All the talk in the build-up to Friday night’s Commonwealth super-lightweight showdown had been firmly on whether a fight of this magnitude was a bridge too far for professional novice Josh Taylor.
But, those reservations hadn’t solely been confined to the opposition camp. Even Taylor’s manager Barry McGuigan had admitted the “big risk” he was taking in pitching the 25-year-old Scot against seasoned pro and former Commonwealth champion, Dave Ryan. Nevertheless, it was a risk he was willing to take which reinforced to the boxing fraternity of the confidence the former WBA featherweight champion has in an athlete he took under his wing last summer.
So were did some of the pre-fight skepticism arise from? Despite a decorated amateur career which culminated in winning Commonwealth 64kg gold in Glasgow two years ago, Taylor had been limited to just nine rounds since packing his first punch as a pro with a knockout win over Liberian Archie Weah in El Paso, Texas, last July. Ryan, in comparison, had amassed 181 rounds in his nine years as a paid fighter and could list current British champion Tyrone Nurse as just one from a list of 17 he’d defeated.
But a familiar pattern was to emerge over the course of the next 12 months with five consecutive stoppages from the former Lochend amateur, prompting Ryan’s promoter Clifton Mitchell in the pre-fight press conference to label the ‘Tartan Tornado’s’ past conquests as nothing more than “bums”.
Could he add Ryan to that list in front of his home fans at Meadowbank? You bet he could. Taylor knew this was his time to shine, his time to show why manager McGuigan rates him so highly. It was also one of the very few opportunities nowadays in this pay-per-view era to be afforded the chance to box live on terrestrial television – Channel 5 allowing for that exposure.
Any pre-fight jitters had clearly been put to one side as Taylor meant business from the first bell. Even Ryan’s younger sister Sandy, a GB boxer herself, had fear etched across her face as she stood just metres from the action. There was simply nothing she, or her sibling for that matter, could do as the Prestonpans fighter slowly dissected any hopes Ryan had of becoming Commonwealth champion for a second time.
Mitchell, who had been so dismissive of Taylor’s credentials just two days prior, cut a lonesome figure too, a shadow of the man who had become so animated over Taylor’s pre-fight billing. He knew, however, his man was taking a pasting.
At times, Ryan resembled a rabbit caught in headlights. That’s not to suggest the man from Derby wasn’t giving his all to the cause, he simply wasn’t given the chance to mount any sort of comeback.
A third-round drop was the beginning of the end for the Englishman, a blistering left hook catching Ryan just below his right eye.
But the end was in sight, being dropped for a second – and a third – in the fifth before referee Michael Alexander drew the bout to a close.
Set aside all the trash talk that had bombarded both camp’s prior to the contest, the mutual respect shown in the aftermath from both boxers was heartwarming to say the least.
So what’s next for Josh Taylor? Well, for starters the Ryan team have retreated to their Yorskhire base appreciative of just how much potential this local talent has. Ryan even tweeted the morning after saying: “Well I can safely say all the talk about @JoshTaylorBoxer becoming the next superstar is true. Kid can fight and soon to be world champ”.
In fact, the Twitter waves were full of praise for Taylor. This victory has propelled him even further into the national eye, with many respected boxing commentator saying it’s a matter of when and not if he becomes a world champion.
What the McGuigan’s have next in store for Taylor is anyone’s guess. Watch this space I would say.