From the small hall at Meadowbank to Madison Square Garden in New York: Josh Taylor is conquering the world

October 16, 2015. Meadowbank Sports Centre. Edinburgh.
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Topping the 'Lift'Off' bill? Josh Taylor. Fresh from a maiden knockout victory in Texas three months prior, it was time to let the home fans see what all the fuss was about.

Then under the tutelage of former promoter Barry McGuigan, who'd snapped the Lochend amateur up after superbly winning Commonwealth gold in Glasgow the year before, the former world featherweight champion couldn't have been blunter with the assembled media: "I'm telling you this kid is going right to the top".

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Meadowbank, prior to its £47million redevelopment, was like a second home to the Taylor family. Mum, Diane, worked as a receptionist while teenage Taylor would regularly jump on the bus from Prestonpans to attend Taekwondo lessons. He knew the venue like the back of his hand.

Josh Taylor is in sublime shape ahead of his duel at Madison Square Garden. Picture: Shabba Shafiq/SWTSCNC.Josh Taylor is in sublime shape ahead of his duel at Madison Square Garden. Picture: Shabba Shafiq/SWTSCNC.
Josh Taylor is in sublime shape ahead of his duel at Madison Square Garden. Picture: Shabba Shafiq/SWTSCNC.

A modest crowd in the smaller hall witnessed Taylor blow away Hungarian Adam Mate in the first round. His professional career had, as predicted, lifted off in sensational style.

And as he now stands on the brink of fulfilling a life-long dream by stepping into the ring at Madison Square Garden - the Mecca of boxing - the former undisputed super lightweight king appreciates every second of what has been an incredible journey packed with blood, sweat and tears.

Brooklyn's Teofimo Lopez is his next hurdle - a challenge he is hell bent in overcoming tonight as he defends his WBO strap in the Big Apple.

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"It's mental when you think about it," Taylor reflected. "From £40 a ticket in the small hall at Meadowbank and then gradually getting bigger - boxing at Braehead, Ingliston and then into the Hydro and the O2 in London - and here we are now in New York. It's just amazing and I'm enjoying the ride. When I became undisputed world champion in 2021 that was it, so everything from now on in is a bonus.

"This is definitely up there. Obviously, the one in Vegas when I became undisputed was just unbelievable, but there was no one there. No one could come over and see it because of the Covid restrictions at the time. So, this is making up for it and it's always been a dream to come over here and fight in an arena like this.

"So, I'm here, I've got my friends and family here, there are some fans coming over, although a lot messaged me saying they can't make it because it was announced too late and they don't have enough money to travel. But we're going to have a good time and enjoy it. I can't wait.

"You need that bit between your teeth like you want to hurt this guy. I wouldn't say I hate him because I don't know him to hate him, but there is a disliking there. That's all the motivation you need. You need that - the Hank is what they call me. I've definitely got that for this fight and I believe you'll see the best of me.

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"I've not got any pressure on myself and I learned that the last time with the homecoming fight [against Jack Catterall] where I did put a lot of pressure on myself. It really hindered me."

Undefeated Taylor's combined record of his last six opponents stands at a staggering 133-0. However, he still feels his success goes under the radar. His controversial victory over Catterall 16 months ago - the last time Taylor fought - saw the 32-year-old and his family suffer a tirade of abuse on social media.

"I think I've had that all my career, even as an amateur when I was going to tournaments," he explained. "I was coming back with gold medals and all I was getting was a little snippet of a mention in the BoxingNews. Other fighters from England and Wales were getting big paragraphs about this and that and then it was 'Josh Taylor wins gold medal'.

"And you think I got best boxer of the tournament and that's it. I don't really care now - I know who I am, I like going about my business quietly and let my achievements do the talking. Who else can say they've achieved what I have?"

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"I am getting more coverage but I deserve it. I'm more than decorated and achieved enough in the sport. I've got the backing and the platform behind me to showcase my skills and personality."

And what about the loud-mouthed Lopez, the former unified lightweight champion who has suffered just one loss from his 19 bouts.

Taylor quipped: "He just goes off, doesn't he? He came out with his quote at the press conference of Thursday where we should all be aiming for death. It doesn't even make sense. He's an absolute space cadet. I don't even bother talking to him. I need to beat some sense into him. The programme that we were on for promoting the fight where you saw me getting up and going, he went on for 40 minutes and I'd had enough. It had to be heavily edited. He's Krusty the Clown really.

"For me this is a dream come true. Starting out as a kid you always dream coming over Stateside and fighting in venues like this. It's the Mecca of boxing. The Tartan Army are coming over so I can't wait. He's just another piece of cannon fodder, that's all he is. I can see his fear. There is no lie in the eyes. They don’t lie when you’re looking at someone’s eyes, and you see the look a little bit of nervousness and a little bit here in his eyes."