boxed 24 times, going from a burgeoning young prospect, to contender, to world-title holder, and even a guy who then lost that belt. The majority of his bouts took place in France, with appearances in Argentina, Monte Carlo, England and South Africa. With an occasional bout Stateside at places like the Great Western Forum in Los Angeles, and the Scope in Norfolk, Virginia. Wright was a boxing vagabond.

Picture for Winky Wright, the Road Less TraveledRing Magazine

Birmingham states, "I thought the Acaries brothers actually did a great job with him, matching him up. Of course, the overseas thing was tough but he always had fights every two or three months. So they kept money in his pocket. At that time in Florida, you'd be lucky making a $1,000 for a 10 round main event. Over there, they were paying Five-grand. Five-grand!!! So that's how we ended up there."

You wonder, how many young boxers in Wright's position today would be willing to be so active, and then have to do it on foreign soil? Birmingham admits, "it's tough for everybody to be away from your family, friends, your environment."

Unlike many modern day boxers, he didn't have the luxury of a leaning on promoter with a network deal or -- and perhaps this is a blessing -- to complain about his situation on social media.  Wright had to work his way to where he wanted go.

"Winky actually took everything in stride, he never really complained much about anything, really," said Birmingham. "He was happy when the European trip was over, the travel was tough. We'd have to go four, five days early just to get acclimated to the time change."

During that period of time, Wright lost in his initial attempt at a world title versus Julio Cesar Vazquez for the WBA junior middleweight title in 1994, before capturing the WBO belt in 1996 against Bronco McKart, in a fight that took place in America. Wright then lost that belt to Harry Simon after three titles defense in the UK in 1998 in South Africa.

From that point on, he boxed exclusively in America. And because of his difficult high-guard style(which seemed as impenetrable as the Berlin Wall during the Cold War), Wright was someone you only boxed if you had to. He was a hard sell at first to the major networks (HBO and Showtime) and I recall him having to fight on untelevised undercards and making appearances on ESPN's 'Friday Night Fights' series for relatively low money, as he chased the stars of the sport. 

Wright got in, where he fit in. He had no other choice. 

Picture for Winky Wright, the Road Less TraveledRing Magazine

Over time, Wright won people over. He was like the song 'Macarena' from Los Del Rio, yeah, at first you didn't really like it, probably annoyed you to death, but over time, as you heard it over and over again, a funny thing happened -- not only did you get used to it, you began to actually kinda enjoy it. That was Winky Wright. 

Who eventually got to those aforementioned fights. No, he wasn't ever the A-side in those equations, but Wright made millions, and some history. Enough so that he was inducted into the International Boxing Hall-of-Fame in 2018.

He got there taking the road less traveled. 



Here is this weeks episode of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez and I:


And to subscribe to 3KR on your preferred podcast platform, hit the Linktree:



Birmingham, who also trained world champions Jeff Lacy and Keith Thurman, is now retired from boxing. "I've been at it since I've been 15, and I'll be 72, soon,'' he said with a chuckle. Birmingham says he's still very much a fan, but that, ''at my age, I've had enough.".... Wright had a career record of 51-6-1 (25 KOs), and certainly has to be listed as one of the better '54's in boxing history....Alycia Baumgardner, say it ain't so!!...





About Author
Winky Wright, the Road Less Traveled
  • Hosted 'the Main Event' on KIEV 870, and then later XTRA AM1150 ( a three hour show devoted to boxing) from 1996 to 1999.
  • Joined one of the first boxing websites, 'House of Boxing' in 1999, and then later became one of the founders of Maxboxing, that started in 2001, till his departure in 2014.
  • From 2014 to 2018, he was the lead columnist for
  • Was a boxing reporter for from 2018 to 2020.
  • He has written for Ring Magazine, International Boxing Digest and Boxing News.
  • Is the co-host of 'the 3 Knockdown Rule' with Mario Lopez, which has become of the most popular boxing podcasts the past several years.
  • Steve has also served as an announcer and analyst for RingTV, Thompson Boxing, 360 Promotions and CBS Sports Network.