By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
JOSH TAYLOR compared Ohara Davies to an onion - but won’t let his bitter rival leave him in tears.
The Scottish light-welterweight, regarded as one of Britain’s best prospects, takes on London-born Davies, another highly-touted fighter, in an intriguing clash at Glasgow’s Braehead Arena on Saturday.
The fight is between two up-and-coming foes made in the most modern of ways – through social media bickering – and there is sure to be plenty more verbal spars in the build-up this week.
Unbeaten Davies, 25, was not shy in calling out 26-year-old Taylor on social media but when they met at the announcement press conference last month the Hackney native kept the insults to himself.
“He was maybe told because it’s not on Sky Sports that he doesn’t have to sell it and so kept quiet,” said Taylor.
“He tried to act like the nice guy at the press conference but his bad side has to come out, I told him that and it has.
“He is talking a bit of smack on social media again, but let him get on with it. I would really like to shut him up.
“I don’t like him. He tries to wind you up with some of the stuff he says on social media but he just comes across like an absolute tool.
“He is like an onion, he has so many layers to him. One day he is acting all polite, but then he really is just an a******e.”
Taylor is prepared for a flurry of insults from the cocksure Davies this week before they settle it in the ring.
But not only does he get the perfect preparation and development for his career in Shane McGuigan’s Wandsworth Gym in London, he gets the thick skin needed to deal with any abuse.
Taylor teamed up with Cyclone Promotions after winning Commonwealth Games gold in 2014 when ring legend Barry McGuigan phoned him out of the blue with an offer he couldn’t refuse.
It was the chance to work with his son Shane and the same team which moulded Carl Frampton into a world champion and he signed a contract almost immediately.
Cyclone have so far navigated unbeaten Taylor to a Commonwealth title within nine fights as he prepares to take over from former three-weight world champion Ricky Burns as Scotland’s fighting star.
But it is in the gym, along with Frampton and middleweight prospect Conrad Cummings, that the skills needed to deal with Davies’ verbal jousting have been picked up as if he can take the stick from his friends then the Londoner won’t be able to rattle him.
The trio’s antics were captured on a recent BBC documentary about the McGuigans including a scene when Taylor’s socks got set alight in New York.
“We rip the p*** out of each other,” said Taylor, who is nicknamed “Hank” by his team-mates after the Jim Carrey character in the hit movie Me, Myself and Irene.
“They set fire to my socks in New York, I had the socks for six months and they were only for training but they were in a petrol station when they set them on fire so the whole place could have gone up!”
But Taylor gives as good as he gets in the gym which is a hive of activity and now also includes female prospect Chantelle Cameron.
“I call wee Carl ‘Lord Farquaad’ from Shrek because he is tiny and Conrad is ‘the swamp thing’ after Shrek too,” said the Scot.
“It is good natured, if you can’t have a laugh and enjoy what you’re doing then what is the point?
“But when it comes to work, we work hard.”
It is that bond that helps all three deal with being away from home for training camps at the London base.
Belfast-born Frampton has spoken before about being away from his wife and two kids while Cummings is also from Northern Ireland and away from family.
Taylor, who only began boxing at 15 after mainly taking part in Taekwondo as a child, is also a long way from his Edinburgh home during camp with visits home to his girlfriend Danielle and his dog Manny limited to once every two weeks.
But the trio keep themselves busy between training sessions with chats in the local coffee shops near the gym, darts games and even the odd race on a Segway as well as the constant trading of insults.
“We keep each other going, it’s tough for us all to be away but it also means no distractions from training,” said Taylor.
After nine wins and eight inside the distance, the Scot heads into a major fight against a fellow prospect who is also hoping to do big things in the sport.
While softly-spoken Taylor and brash Davies have little respect for each other and are very different characters, they both have the same focus.
That is becoming a world champion in the professional ranks.
There are similarities with this fight and the 2011 meeting between super-middleweights George Groves and James DeGale in 2011.
There was much more hatred between those two but they were both early on in their professional careers and unbeaten like the rivals in this weekend’s cash.
DeGale came up short as Groves earned a narrow points victory but now both reign as world super-middleweight champions so the result has not defined either man’s career.
Similarly the outcome of Saturday’s clash will not define Taylor or Davies, but it will give the winner a lead in the race to world honours.
“I believe I can beat him and he believes he can beat me,” added Taylor. “But when he loses it is not the end of his career.
“James DeGale and George Groves got it on early in their careers and look where DeGale is now despite losing.
“This is good for boxing that this fight is happening now. There are too many shows where it’s all prospects fighting against poor opponents and so one sided that it’s not worth watching.
“This is definitely worth watching. I’m looking forward to looking into his eyes this week and telling him he’s in for a fight, telling him I’m going to knock him out.
“I’m not going to look for the knockout and go gung-ho but believe with my boxing ability and sharp shooting I will out-gun him.”
Taylor v Davies is live and exclusive on Channel 5 on Saturday night from 10pm