Josh Taylor: The Greatest Hits
Nobody would deny junior welterweight champion of the world Josh Taylor a break.
Inside 16 professional contests, the super-skilled Scottish southpaw came bounding up the junior welterweight rankings, slaying dragon after dragon until he established himself as the premier 140-pound fighter in the world today.
World titleholder? Check. Unified titleholder? Check. Ring Magazine champion? Check. World Boxing Super Series winner? Check.
However, despite the need for some down time, Taylor could never have imagined that his longest period of inactivity would come about due to a global pandemic. “The Tartan Tornado” has cooled down to more of a gentle breeze in recent months, but while the dieting and hard training is not a priority right now, the champion continues to tick over.
“I have to admit that I am a bit heavy,” acknowledged Taylor in a recent interview with The Ring. “With that said, I thought I’d be heavier because I’m eating a lot of shit: pizzas, Chinese takeaways (laughs), but I have been training it off. I’ve been training every other day.
“I actually trained up to what would have been the week of my fight (postponed clash with Apinun Khongsong on May 2), but I thought I needed a rest. I came back from (camp in) Las Vegas and was training every day: running, keeping fit, doing stuff in the back garden, and I was in good shape. After that, I took a couple of weeks off, did about two runs in two weeks, and now I’m breaking myself back in again, doing something every day.”
Shortly before the aborted IBF mandatory assignment with Khongsong was made official, Taylor had reconfigured his entire team. The 29-year-old star will now be promoted by Top Rank, advised by MTK Global, and he is being trained by acclaimed Manchester-based coach Ben Davison.
As is the case with the vast majority of professional fighters, Taylor is unsure when he will see action next, but the Edinburgh man was very relaxed about the future.
“They’re saying there might be closed arena fights but, personally, I’d rather not do it,” revealed Taylor. “It would be good to get a fight in and get some money, but I really don’t want to be fighting behind closed doors. It would be hard to get up for it, it would be like a glorified sparring match, then you might not perform. You could end up with a loss on your record, or you still win the fight but box shit.
“The time off isn’t bothering me, although this is the longest amount of time I’ve had off (eight months). I’m keeping my foot in the door in terms of training, I’m keeping myself fit, so I’m not in any hurry. I’m 29 but I’m a young 29, and I’ve not taken much punishment in my career. My eye was closed in my last fight [against Regis Prograis], but that was from head clashes. I’ve got plenty of time on my side.”
Taylor (16-0, 12 knockouts) is all about not wasting time and his five-year professional career has been storybook perfect to this point. Here we look back at six of his most impressive triumphs.
Date/ Location: July 8, 2017/ Braehead Arena, Glasgow
Titles: Commonwealth junior welterweight
“You just remember what he was like, he was a complete and utter idiot. He was a really delusional guy; believing in his own hype, but I’d watched him once or twice and I knew that I was going to smash him to pieces. His fundamentals were terrible, his footwork was awful, and his general boxing skills were shit. I told my team, ‘Make that fight right now because I’ll beat him up!’ He was knocking people out, showing off the punch power, and he had a big reputation, so I knew if I was the first person to knock him about the place then that would put my name on the map. I stayed calm right up until fight week and that’s when you get in the zone. I let him do all the talking and he set himself up for the big fall. I went out and took great pleasure in talking him apart. If he hadn’t quit, I’d still be punching him right now. At first I was pissed off that he quit because I wanted to punish him, knock him out cold, really hurt him, because of the things he said during the buildup. Looking back, I couldn’t have written it better myself – he quit and he’ll never live that down.”
Result: Taylor TKO 7
Date / Location: November 11, 2017/ Royal Highland Centre, Edinburgh
Titles: Non-title junior welterweight
“Vazquez wasn’t much up of a puncher, but he was very cagey, very clever, and, maybe, he came to survive a little bit. I was just coming up at the time, whereas he’d been [IBF lightweight] world champion, competed at world-level, and he probably thought he could just use his experience. He did try to frustrate me early on, but I figured him out and kept pressing him. He couldn’t handle the pace, I was hurting him with body shots, and I was the first person to get him out of there, the first person to knock him out. He’d been in with Canelo Alvarez a couple of times and had all those fights at world-level, so that was quite a big statement. I knew when I hit him with the right hook to the body that he wasn’t going to get up. I felt that one sink in right behind the elbow and it was a really good shot.”
Result: Taylor KO 9
Date/ Location: June 23, 2018/ SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Titles: Non-title junior welterweight
“I was always confident that I was going to win, but it was risky because the only person to beat him was Terence Crawford. I thought this was my chance to prove to everyone else that I’m world-class. I knew within myself I was, but this was the chance to prove it. The nerves kicked in a couple of times, ‘What if I’m not ready?’ but it didn’t hold me back too much. It actually made me train harder: run faster, hit the bags with more punches, try to win every minute of every round in sparring. I think the pressure showed a bit in my performance for the first seven rounds because I was very tight. He would hit me with a wee jab, a wee body shot, he was very clever, and he was a sharpshooter – very precise. In the seventh, he hit me with a right uppercut and a left hook on the button, then he caught me twice more when I dropped my hands and buzzed me a bit. You can tell when you watch the fight that he took my legs away for a split-second, but I recovered straight away. I thought, ‘Right, I’ll need to fuckin’ change the way I’m going about this! We’ve never been here before!’ But I stayed patient, and when I came out for the eighth round my boxing started to come into play. I was more poised and I was setting him up. He did well to come back from the knockdown (in Round 10), but I was impressed with myself because questions were asked and I showed that I had minerals. I changed my approach twice, dug deep and won the fight. Looking back, I always felt that nobody could hurt me, but I learned a lot in this fight – I’m human after all. But I also knew after this that it was going to take a very special fighter to beat me.”
Result: Taylor UD 12
Date/ Location: November 3, 2018/ SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Titles: Non-title junior welterweight (WBSS quarter-final)
“I felt so relaxed in the buildup because of the previous camp [for Postol]. I didn’t put any pressure on myself, I stopped staying in shitty hotels and invested in myself by renting an [apartment] in London. I had my own space, it felt like home eventually, there was no pressure and I think all of that showed in my performance. Everything was flowing that night and going off. [Martin’s trainer] Abel Sanchez wrote me off and I don’t know why, maybe mind games, but I don’t pay attention to what people say in the lead up to a fight. It’s just talk, you can say anything, and the mind games don’t work with me. We’re going to be fighting anyway, we’ll be in that ring soon enough and then we’ll see. I just focused on me and that’s what I always do. And let’s not forget, Martin was tipped to be the next superstar coming up, the nickname said it all, ‘Blue Chip’, and everybody was raving about him. I smashed him to bits, and I don’t think he’s had a fight since. He was like a rabbit in the headlights because of the size of the occasion. I caught him with a right hook to the body in the first round and heard him wince, I heard him cry, and he went into his shell after that.”
Result: Taylor TKO 7
Date/ Location: May 18, 2019/ SSE Hydro, Glasgow
Titles: IBF junior welterweight (WBSS semi-final)
“I was really confident leading up to the fight. I thought I was going to beat him up because every fight I seen, it was the exact same patterns, everything he was doing was the same: hard jab, hard one-two, everything was done with full effort. There was no setting things up, everything was all or nothing, and I felt that he’d be really easy to read. On the night, the fight was getting easy and that’s when the crowd plays a part. I’m winning the fight by making him miss, jabbing him and putting in a wee right hook here and there. That’s when I noticed the crowd had fell silent. I’m in my world title fight, I’m winning, but nobody’s enjoying it. I stepped on the gas in Round 6, dropped him twice, and I must have been three or four rounds up by that point. I came out for the seventh and expected him to be gone, but he threw this solid jab at me. I knew he wasn’t as hurt as I thought, so I went back to taking my time. I took the seventh round off, went back to boxing, then I upped the pace again in the last two rounds. He could punch because I tested his firepower and he nailed me behind the elbows – bang, bang, bang, bang. I thought, ‘Okay, I don’t want to be letting him do that again!’ He was a very solid puncher.
Result: Taylor UD 12
Date/ Location: October 26, 2019/ O2 Arena, London
Titles: Ring Magazine, IBF, WBA junior welterweight (WBSS final)
For Prograis, the media, the experts were all writing me off: Prograis is this and Prograis is that. But I knew from watching his fights that he was boxing nobodies, although, to my surprise, he was very good. I just knew that I had the beating of him because I’m able to adapt, I changed things up in the fight. He didn’t surprise me with his power, he didn’t surprise me with his boxing ability, it was his head movement that was a bit tricky. He went really low, ducking and diving erratically down at my hip height. He was doing this yo-yo type of movement that was difficult to time. He was hard to catch to the head, so I started going to the body more, lifting the shots up. I hurt him to the body, and by the eighth and ninth rounds he was flagging a bit. But my [right] eye went and I couldn’t even see my own jab coming out. I couldn’t see anything coming from his left side and he got back into the fight in the 11th and 12th rounds. Prograis knew on the night he’d lost, his body language said it all when I put my hands in the air. He said on the night, ‘Well done, you’re some fuckin’ fighter, man,’ but I knew his ego would get in the way. I knew he would say he won after a couple of weeks, and I knew he’d come up with excuses; he was in the U.K. too long, the food was different. I had respect for him afterwards and then I started to lose the respect because of that. But look, he’s a really good fighter, and if he gets himself back to the front of the line, we might fight again. Why not? I’ve been there, done it, bought the t-shirt, beat him, and I’ll beat him again.”
Result: Taylor MD 12
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing