With so many prospects in Britain trying to out-perform one another, it is at times hard to keep an eye on all of them. But I’d be surprised if you had managed to completely miss Edinburgh’s talented Josh Taylor, who became the Commonwealth super-lightweight champion in only his seventh fight last year.
With seven knockouts from eight victories and Barry McGuigan waxing lyrical about the starlet’s potential along with the rest of the Cyclone Promotions camp, he has quickly put together a CV that has become near-impossible to ignore.
He entered the pro ranks with a celebrated amateur pedigree, winning gold in the Commonwealth Games in 2014 (together with a silver in 2010) and being a member of Team GB for the London 2012 Olympics. Taylor turned pro in July 2015, fighting three times that year and four times last year, winning all of them by knockout. He has already made one appearance in 2017, defeating Alfonso Olvera on the undercard of Frampton-Santa Cruz II in January in what ended up being the event’s first televised bout, following Lee Selby’s last minute cancellation.
His pro career thus far has seen him compete at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, the M.E.N Arena in Manchester and the Ice Arena in Cardiff to name a few, but he claims he doesn’t feel the pressure of the high profile he has already earned for himself. “Definitely not pressure,” he confirms to Gareth Davies of the Telegraph. “It’s good to get my name out there and have people talking about me. People expect big things, but I take it with a pinch of salt. I don’t listen to it. I just work hard and make sure I’m the best I can be.”
Although he has an undeniable work ethic, trainer Shane McGuigan reminds us that Josh’s exceptional natural talent for the sport also has a huge part to play. “He’s different to train than other people because he’s so naturally gifted,” said the 2016 Trainer of the Year. “He get’s away with a heck of a lot of stuff.” He urges caution, however. “It’s almost hard to tell [him] that when you get to the top level, you won’t be able to [do those things]… But natural talent, for sure; he’s got it all”.
McGuigan isn’t short of naturally talented fighters in his stable. Carl Frampton, who was defeated for the first time in January in a rematch with Leo Santa Cruz, is the gym’s current global star. He is joined by returning heavyweight David Haye and super-middleweight contender George Groves, an environment that Shane feels suits Taylor well. “What’s good is, he’s in and around a gym where he isn’t the best fighter. He’s still learning. I think he could be, but I’ve got some gifted guys here.”
Judging by Taylor’s appearances on several of Frampton’s undercards, including his last two in America, it is clear that Taylor is being ushered towards the international stage. However, should they be so inclined, Barry McGuigan and his team could also pair him with one or two British fighters in match ups that would surely get the boxing public talking. A meeting with the ultra-talented Jack Catterall certainly appeals, while some are even suggesting that Taylor could be ready for a 2017 clash with compatriot Ricky Burns in a fight that would quickly sell out were it staged North of the border.
However, an online war of words between Taylor and the also-undefeated Ohara Davies could develop into a fight later this year, and it is a fight Shane McGuigan appears to endorse. “I don’t think Ohara Davies will ever make it to world level,” he said of the WBC silver champion. “He has amazing attributes, his toughness, long arms and is a hard puncher, but his feet are terrible and he would get easily outboxed by someone with the pedigree of Taylor. We would 100% take that fight now.”
Light-welterweight is becoming one of the more exciting domestic divisions. It is topped by a world champion (Burns) and has a slew of fighters competing for an opportunity to claim it as their own. Along with Catterall and Taylor, another prospect Robbie Davies Jnr has looked excellent recently (stopping Zoltan Szabo in 9 rounds last time out), while seasoned practitioners like Tyrone Nurse and Ashley Theophane will want to prove they aren’t quite ready to pass the torch just yet. This year will tell us more about where Taylor fits in such company, but if all goes according to plan he could be in the possession of at least one meaningful title by the end of 2017, whether that be British or otherwise, which would line him up for a real introduction to the global scene the following year.
Follow Josh Taylor on Twitter: @JoshTaylorBoxer