By Tris Dixon
IT is hard to sound level-headed while having the ambition to match Hall of Famers, but Scotland’s classy Josh Taylor somehow manages it.
The southpaw super-welterweight, who won a fan-friendly battle with the world class Viktor Postol a couple of weeks ago, has thrown his name in the hat of the World Boxing Super Series ring and hopes a successful tournament will lead him to Joe Calzaghe-like achievements.
“I’ll be fighting until I think that’s it for me,” said the 27-year-old ‘Tartan Terror’. “I want to try and do the sort of thing Joe Calzaghe did, retire on his terms instead of boxing retiring him. So I want to get to the top, defend the belt a few times, make a good bit of money and then get out. As soon as I feel like I’m not performing the same in the gym or in sparring I will hang the gloves up. I want to retire from boxing while I’m at the top, not the other way around.”
The WBSS Super-Lightweights so far includes the winner of the July 14 WBC title fight between champion Regis Prograis and challenger Juan Jose Velasco, WBA ruler Kiryl Relikh, European king Anthony Yigit, Ivan Baranchyk and Taylor.
So far, the WBSS organisers have seen the best fight the best, with winners unifying titles. It is that kind of examination Taylor wants.
“It’s the best of the best, but that’s why I’m in boxing, to prove that I’m the best in the weight division and I’m getting the chance to win at least two belts in three fights so it was a no brainer,” he explained. “I’m super excited for it.”
Asked to identify a chief threat, he said: “They’re all rivals because they’re all good fighters. They’re all hard fights. They’re all hard. I’ve seen that on Twitter [people talking about him versus Prograis] but you can’t write off anybody. “That’s one thing I’ve learned about boxing since I’ve been watching it as a kid, you can’t underestimate anybody. When fighters are supposed to win they’ve got beat and it can happen to anyone.”
There is one spot remaining, and Taylor agrees organisers could do worse than draft in Postol, who gave Taylor such a good battle.
“I think so,” he continued. “I think it was one of the best performances of his career and his imperator actually told me he’d been in the best shape of his career, even better than for [Terence] Crawford because he said he had more time to prepare and more time to get ready. He said he was in the best shape he had been in in his career and I quite believe that. He’s very clever, he’s very experienced and he was sharper than I expected.”
The fight was one of the best in Britain this year. Taylor felt the effects for just a couple of days afterwards but relishes the experience he gleaned from it.
“I was a wee bit sore and tired on the Sunday and Monday but I’m alright other than that,” he stated. For someone who had not gone beyond nine rounds, Taylor was able to turn the screws and run away with the lead in the gritty championship stanzas. He knew he would not falter.
“Because of the training that I do and because of the intensity and pace that I train at and the kind of training I’ve been doing,” he said, when asked why he backed himself in the unknown sessions. “I knew I was fit enough to go 12 rounds. I was sparring three different guys so there was a fresh body coming in and boxing at the same pace for 12 rounds – so I was more confident than I’d ever been. I’d never had any doubt. [That said] I was a little bit surprised at the pace I was fighting at in 10, 11, 12… I was like a train.”
Taylor had to rally through a storm in the seventh, but he recalls every detail and, importantly, has taken time to learn.
“I thought I was actually winning the round up until I got caught with a shot and then he caught me with a good uppercut and a left hook and I pulled out with my bloody hands down which I’d done a couple of times,” Taylor lamented. “I made some mistakes early on and I almost paid the price. He caught me right on the button. But I wasn’t panicked at all, I used my fighting instinct, remained calm, had to hold on, move round and then fight fire with fire.”
The main lesson he learned?
“Just to relax but also to concentrate,” he said, thoughtfully. “You have to have the medium of being relaxed but being switched on at the same time, not switching off in distance and things like that. I’ve learned to concentrate for the full three minutes and the full 36 minutes. You can’t be switching off against guys who are world class.”
There was a vocal majority who were suitably outraged by the wide scorecards handed down by Victor Loughlin, Fernando Barbosa and Eddie Pappoe. Too often we hear, ‘The right man won, but the scores were out.’
Those cries were loud post Postol and Taylor feels strongly about them.
“I thought the scorecards were far too wide,” he admits. “Far too wide. I thought I was a definite winner. I had me winning by about three points, three or four rounds with the knockdown – but the scorecards were quite bad.”
Taylor might well be on his travels now in the WBSS, but he doesn’t think the Scottish scorecards will deter the big names from going there to face him.
“No,” he says quickly. “I don’t. No. I don’t think about that really but it is a little bit disappointing because it kind of takes away my result and my achievement. “People were more focused on the scorecards than how the fight went and how I performed. What I’d just done in my 13th fight was forgotten about and everyone was talking about the scorecards, which was a shame because I think it was a great achievement for someone who’s had 13 fights.”
It certainly was. There was much mutual respect between the fighters, before and after. They, too, discussed the judges’ version of the fight.
“He [Postol] doesn’t speak much English so it was just, ‘Thank you very much for the fight and respect,’” Taylor recalled of what they talked about afterwards.
“And we had a chat in the morning with breakfast and I wished him the best for the future. I said that I thought I won by maybe two or three rounds and he agreed. I think he knew that he had lost the fight.”
It became Taylor’s most satisfying victory, ahead of the seventh-round win over outspoken Londoner Ohara Davies last July.
“The more I think about it probably this one [is more satisfying],” he went on. “Postol, because it was such a big fight and I’ve been able to prove that I’m on the world level. I’ve proven to everybody I can mix it with the world’s best and what I’ve been saying, that I can be world champion, is true. And people are starting to believe it now. [It was] Ohara Davies in terms of beating an idiot, beating an asshole…. Maybe he [Davies] will make it [to world class] maybe not, but I’m not interested in what he’s doing. It was just to shut a big mouth up, but in terms of satisfaction for my career it was definitely against Postol.”
Only a few days went by before it was announced he was in the WBSS. Now Taylor, who wants to fight in places like Las Vegas and Madison Square Garden, is being heralded as a great Scot, along with the likes of Ken Buchanan, Jim Watt, Alex Arthur and Ricky Burns.
“To be mentioned in the same breath as them is brilliant and a blessing,” the modest WBC silver beltholder said. “But I’m not in it to be compared to anybody else because I think they’ve all had great careers so I’m not going to compare my career to anybody else’s. I want to be the best version I can be myself and become world champion. But I feel quite proud of it.”
And now Taylor is planning a long, decorated time at the top, refreshingly filled with owning all of the belts and taking on the top challengers.
“I only had I think 150 [amateur] fights but I was quite late in starting boxing, I was 15 or 16, so I haven’t had a lot of miles on the clock,” he concluded. “I’ve not had any damaging effects, taken any big, big punches, been on my backside, been knocked out or anything like that. So I’ve not taken much punishment. I’m quite fresh. I’m 27 and I’ve only had 13 fights so I feel like I’ve got a long way to go and I could be boxing for a few years yet.
“I just want to fight the best. I’m not going to call anybody out because I don’t need to. I just want to fight the guys that have got the belts. I want the belts so whoever has got them, that’s who I want to fight. And then once I’ve got the belts anybody can have a fight with me, I’m going to be the target. I’m game to fight anybody. I’m not scared of anyone. I’m not one to sit and talk shit and start disrespecting people so anybody who’s got the belts, that’s who I want to fight.”