Josh Taylor strolled into Saturday night’s post-match press conference at the O2 Arena with the battles of war clear to see. Even with his right eye completely closed, which he said was due to multiple head clashes rather than any punishment he received you could not remove the grin from his face and for good reason too.
12 utterly compelling rounds shared with the equally impressive Regis Prograis were a timely reminder of why certain bills must be paid for and proved the perfect advert for the sport which has gone through it’s most challenging and tragic period since the devastating passing of Patrick Day, following his bout in Chicago on October 13.
It would be challenging to find someone who either left the O2 or tuned in from their settee that wasn’t fascinated by the elite levels which both boxers proved they truly belong at.
Eight weeks earlier, Taylor’s stablemate Luke Campbell also provided the O2 crowd with a performance to savour, ultimately falling in short in his bid to dethrone pound-for-pound great Vasyl Lomachenko.
However, this time this Shane McGuigan-trained fighter went one step further edging the American favourite, Prograis with scorecards of 117-112, 115-113, whilst the third judge had it 114-114. Taylor left the arena with a huge new collection, adding his opponent’s WBA super-lightweight belt to his IBF strap, as well as claiming the prestigious ring magazine belt and Muhammad Ali trophy, courtesy of winning the World Boxing Super Series Final.
“The Tartan Tornado” dedicated his historic victory to his late father-in-law who tragically passed away in September, which naturally impacted his preparation.
The 28-year-old had to dig deep late on after his eye showed no signs of improving and Prograis (24-1) sensed blood, but Taylor (16-0) explained how the death of his partner’s father spurred him on to hear the final bell, although he remained confident, he had won the fight.
“He was here with us tonight and I want to dedicate this to him,” he told Sky Sports.
“What a fight. All respect to Regis Prograis, a great fight, great champion, but the best man won.
“The free-flowing boxing, the inside work – I don’t think he quite expected I could switch it up and go to range quite as quickly.”
All talk after the fight inevitably turned to what may follow for Taylor. He’s viewed by many as the undoubted top seed at super lightweight, having now beaten three former world champions in Ivan Baranchyk, Viktor Postol and Prograis and now as unified champion and ring magazine holder, it is difficult to argue otherwise. However, the two other belts; the WBC and WBO belong to Jose Ramirez, who could well be next in 2020, following a well-deserved break for the remainder of the year.
Taylor immediately called for a mouth-watering undisputed battle with WBC and WBO titlist, Ramirez (25-0) in his post-fight speech announcing he’d favour the bout on home soil, either at Edinburgh Castle or Easter Road, the home stadium of his beloved Hibernian. The 27-year-old Californian would certainly prove a tricky customer, unbeaten in 25 fights, with 17 of those coming inside the distance. His ferocious sixth round knockout of the previously undefeated Maurice Hooker was a statement of intent and the 2012 Olympian would be a real test for Taylor to jump into.
Rarely in boxing however do we get to see these mega undisputed match-ups. Tony Bellew gave his best shot at halting the formidable Oleksandr Usyk last November for all the Cruiserweight belts in Britain’s first ever undisputed bout, whilst Katie Taylor controversially saw off Delfine Persoon at Madison Square Garden, claiming all four Lightweight titles.
The sport is all about timing and in this kind of form, Taylor would be primed to challenge Ramirez, whilst having every chance of winning against the tricky American particularly on home soil.
Taylor is a wanted man following his victory over Prograis and hugely talented American Gervonta Davis (22-0) surprisingly called for a battle with the Scot. Unified super featherweight champion Taylor, who will first jump up in weight to Lightweight to challenge former world titlist Yuriorkis Gamboa, declared on social media: “After 135 I’ll move up to 140 and fight Josh Taylor.”
This sparked a back and forth between the pair with Taylor replying, “That’s the best joke I’ve heard in a good while ! What a minge.” Davis confirmed his intent stating he would win by stoppage in round seven or eight, although the “Tartan Tornado” laughed off the claims responding, “Put the drink down and sleep it off wee man.”
I will stop you. I promise you that https://t.co/0JBAfNLa8H
— Gervonta Davis (@Gervontaa) October 29, 2019
Whilst Davis, has business to deal with first, a fight with Taylor could be hugely lucrative especially if the Scot was to travel to the US to face Davis.
“Tank”, who plies his trade under the Mayweather Promotions banner would carry the speed up from super featherweight, although Taylor could use his natural size advantage to negate Davis. A potentially intriguing matchup.
At Super-Lightweight there appears to be a sparse pool of talent, with Taylor, Prograis and Ramirez seemingly out on their own, whilst the others are forced to chase the pack. Nevertheless, Newcastle’s Lewis Ritson (20-1) could provide the perfect domestic dance partner, if he is unable to secure the Ramirez bout.
‘Sandman’ produced a career-best performance to outgun Robbie Davies Jr on October 19 in front of his home faithful, in an eliminator for Taylor’s newly acquired WBA world title belt.
Whilst, it appears Taylor is on paper far too much of a slick operator for the 26-year-old to handle, having proved himself at domestic and world level consistently, Ritson is on the surge following his defeat to European titlist Francesco Patera and called for the winner of Saturday’s classic at St James’ Park, the home of his beloved Newcastle United.
Taylor would be a heavy favourite, however with the backing of his home support in a sold-out football stadium, Ritson could undoubtedly seize his opportunity.
Financially the bout makes sense and could prove a stellar domestic dust-up, the sort of bout the British fans crave. Whilst the Ramirez fight would be a chance at glory, the prospect of facing Ritson is perhaps more exciting certainly to the casual fan and moreover if there’s enough demand for it, then public clamour will likely be met. After all, boxing is a business as well as a sport.