Josh Taylor has finally lived out his dream of the past four years by becoming boxing’s 64kg Commonwealth champion.
The Edinburgh pugilist stood aloft of the podium on Saturday at a packed-out SSE Hydro as he took gold over Namibian opponent Junias Jonas with a unanimous victory – repeating the feat of team-mate Charlie Flynn who, just minutes beforehand, had secured his own triumph in the 60kg final bout.
But Taylor disclosed in the aftermath the lengths he and his Lochend coach Terry McCormack had gone through to ensure it would be the 2012 Olympian bringing Commonwealth gold back to the Capital – even though his Team Scotland officials were left none the wiser.
A clearly emotional champion said: “If it wasn’t for my immediate family and my coaches, I wouldn’t be where I am today. As for Terry, he has been travelling through here a couple of times this last week and doing sly sessions with me in the gym – I’ve been sneaking out of the village so he’s been 100 per cent into me as well so credit is due to Terry as well – he’s a brilliant coach.”
McCormack stressed he was prepared to do his utmost to see Taylor surpass his exploits of Delhi four years ago when he took silver competing at 60kg.
“We’d come this far and the last week is the most important before a fight,” McCormack explained. “I’d asked Scotland if I could get involved in the final week, but they said no, they had too many coaches. So Josh and I devised a wee plan that he would sneak out the village and I’d meet him at the local gyms in Glasgow – Peter Harrison’s and Alex Morrison’s. We just wanted to make sure.
“I was watching videos day and night of his opponents and then coming up with a game-plan before meeting Josh the night before his fight – doing padwork with me imitating the boy that he was due to be fighting. It could have made the difference between gold and silver as it was all fresh in Josh’s mind. The timing and the planning was down to a tee.
“It’s all we’ve wanted for the past four years – to make amends for India,” McCormack said. “It was unfortunate he lost out to [Tom] Stalker, but we just wanted the gold for Josh and the gym. We feel we belong at that level. I was around when Alex Arthur won it [1998 in Kuala Lumpur] but I wanted it for my own gym. I can’t say enough how proud I am of Josh.”
However, McCormack could only assist his student so much prior to the athlete stepping inside the ring, but Taylor wasn’t about to waste what precious time they had as he executed the game-plan to great effect, displaying a prowess against some strong opposition en route to claiming gold.
Jonas was a formidable character though, but it was Taylor who looked the more astute in the opening round, the use of the left hook having been a consistent feature in his previous performances once again paying dividends for the Prestonpans prodigy.
Taylor’s footwork was also exemplary, working his way out of some tight positions against the ropes as Jonas tried to assert some pressure during the second three-minute round. But it was southpaw Taylor who proved the more accurate with his shots as he clenched his fist to signal he had won the second round – which he had.
It was now going to require a superhuman effort from Namibia’s Jonas in the third and final round to sway the gold medal his way – his endeavours there for all to see as he tried to catch Taylor off guard. But when a boxer, like Taylor, is within three minutes of winning the Commonwealth title, there was little chance he would let a moment he trains for day in, day out slip from his grasp.
“It’s a dream come true,” a teary-eyed Taylor said with his medal on full show. “I almost couldn’t sing the anthem as I couldn’t hold my emotions together – it was tears of joy rather than tears of disappointment this time. It [standing on the podium] was a thousand times better. I imagined it being amazing and everybody singing, but that was just surreal. I feel numb – I just can’t believe it.
“At the end of the rounds I was raising my fist to say to the judges I’ve won that round. But I knew he was going to come at me and have a big last round so I just wanted to get home safe and make sure I got that gold medal – I didn’t want to walk into any silly shots.
“I moved back up to 64kg after the Olympics and feeI I am boxing at a comfortable weight. I think this is the best I have ever boxed throughout a tournament where I’ve had a few world-class performances.”
Taylor has been the poster boy of Scottish boxing since making his Olympic debut two years ago, his stature now expected to rise even further in the coming days and months after his heroics at Glasgow 2014.
So what lies ahead for Josh Taylor and his immediate future? A step back from boxing is a certainty as he takes time out to reflect on his latest achievements.
“A well earned rest is in order I think,” he said. “I’ll catch up with my family and have a nice wee break. I give up my whole life for this game. I’ve boxed and trained for this moment for almost two years now, so your whole life goes on hold. I just want to forget about boxing just now and relax and let my hair down.”
Asked if, at times, he feels he has neglected his youth, Taylor added: “Sometimes I feel I do. I do lose contact with friends and family, but you know what, I wouldn’t change it for the world – I would do that a thousand times over again if I could as it’s better than anything in the world – I’ve finally won gold.”