Josh Taylor Admits Past Sparring With Conceicao Was Key
Boxer Josh Taylor revealed how some fractious sparring sessions with Brazilian Robson Conceicao in Sheffield earlier this month prepared him to see off the same man in the opening round of the lightweight division at ExCeL.
The Lochend 21-year-old extended Great Britain's winning start to the Olympic boxing programme with a thoroughly composed 13-9 win over Conceicao, who was part of the Brazilian squad invited to a training camp with the British Olympians.
While Taylor's team-mate Fred Evans had charged through to the last 16 earlier with a riotous 18-10 win over Algeria's Ilyas Abbadi, composure was the key for Taylor to pull off one of the finest victories of his young career.
Taylor said: "I was trying not to show him too much in sparring in case we got drawn together, but it got a bit tasty. We were turning each other and he was raising his arms when he scored a shot and doing some fancy stuff, but I kept calm.
"I came out nice and calm but as soon as I heard the crowd I was buzzing. In the ring you've still got a job to do but every punch you throw they're behind you. It's brilliant - it's one of the best things that has happened in my life."
Taylor, the first Scottish lightweight to reach the Olympics since two-time medallist Dick McTaggart, shaded the first round off the back-foot, landing some nifty combinations against an opponent who slung shots into his resolute guard.
Taylor extended his lead in a tight second, boxing patiently and retaining his composure against the muscular Conceicao, who was growing frustrated at his inability to pierce the British fighter's defences.
The Brazilian was clearly unhappy at the outcome, insisting: "It was not a fair result. I think I scored a lot of points but I did not get the win because of course it was his home town. That should not happen in a competition like this."
But if there were some questions over the four-point margin, there was only promise in the manner of Taylor's performance, which augurs well for his tough second round showdown with Italy's four-time world medallist Domenico Valentino.
Taylor, who was beaten 13-11 by Valentino in last year's European Championships, said: "I feel 110% better now than I did then. I wasn't clued up about doing the weight properly but now I'm ready and I've still got improvements to make."
Earlier, Welsh light-welterweight Evans took a more direct approach to his opening bout against the come-forward Algerian, engaging in a thrilling toe-to-battle which had the capacity ExCeL crowd on their feet.
Evans did not have it all his own way, getting caught by two lefts in the opening round, but pulled away to land a last 16 clash with Lithuania's Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who knocked Evans out in the quarter-finals of last year's World Championships.
The prospect of a rematch does not faze the confident Evans, who said: "He is going to see a different Fred Evans next time. I am stronger and sharper and he is going to find that out when we fight on Friday.
"What happened in the Worlds doesn't bother me. I'd just achieved my goal of qualifying for the Olympics and my mind wasn't on the job. This time, in front of my home crowd and my family, it's going to be a different story."