History beckons as Josh Taylor defends title at Meadowbank

Josh Taylor weighed in at 9st 13lbs - as did opponent Warren Joubert. Pic: Ian Georgeson

Josh Taylor weighed in at 9st 13lbs - as did opponent Warren Joubert. Pic: Ian Georgeson

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If Meadowbank Stadium is to be demolished by the end of this year paving the way for new state-of-art facilities, Josh Taylor admits it would be a huge honour were he to be the last boxer to have won a major title at the iconic Capital venue.

The Prestonpans fighter and current Commonwealth super lightweight champion returns to the old stadium on Friday night looking to keep hold of the belt he won in October with a fifth-round stoppage over Derby’s former champion Dave Ryan.

South African Warren Joubert is next in line for the Tartan Tornado, who is seeking his ninth consecutive victory since signing professional terms with Cyclone Promotions manager Barry McGuigan in summer 2015.

The bout will be the third time Taylor has fought at Meadowbank as a paid fighter and, should his duel with Joubert be his final 12 rounds before redevelopment of the 47-year-old centre gets underway, he is determined to ensure he leaves a lasting impression on his home crowd.

“I’ve been in this place since I was a wee boy,” Taylor told the Evening News. “My mum has worked here all my life too so I know the place like the back of my hand.

“I used to come up for school holiday camps and also competed for my high school (Preston Lodge) out on the athletics track. I’ve got really fond memories of this place, that’s for sure, so it’s quite sad that it looks to be the end of an era.

“In terms of boxing, I used to come up and watch Alex Arthur fight and train here too. I remember being there when he won the world [super featherweight] title [against Stephen Foster in December 2007] so there has been some really big nights here that I’ve been a part of, both as a spectator and being in the ring myself. I’ve had a few big fights here both as an amateur and now as a professional so it will always be a special place.

“It’s a real shame it’s coming down just at the time when my career is on the up to be honest but I think the intention has always been to take me to other venues across Scotland.

“I suppose there’s the Usher Hall that could potentially be used but we’ll just need to see what Barry and the team have lined up for me.

“Hopefully when the new centre is built there is a similar arena so I can come back and use it and start writing new chapters. It would be a huge honour to be the last boxer to have won belts here.”

Taylor was as cool as a cucumber as he posed for the customary head-to-head shot at today’s weigh in as both he and 35-year-old Joubert (26-4-5) weighed in at 9st 13lbs.

The Scot will once again be roared on by a raucous partisan crowd and will have stablemates Carl Frampton and George Groves there to lend their support.

“It’s massive to have these experienced guys coming up to support me again and being there in the crowd,” he said. “They just pass down these wee tips here and there, even on fight night, so that’s a huge boost for a guy like myself. I’ve made the weight pretty easily again so I’m ready to go.

“I’m very confident from what I’ve seen,” he continued. “He’s [Joubert] very similar to Dave Ryan in terms of style which suits me down to the ground.

“I’ve been hurting middleweights and welterweights with the punches I’ve been throwing in sparring so I’m feeling good.

“I’m punching a lot harder now as I’ve been doing a lot of strength work and putting my body weight into the punch whereas in the amateurs, you’re just getting them out as fast as possible.

“These are the nights you train so hard for, having a title on the line in front of your home crowd. If the last time against Dave Ryan was anything to go by then we’re in for another fantastic night.”

• Tickets for this fantastic evening of championship boxing at the Meadowbank Arena in Edinburgh this Friday are on sale now from www.ticketmaster.co.uk priced £40, £60 and £100 VIP. For VIP Packages contact geraldine@ cyclonepromotions.com

SHANE McGUIGAN: JOSH READY FOR NEXT LEVEL

Trainer Shane McGuigan admits Josh Taylor is progressing so fast up the super lightweight rankings that he expects him to be in contention for world honours within the next 12 months.

McGuigan, who was recently crowned 2016 Trainer of the Year and also works alongside household names Carl Frampton and David Haye at their training base in Battersea, London, says Taylor has surpassed his expectations since taking him under his wing in the summer of 2015.

“Josh has done everything in the gym that I need to know so I feel we should have him up to world level within the next twelve months,” McGuigan said.

“At the start, he was a bit raw but he’s progressed so quickly. I didn’t think he would adapt as fast as he has. His engine his phenomenal and is just so fast around the canvas. We just need to secure the right fights for him now.

“It makes my job easier let me tell you and it allows me to teach him some things he can pick up. A Premier League coach can only excel when he’s got Premier League players.

“Working with the likes of [George] Groves, Frampton and Haye, they all have different attributes so I’ve got to be able to hone them and work towards what they do best.

“But Josh is so quick and has great timing but he’s very much like training Carl so we train them together at the same time.”

McGuigan believes there is every chance the Meadowbank crowd could see an even earlier finish against Warren Joubert on Friday than when Taylor won the Commonwealth super lightweight belt with a fifth-round stoppage against Dave Ryan in October.

“Joubert’s quite awkward and tough but that’s expected at this level,” said McGuigan.

“But I reckon we could blow him out early and, to be honest, I’d be disappointed if he were to as I want him [Joubert] to at least take Josh to the second half of the fight.”