Josh Taylor outpoints Regis Prograis via majority decision, wins WBSS 140-pound final and Ring title
LONDON – An electrifying atmosphere, elite-level skills, incredible ebb and flow – it was boxing at its best.
Scottish junior welterweight star Josh Taylor claimed the vacant 140-pound Ring Magazine championship, the Muhammad Ali trophy and added the WBA junior welterweight title to his IBF version by scoring a deserved 12-round majority decision over Regis Prograis at the O2 Arena on Saturday. The official scores were 114-114, 115-113 and a slightly wide 117-112.
Taylor, who was rated No. 2 by The Ring coming into this hotly anticipated unification clash, becomes Scotland’s first Ring Magazine junior welterweight champion and his country’s sixth champion ever behind Benny Lynch, Jackie Paterson, Ken Buchanan, Walter McGowan and Jim Watt.
The Edinburgh man is also the first Scotsman to unify world title belts since February 1971, when then-WBC lightweight titleholder Buchanan outpointed WBA counterpart Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles.
“It’s unbelievable and I can’t wait to get back (to Edinburgh) and see Kenny,” Taylor (16-0, 12 knockouts) told The Ring at the post-fight press conference. “He comes into my old amateur gym a lot, so it’ll be good to get back and see him, give him the belt and say ‘I did this for you, champ! I’m just like you!’
“Looking at this (The Ring Magazine title), it doesn’t seem real. I’ve visualized it for so long. It hasn’t quite sunk in yet. It won’t for a couple of days when I sit down and relax with my girlfriend. This will be the first furniture we have in the new house; all these belts.”
The action was nip and tuck in Round 1 but quickly began to favor Taylor at mid-to-close range. As well as being more imaginative with his work at that distance, the Scotsman was busier and Prograis was coming off second best in the majority of the exchanges. Taylor, at 5-foot-10, is brilliant inside for his height and despite his stubbornness at staying close, Prograis struggled to match him there.
The fourth was a good session for the American, who utilized adept head movement to get past Taylor’s thrusts and countered impressively. The action was of the highest caliber and, as many expected, neither fighter could truly dominate the other.
Taylor responded with his best punch of the fight in Round 5 when a blistering right hook momentarily shook Prograis. The visitor also took some serious punishment in the seventh, the first decisive round of the contest, when a series of uppercuts sent the blood spraying from his nose.
Prograis battled back like a champion in the eighth. It was tactically intelligent of the American to seek distance and he did so, clipping Taylor from the outside and scoring with one excellent left hand that drew gasps from ringsiders. But Taylor would not be denied. He closed the distance in the next session, applying pressure with his feet and, again, taking the action to the inside.
The main problem for Taylor as the late rounds approached was a horrible swelling to his right eye and a clash of heads opened a deep cut over the injury in the 11th. Prograis produced solid work in the later sessions, but it wasn’t enough to close the gap.
Many of us predicted that tonight’s fight was just the beginning for Taylor and Prograis. That remains the case after the 12 rounds they shared. However, if Taylor continues to fulfill his enormous potential and achieves true greatness, then this triumph will forever be remembered as his first step towards boxing immortality.
“(Prograis) was strong and hard to hit cleanly,” said Taylor. “He lived up to his reputation and he could take a punch because I him a couple of times and he didn’t move. I wish him all the best for the future.”
Taylor weighed in at 139.5 pounds and Prograis was bang on the division limit at 140 pounds.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for The Ring. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing
GET THE LATEST ISSUE AT THE RING SHOP (CLICK HERE)