The sun, the sea, the sand, his girlfriend by his side—and the feeling of being IBF super-lightweight champion. Forty-eight hours after defeating Ivan Baranchyk to become Scotland’s fourteenth world champion, Josh Taylor jetted off to the Balearic Islands for some rest and recovery.
A favorable climate, a few drinks, and an inviting swimming pool were just some of the rewards that Taylor lapped up, and then, halfway through his holiday, it hit him . . .
A few days earlier, Taylor, in his fifteenth professional fight, had heard those three magical words: ‘And the new . . . !’ His fans in Glasgow were rapturous, his friends and family were ecstatic, but before he had time to absorb everything, he was thrown into a face-off against—such is the format of the World Boxing Super Series—the WBA champion Regis Prograis. Taylor will face Prograis later this year to determine who will be the winner of the WBSS 140-pound tournament and arguably the best fighter in the division. It was a whirlwind of a night for “The Tartan Tornado,” but he had little time to let the events and the realization of a dream-come-true sink in.
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“It was just a feeling of pure ecstasy, relief . . . it’s hard to describe and put into words,” he told Hannibal Boxing.
Back to Ibiza. Taylor had just jumped into the pool, and his partner, Danielle, was sunbathing, when he decided to take a much-needed nap.
“I was lying there for half an hour,” Taylor recalled. “I was half dozing off, and I said to her, ‘Danielle I’m world champion by the way.’ It was just starting to sink in: I’m world champion. It feels weird saying that; I’m the world champ. She says, ‘I know, I’m so proud of you,’ and I was, like, ‘Wow, it’s sunk in. I’ve done it.’”
Taylor–Baranchyk was everything that many thought it would be. It was a mix of boxing ability from the challenger and aggression and resoluteness from the champion; and, at times, both men lowered their heads like a pair of battling rams and wailed away at one another. Taylor dropped Baranchyk twice in the sixth round to seal the victory.
“At times it was really easy for me,” Taylor said. “At times I was making him miss, I was moving my feet, jabbing and moving, but I just felt I wasn’t doing enough. I felt like I could have done that all night and made him miss and outboxed him, but I felt I wasn’t doing enough.
“I felt because he was the champion I had to go out and dominate and take the belt off him. At times when I was outboxing him, the crowd were going silent, and that’s when I was thinking ‘Right, am I doing enough here?’ Even though I was still winning the fight and winning most of the rounds, I just thought I was doing enough, so I then decided to have a bit more of a fight, but I was in control of the whole fight, of what I was doing and what was happening. Never once was I in trouble and I could have made it easier, but I decided not to.”
His schooling in the fourteen fights prior had set him up perfectly for his crowning glory. Time spent in America, a domestic title win in his own city, a grudge match, victory against a wily veteran and getting his feet wet against Viktor Postol laid the foundation for something that felt like a matter of time. Taylor’s belief in his own abilities is what we come to expect from a man with the amateur pedigree he has, but the expectation of delivering placed a weight on his shoulders which he says is now gone thanks to the win last month.
“It’s a weight off my own shoulders. I didn’t feel any pressure from anyone else or anything like that, it was just my own shoulders, my own expectations and it was the moment I’d been visualizing for so many years of becoming world champion. Everywhere I went, seeing it written down ‘Josh Taylor, future world champion.’ Everywhere I went, just drumming it into my own subconscious, to believe in it and the chance was finally there, and there was no way I was letting it slip. Massive relief from my own shoulders.”
With some time spent in Ibiza as well as the Isle of Man to watch the spectacular TT motorbike event, thus allowing him to indulge in his other sporting passion, Taylor has made the most of his break but the gym is calling once again and the ‘Rougarou’—Regis Prograis—is waiting for him.
No announcement has been made yet about where and when the final of the super-lightweight tournament will be held. Each finalist has had consecutive fights in their own country. A third for either would hold a significant advantage, so neutral territory may well be the way to go.
Prograis has, to use a phrase, ‘looked the goods’ so far, with many believing he is number one in the 140-pound division. A theory loosely backed up his number-one seeding in the WBSS tournament. His win against Julius Indongo and the even more impressive dismantling of Kiryl Relikh have fans and media tipping him to go well beyond winning the WBSS and moving up to welterweight, where he is seen as a potential live threat to the likes of Terence Crawford and company.
“He’s hyped up, of course he is,” said Taylor. “He believes his own hype as well. He says he’s got a big following even though there was a thousand people or even a few hundred at his last fight. That doesn’t matter, it’s me and him at the end of the day in a ring and we both have to fight. I just believe I’ve got the beating of him. I think he believes in his own hype a bit too much, but we’ll see.
“I just told him he better be ready,” Taylor said of their in-ring face-off in Glasgow. “He better be in good shape, and he better be ready to have a fight because I’m coming to rip this title off him and beat him up. I told him he’s never fought anybody like me, he’s never boxed anyone, really, in his whole career. He’s 24-0, who has he boxed? He boxed Indongo who is forty-five-years-old [Writers note: Taylor was being sarcastic], and he’s boxed Reilikh who had to lose over forty pounds in nine weeks to get to the weight. So, he was gone at the weight. He’s never really boxed anybody who is going to hit him back, and I don’t think he’s going to be prepared for it.”
Back in the Big Easy: Regis Prograis faces Juan Jose Velasco in New Orleans