Boxer Josh Taylor would be the first to admit he has not stepped inside a ring as often as he would have hoped since announcing himself to the world last summer.
Only a handful of fights within 12 months of the London Games is not how the 22-year-old lightweight perceived his post-Olympic journey would map out.
An injury to his left hand earlier this year has restricted the Lochend fighter’s undisputed ability. Two defeats in this year’s World Series Boxing (WSB) for the British Lionhearts were followed by a first-round exit in the European Championships to Russia’s Armen Zakaryan just last month – his opponent incidentally going on to secure gold at the championships in Minsk, Belarus. However, Taylor still managed to scoop Amateur Boxing Scotland’s Senior Boxer of the Year accolade earlier this month.
In an exclusive interview with the Evening News, Taylor explained: “I’ve been competing right at the top, but have been struggling this past year making 61kg, but I am not going to blame it on that – I just never got the results I was looking for, so it has been quite frustrating. My form is starting to come back now and I’m feeling confident again that I am back up at 64kg, so I feel fresh and strong at the weight.”
Reflecting on his latest trip to the continent, Taylor believes he could have been returning home clutching a European gold had his injury not limited the Prestonpans star to so few training sessions, but accepts it is all a case of “ifs” and “buts” where injuries are simply the nature of the sport.
“I only had about five days of proper sparring before the Euros, but boxed really well and thought I’d done enough to win the fight, but I never got the result and the Russian went on and won the gold medal. I am getting there, though, and I’m ready to compete at the top again.”
Selected for last season’s WSB campaign with the British Lionhearts, the 2010 Commonwealth Games silver medallist, who resides in Sheffield for the majority of his week training with Team GB, was unfortunate not to sample victory against Olympic conqueror Italy’s Domenico Valentino in week seven of the competition – a bout where he strained his ligaments and the joints in his left hand. Nevertheless, Taylor believes he has taken some encouragement from his time on one of the world’s top amateur circuits.
He said: “The amateur set-up is now going to be without the head guards, so I’ve adapted to that with being in the WSB. It’s all about being more aware and keeping your distance. My first fight in December was a close one, but I did think it was three rounds to two to him (Kazakhstan’s Yerzhan Mussafirov), but against Valentino I definitely thought I’d won.
“I don’t think the British Lionhearts will be competing next season as they’ve pulled out due to funding, but I would like to box for another team if possible because I enjoyed it. But I’ve not heard anything as yet.”
Taylor and Lochend team-mate Lewis Benson’s relationship strained just after Benson had secured, for a second consecutive year, the 64kg Scottish Championship title in March, an event in which Taylor did not compete. Although unwilling to disclose what passed between the pair, he added: “You know what – we’ve sorted it out. I think it was just a case of that he was 64kg, I am 64kg, and we both want that spot at the Commonwealth Games next year.
“Things were said, but it’s in the past as we’ve shaken hands and moved on. Lewis has moved up to 69kg and if he trains hard then he’ll have every chance of making the team.
“I am just going to go to every tournament and do my best and, hopefully, I will be selected for Glasgow next year as well.”
When probed about the probability of representing Scotland for a second time in a Commonwealth Games championship, this time in his home nation, Taylor’s patriotism shines through in abundance. Such an opportunity, he admits, would even surpass his participation in London last year.
“Aye, definitely,” he laughed. “It’s not going to be Great Britain as it’s for Scotland so all my friends and family will be able to get tickets as it’s just along the road. Standing on top of that podium hearing Flower of Scotland would just be brilliant – a dream come true.”
On more immediate challenges, Taylor remains optimistic his hand injury will not require surgery which will enable him to compete in the World Championships in Almaty, Kazakhstan in October. He is scheduled, however, to have another injection and remains hopeful there will be no further complications.
He added: “I can definitely come back with a medal and that is my target. I’ve got the ability and the talent, but sometimes it can just be the luck of the draw or if the judges are on your side or not. Hopefully I will be fully fit this time and I’m doing a lot of rehab work on my hand and strengthening it up, so I am hopeful I will be ready to go by October.”