I have no idea if Josh Taylor likes carrots. However, there is one dangling, not directly in front of him, but somewhere visible enough for ‘The Tartan Tornado’ to use as an aim, a target…a carrot draped in a world title.
The 26-year-old Scottish star may have only dipped his gloves into professional waters eight times but as his rise continues tonight in Edinburgh, the first defence of his Commonwealth super lightweight title, the prospect of a fight with world champion Ricky Burns may seem far away, but no further than the stretch of the M8 motorway that separates them.
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Taylor’s Tartan Army will be in full voice tonight at the Meadowbank Sports Centre when he takes on South Africa’s Warren Joubert (26-4-5, 11 KOs). A win looks a certain prospect but Taylor isn’t in a hurry to blast his opponent out of there, nor is he in a hurry to step up to world level at 140lbs. But, a fight against WBA super lightweight champion Burns—the flag bearer for Scottish boxing for so long—is a tantalising prospect.
“I look up to Ricky Burns in every way possible and what he’s done for Scottish boxing. But at the same time, I do believe that I have the tools to beat him already. But I’m not calling him out or disrespecting him. I’ve never once even mentioned it. It’s (up to) Barry [McGuigan] and all that, but at the same time if I got offered that fight tomorrow I’d take it in a heartbeat because I know that I could beat him.”
An all-Scottish showdown, the heir to the throne against the man who has carried the hopes of a nation on his shoulders for several years. A predicament if ever there was one. Wait until the time is right for that step up to world title level or if a Burns fight was offered tomorrow?
“I’d take it tomorrow,” was the enthusiastic response from Taylor when BritishBoxers asked the question. No pause, not a moment’s hesitation.
A respectful Taylor went on to say: “I look up to Ricky Burns in every way possible and what he’s done for Scottish boxing. But at the same time, I do believe that I have the tools to beat him already. But I’m not calling him out or disrespecting him. I’ve never once even mentioned it. It’s (up to) Barry [McGuigan] and all that, but at the same time if I got offered that fight tomorrow I’d take it in a heartbeat because I know that I could beat him. I know for 100% I could beat him right now.”
The confidence comes from the fighting tools at his disposal as well as within his team at Cyclone Promotions. Barry McGuigan and trainer Shane McGuigan are in no doubt that it is only a matter of time before Taylor is a world champion and have mentioned Burns as a potential route in the past.
“Once I’m there, I’m there. It’s hard fights, there’s no turning back,” Taylor stated.
“Once I’m there I want to know I’m ready for it and ready for the hard fights. At the same time, I believe I can beat anyone that’s put in front of me, but it’s just a matter of developing a bit more. Another couple defences of my Commonwealth, maybe knock on the door for maybe a European or British title shot by the end of the year. A good couple of hard testing fights, another step up in class. Hopefully push on for world title fights maybe 2018. Mid-2018 push on to that kind of level. I’m quite happy where I am just now to keep steadying on where I am and keep learning.”
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Who knows how much learning Taylor will do against Joubert. Not much is known about ‘The Warrior’ from Johannesburg. When Scotland meets South Africa at sport it’s normally when 30 men are battering into one another at Rugby Union. But Scottish fight fans will all remember ‘Baby’ Jake Matlala, a Springbok thorn in the side of Pat Clinton and Paul Weir in the early to mid-nineties.
“What I have saw is more than enough that I can take confidence from,” said Taylor about his own South African foe. One hundred per cent confident that there will be no similar heartache from those nights in Glasgow and Liverpool.
“He looks similar in style to Dave Ryan [who Taylor won the vacant Commonwealth title against] but a bit tougher, a bit more aggressive. It looks as if he’s got the hands tight and comes forward. That suits me down to a tee. I’m not in any rush to go out there and blast him and make silly mistakes, and get caught with a silly shot myself. So, I’m just going to go out, take my time, have a look at him and suss it from the first couple of rounds and see what he’s all about.”
Taylor will be looking to put on another impressive show in front of his own fans after breaking down Ryan so impressively in five rounds last October. In between that memorable and noisy night at Meadowbank, and what will likely be another one tonight, came a third fight in America.
After such a stellar amateur career, fighting overseas is nothing new to Taylor and the 2014 Commonwealth Games Gold Medallist even made his pro debut, like fellow Scot Craig McEwan did, Stateside in July 2015. That was the first of three appearances fighting on the undercard of stablemate Carl Frampton’s quest to crack America which has proved to be such a rollercoaster so far.
“I just don’t like the way he (Ohara Davies) acts and the things he says. He’s actually a bit of a rocket to be fair. That’s what I think. He’s a complete and utter rocket. When that fight comes, he’s going to be in for a shock, if it ever does come, and I’m not really too bothered about it either. If it ever does come I’d happily oblige and take that fight on and smash him to bits.”
Last time out Frampton rematched Leo Santa Cruz in Las Vegas while Taylor took in an eight rounder against Mexican Alfonso Olvera. The performance may not have been what Taylor had wanted, but the memories were positive and plentiful.
“It was brilliant. We were there for a month living and training. It was awesome. We had the big, massive house, we had a villa booked. Had its own basketball court and jacuzzi and its own boxing gym in the garage as well. It was a big old house. A private chef cooking all the meals for us as well. It was good. Then we got to go into Vegas in the last week and sort of experienced that as well.”
With a short, quiet sigh there was a pinch of disappointment for Taylor when he looked back at his own performance against Olvera. “I’d say it was definitely a below average performance from me. Four or five out of 10. It was really quite poor from me to be honest, in terms of my own standards. I know I can be a hundred times better than that. A hundred times faster, hundred times sharper and just better boxing. I just felt kind of flat and I couldn’t get going.
“I never had much nerves before the fight either. Maybe that came into play as well. I couldn’t really get up for the fight. No adrenaline really. I think that played a part in it. It was just one of those nights, I had an off night. I watched it back and I actually think I boxed not too bad, boxed pretty well to be fair but within my own self I know I can be a hundred times better than that which is why I was disappointed. I got the win. That’s been and gone and on to the next one now.”
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The next one is of course Joubert, and while the Burns fight may seem unrealistic in 2017 one that is not is against Burns’ gym mate Ohara Davies. A fighter with a penchant for WWE wrestler The Undertaker who has talked the talk and delivered so far. There have been, as is the norm with modern day boxing, tweets flying back between Davies and Taylor about their dislike for one another and a potential fight in the future.
“Do you know what, you’ve got to take your hat off to him because he’s beating the people that are put in front of him, that’s all he can do and he’s doing the job,” said a complimentary Taylor.
“But I just don’t like the way he acts and the things he says. He’s actually a bit of a rocket to be fair. That’s what I think. He’s a complete and utter rocket. When that fight comes, he’s going to be in for a shock, if it ever does come, and I’m not really too bothered about it either. If it ever does come I’d happily oblige and take that fight on and smash him to bits.”