Boxing: Josh Taylor to resist pro ranks switch

Josh Taylor has Rio 2016 in his sights. Pic: Neil Hanna
Josh Taylor has Rio 2016 in his sights. Pic: Neil Hanna
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Commonwealth champion Josh Taylor will resist a switch to boxing’s paid ranks to concentrate on winning gold at the Rio Olympics.

In a week when Scotland team-mate and 60kg gold medallist, Charlie Flynn, revealed he is turning professional under the stewardship of manager Alex Morrison and promoter Eddie Hearn, Taylor will begin his own journey which he hopes will end with him landing gold in Brazil in just over 18 months time.

The 23-year-old Lochend fighter, winner of the men’s 64kg category in Glasgow, insists he won’t be tempted by the advances of boxing promoters as he chases glory on amateur boxing’s greatest stage.

Taylor has just started a rehabilitation programme after undergoing an operation on his left hand at a private clinic in Manchester last month – a procedure that involved taking bone from his hip to replace two irreparable knuckles.

“I’ve had a while to think about where I go from here and there have been a few options laid out to me,” Taylor explained to the Evening News. “But with Rio being just around the corner, I’ve got a few wrongs to put right as I think I underperformed in London back in 2012. I was at the wrong weight that time [60kg] so I think I would be more than capable of winning a medal in Rio and, if I do, the world’s my oyster. Then the time would come to probably turn pro so my mind is pretty much set on Rio. I’m number one on the Great Britain team, after all, so they should be choosing me to go to tournaments.

“It all depends on how the healing of my hand goes, but I will be aiming to make the third and fourth Olympic qualifiers. I can’t afford for anything to go wrong, but I wouldn’t be making any moves either way as I won’t be able to punch until at least February.”

Taylor’s exploits in August are even more remarkable considering the handicap he encountered every time he stepped inside the ring.

“I’ve kind of been fighting with one hand for the last 18 months,” he disclosed. “But now was the time to get my hand fixed as there’s nothing really coming up. I’ll know more when I get the cast off in a couple of weeks, so hopefully it’s all good. I’ve just started back running this week.

“My hand was okay leading up to the Games, but it did get a bit sore where I had to miss out some sparring and pad work but it was actually fine when I got into the ring right up until the semi-final when I felt it against [Sam] Maxwell.

“And then, in the final itself, I was in the changing rooms before the fight and my hand went and I said to myself ‘please don’t do this to me – not the final’. But I came out fighting and got the job done.”

It has certainly been a whirlwind three months since the East Lothian star achieved the pinnacle of his amateur career – awarded Amateur Boxer of the Year at the Boxing Writers’ dinner at the Savoy; invitations galore through the post to special events, even his local pub in Prestonpans has introduced their own ale in homage to his summer feat.

“It has been a mental past few months that’s for sure,” Taylor admitted. “I’m getting invited to do all these things like schools, award dinners and ceremonies, a special guest at football games, Scotland rugby matches, so it’s been crazy.

“The awards reception at the Savoy was the biggest boxing awards dinner you can go to in Britain so it was brilliant.

“That was a real confidence booster to be named Best Amateur Boxer of the Year. To be recognised for all your hard work is just something else.”

And what about those 11 days in July and August that propelled him to stardom?

“I do watch my fights back sometimes to see what I could have done better,” he revealed. “I know I won them but it’s always good to see where I can improve. But when I watch a rerun of the final, all that emotions just come flooding back.

“The Games passed my expectations and to be honest, the weather topped it all off! When you went out in Glasgow the whole city was just buzzing. So winning the medal and singing the anthem was just even better than what I had envisaged.

“The Hydro was by far the best place I’ve fought – it was like when Russell Crowe comes out into the Colosseum in the film Gladiator with the crowd and just the shape of it. But the SECC was really good as well as the atmosphere was electric. It’s a time in my life I’ll never forget.”