Josh Taylor today admitted he was relieved to claim victory in a fight he “had to win” but the Lochend boxer’s Scottish 64kg title success wasn’t without controversy.
The 23-year-old Olympian was awarded victory on a split decision against Sam Ball at the Emirates Arena, Glasgow, on Friday evening as the Greenock fighter – conqueror of Craigmillar’s Jason Easton in the previous round – reinforced his credentials despite being five years Taylor’s junior.
Victory all but confirmed Taylor’s berth in the Commonwealth Games.
The referee’s declaration that Taylor had won caused some difference of opinion within the 3000 strong crowd but, ultimately, the defending champion was far more astute with his punches and was rightly awarded the contest after three rounds.
Taylor has been widely tipped to represent Scotland this summer in what would be his second Commonwealth Games appearance since winning silver in Delhi as a 19-year-old, but even he disclosed a desire to ensure his place was assured with a strong performance against the composed Ball.
“I kind of had to win that fight or it would have looked very bad on me,” said Taylor. “They (the committee) maybe would have had to make a different decision... you never know, so it was an important fight for myself. It was a really tough fight. He came forward and was a strong fighter, but I was always expecting it. A lot of people had been saying I was going to walk the fight but I was never thinking that. He came and did deliver a really tough fight so I’ve got a lot of respect for him.”
One supporter of Ball even said directly to Taylor in the aftermath: “You should never have won that fight, you’re going to get flattened at the Commies”, a comment that Taylor brushed aside with some dignity. “Everyone is entitled to their opinion but I won the fight and that’s what matters,” stressed Taylor. “I knew he wasn’t landing clean punches when I was on the ropes, but his fans were making a lot of noise and I thought it could’ve maybe influenced the judges a little bit – maybe it did with the split decision, but I thought I’d done all the work and had hit him more often than he hit me.”
Taylor’s club-mate and GB performance boxer Aston Brown must convince the committee he is worth a spot on the team in July after losing to close rival Kieran Smith of Springhill, again by a split decision.
Smith, 20, however, was adamant he has done enough to cement his place saying: “I am top of the medals podium for points so why shouldn’t I be? This was the supposed to be the decider so, as far as I am concerned, I am going.”
Taylor is most likely to be joined at Glasgow 2014 by Lewis Benson, also of Lochend, who outfought Glenrothes’ Connor Law to take the 69kg title.
Elsewhere, Lochend’s Katy Atkin lost out to a split decision against Springhill’s Lynn Calder in their female lightweight bout, but there was a champion to emerge from the student gym of Heriot-Watt University as Gardner Moore secured the female welterweight Scottish title from Renfrewshire’s Gemma Brodie on a split decision.
Selected Results (Edinburgh and the Lothians):
Male heavyweight: Stephen Lavelle (Hayfield) won by unanimous decision against Gary Fairgrieve (East Lothian).
Female welterweight: Gardener Moore (Heriot-Watt) won by split decision against Gemma Brodie (Renfrewshire).
Male welterweight: Lewis Benson (Lochend) won by unanimous decision against Connor Law (Glenrothes).
Male flyweight: Reece McFadden (Forgewood) won by unanimous decision against Ryan McCutcheon (Meadowbank).
Female lightweight: Lynn Calder (Springhill) won by split decision against Katy Atkin (Lochend).
Male light welterweight: Josh Taylor (Lochend) won by split decision against Sam Ball (Greenock).
Male middleweight: Kieran Smith (Springhill) won by split decision against Aston Brown (Lochend).