Josh Taylor vows to do a job on Apinun Khongsong, eager to face Jose Ramirez
It seems like only yesterday that Josh Taylor’s hand was raised following his classic junior welterweight encounter with Regis Prograis.
On October 26, the unbeaten Scotsman exited the O2 Arena in London with the Muhammad Ali trophy, the vacant Ring Magazine championship and the WBA and IBF titles. The sky was truly the limit for the tenacious and talented lefty, who had become his country’s first unified world titleholder in 48 years.
However, despite the incredible success he’s achieved in just 16 professional fights, Taylor has lost none of his ambition and drive. The 29-year-old is desperate to become undisputed champion and that remains the short-term goal. The odds say that he will get that opportunity, but first he must turn back the challenge of Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong at the BT Studios in London on Saturday.
This IBF mandatory assignment was originally scheduled to take place in Glasgow in early May. Taylor, along with Billy Joe Saunders – who was preparing for the ill-fated matchup with Canelo Alvarez – and new coach Ben Davison, ventured to Las Vegas to commence training, but COVID-19 destroyed best laid plans. Following a brief rest, Taylor and Davison reconnected in Fuerteventura and wrapped up training in Essex, England.
Has all this upheaval and the prospect of fighting an undistinguished foe been detrimental to the champion’s focus?
“My mindset is the same as ever,” responded Taylor in a recent interview with The Ring. “My world titles are on the line, and it’s his big chance. Every fight is like a world title fight to me and I’ve said that from the start of my career. A loss, especially now, would put my dreams and aspirations of being undisputed champion on hold for the foreseeable future.
“I just don’t think Khonsong is going to get anywhere near me. He’s a good fighter: quite dangerous, powerful puncher, good timing, and he’s tall for the weight. I just don’t think he has anything that I haven’t seen before. With that said, I’m still totally focused on doing the job.”
Khongsong has 13 knockouts in 16 straight wins. Half of his fights have ended within three rounds and, in something of a rarity, he can match Taylor for height at 5-foot-10. However, on closer inspection, the challenger has only fought outside of Thailand once, and he’s never mixed at top level. The 24-year-old’s best win was a fifth-round knockout of former world title challenger Akihiro Kondo.
The only issue for Team Taylor is that footage of Khongsong is very limited, although “The Tartan Tornado” was quick to downplay the need for reconnaissance.
“If I can’t figure him out in 36 minutes, then I’ll never figure him out,” said Taylor. “I’ve seen a couple of his fights and he tends to do the same things. We’ve put a plan together that we believe that it’s going to work. Twelve rounds is a long time for a fighter that hasn’t got experience at this level. He’ll make a mistake and I’ll capitalize when he does.”
Providing all goes well against Khongsong, Taylor would love to get back in the ring quickly. However, the Edinburgh man acknowledged that’s easier said than done right now.
“I’d like to get back out this year, but if I’m going to get this unification fight I’d rather wait until the crowds are back,” said Taylor with an undercurrent of frustration. “I want to get this [Khongsong] fight done, but I don’t want to keep fighting behind closed doors. It’s shit because you dream of these big fights from a young age and now you’re there with no crowd, no family, no friends.
“You just don’t know what’s going to happen because there’s talk about a second wave and this and that. I would wait a couple of months to see if things change, but you don’t want to stay out of the ring too long because you end up going stale. Boxing is all about momentum and you want to keep that momentum going.”
As things stand, the man Taylor would face for the undisputed championship is unified WBC and WBO titleholder Jose Ramirez. Last month, the 28-year-old from California held on to his brace of title belts courtesy of a 12-round majority decision over former Taylor foe Viktor Postol.
“I scored the fight a draw,” admitted Taylor, who floored and outpointed Postol in June 2018. “I thought Postol ran away with most of the first half, Ramirez did okay in the middle, then Postol did well in the last couple of rounds. Despite scoring the fight a draw, I thought Postol was unlucky not to get the nod. I wasn’t impressed with Ramirez, but I thought Postol put on a stellar performance.
“A second fight between me and Postol wouldn’t have had the same ‘wow factor’ as me and Ramirez anyway. It would have been a good fight, but I think I would do more damage to Postol in a rematch. I’d get him out of there because there’s no pressure on me to prove that I’m world class anymore. Everyone knows I’m world class, so I’m a lot more relaxed in the ring.”
Taylor was more than confident of taking care of Ramirez before the Postol bout and nothing has changed in that regard. Will that bout happen next?
“There’s been nothing confirmed for a Ramirez fight,” admitted Taylor. “I’ve only heard talk about late this year or early next year. And I don’t know how this situation with [WBO mandatory challenger Jack] Catterall will unfold. Will the WBO will push for the mandatory, or will they let it slide a little to get me and Ramirez together, providing I come through my own fight? I would like to think that we could get the fight done because it would be good for the sport.”
Taylor vs. Khonsong will air on ESPN+ in the U.S. and BT Sport in the U.K.
Tom Gray is Associate Editor for Ring Magazine. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing