Given the scathing criticism he has faced these past few weeks, you would be forgiven for assuming it was trainer Shane McGuigan and not Josh Taylor who is boxing Ohara Davies this weekend.
It would be fair to say that the undefeated Englishman’s outspoken demeanour has ruffled more than a few feathers in the Taylor camp ahead of Saturday night’s showdown at Glasgow’s Braehead Arena, a duel that will be shown live by Channel 5.
Both fighters couldn’t resist goading one another at yesterday’s public workout at the Intu Braehead Shopping Centre where both Carl Frampton and Scotland’s three-weight world champion, Ricky Burns, stablemates of Taylor and Davies respectively, were in attendance.
McGuigan, son of Cyclones Promotion manager and former WBA featherweight champion Barry, isn’t surprised he too has come under attack from the confrontational Londoner.
It isn’t the first time McGuigan has been subjected to this kind of name-calling in his short career. He became embroiled in a much-publicised spat with Bury’s Scott Quigg and rival trainer Joe Gallagher prior to guiding Frampton to the unified WBA and IBF world super bantamweight titles last February.
Asked if such pre-fight hostility made it more difficult to maintain that focus for either him or his boxer, McGuigan said: “You’ve got to actually respect someone to really acknowledge what they’re saying to you or to be hurt by it. If someone I really admired said these things to me then I’d be pretty put out by it. But I don’t have any respect for Ohara Davies whatsoever. The only thing I have to do is analyse him, pick his holes but also be aware of his strengths. He’s a puncher and he has a loud mouth – a really loud mouth at that.
“The two of them [Taylor and Davies] hate each other. There’s no getting away from that but Ohara Davies doesn’t like me and he doesn’t like our team. I don’t know how much respect will be shown by either of them after the fight. It’s difficult to see.” Despite Taylor having racked up nine consecutive victories in the paid ranks in comparison to Davies’ 15, McGuigan believes the Prestonpans puncher’s amateur pedigree which culminated in him winning gold at Glasgow 2014, will stand him in good stead in what is anticipated to be his toughest test to date. And, should the Commonwealth super lightweight champion prevail in Glasgow in front of a partisan crowd on Saturday night, he will add Davies’ WBC Silver title to his collection.
“Josh is looking really sharp,” McGuigan said. “He’s at another level. He’s becoming more of a man and has trained his backside off. I’ve been really pleased with him with what he’s shown and how he’s improving all the time.
“The way you’ve got to look at it is the adaptability of both boxers. I keep hearing Davies is unbeaten both as an amateur and as a professional but he’s never boxed at a high level. He only had about 20 or so fights as an amateur whereas Josh has had over 100 and has fought at the highest level.
“Josh has boxed in WSB [World Series Boxing] and the Olympics so he has respect for athletes at world level, whereas Ohara Davies has boxed some novices in the amateurs and a few journeyman as a pro. His toughest fight to date has been Derry Matthews, who is a blown-up featherweight. The only real super lightweight he’s faced has been [Andrea] Scarpa and he struggled with it.
“Davies has been up sparring with GB before and they just play with him. But he’s tough, he’s durable and he stays in there but we’ve got to stick to our game-plan and make sure Josh is very responsive in the corner and listens to me. I believe he’s got the power there to really hurt Ohara Davies. I don’t really believe Davies knows what he’s doing as he’s fighting on instinct all the time.”