Josh Taylor is still a true champion and will deliver on the big stage once more despite defeat
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A unanimous defeat to Brooklyn favourite Teofimo Lopez in the small hours of yesterday morning, the first of Taylor's professional career, was not what the boxing fraternity had forecast.
The super lightweight departed the Big Apple today with less luggage than when he arrived over a fortnight ago, both the WBO strap and Ring Magazine title navigating their way to a new home across the Hudson River.
The Theatre, at Madison Square Garden, was packed to the rafters with just over 5,000 squeezed in, a new record at the venue, previously held by the 2018 duel between Vasiliy Lomachenko and Jose Pedraza.
It ticked all the boxes for the 32-year-old Prestonpans puncher. He was hell bent in emulating his hero, the late Ken Buchanan, who racked up three wins at the Mecca of boxing in the early seventies. Taylor's shorts, adorning a white waist band, was his own tribute to the Fighting Carpenter's legacy following his death on April 1. It just needed a devastating performance in Manhattan to match. Unfortunately, that final piece of the jigsaw came from his opponent.
The hostility and animosity between both camps in the build-up had sent tongues wagging. But talk is cheap. Who could execute the game-plan when it mattered most? Taylor simply had little resistance to a man who had a point to prove after his loss to Geoge Kambosos Jr just over 18 months ago.
“Listen, I’m gutted. Devastated. It wasn’t the result I came here for. But there’s no excuses, the better man won on the night," he said after emerging from his dressing room deep within the bowels of MSG. "I prepared great, made the weight great, everything went as I’d have wanted in the build-up.
“I started well but then after about three or four rounds I just started to feel a bit knackered. My legs started to go, they felt like they had drained a little bit. But that is no excuse. I just never executed the game-plan like we’d prepared on the night. If I had performed the way I had been in the gym, the way I was knocking out two or three of my sparring partners, then I’d have won that fight by three or four rounds. I lost the championship rounds and that was the difference."
Taylor last felt the pain of defeat ten years ago when still boxing as an amateur. He finds himself in unchartered territory with his dream of becoming a two-weight world champion on hold for just now. His rise to undisputed ring king in 2021 will never be forgotten, nor should it. He has achieved so much where so many others before him failed.
“I just want to say thanks for all the support I’ve had up until this point," an emotional Taylor continued. "And I want to especially thank all the fans that travelled over to New York, spending their hard-earned money to come all this way to America to support me fight.
“They’ve come all this way and I’m just sorry I couldn’t repay them with a victory and a trip that would leave them all with special memories.
“The last time I lost was 2013 at the European Championship as an amateur. That’s a long time ago and ever since then it’s only been success - all while making 64kg.
“I’ve been making that weight since I was 23 or 24-years-old. Over those 10 years I’ve achieved so much and I’m very proud of that. It's been an incredible journey."
The victorious Lopez is a troubled character outside of the ring. His ongoing battle for custody over his young son Junior has, at times, threatened to tip him over the edge. He masks his fragility well, but every man has a breaking point. Within minutes of delivering a career-best performance, the former lightweight champion announced to the assembled media he was seriously considering calling it quits. He also delivered a sincere apology to the Scot for threatening to take his life just a couple of weeks prior. He insisted he'd allowed his emotions to get the better of him. It's therefore implausible he will step back from a sport that keeps him on the straight and narrow.
"Life is always hard, your personal life. I was with somebody for five years who gave me a hard time and really screwed me up mentally," he explained. "I can't really express too much as we're going through all the legal and custody stuff right now. That's my next battle right now fighting for my kid.
"I question myself - I do it on purpose, I need the pressure because that's what makes diamonds and I shone very brightly. When I think back to my ex-wife, that was taking me away from my boxing so boxing is my wife. I married it at 17 years young and I can't disrespect my love.
"This is what it is all about. Challenges bring the greatest out of you. I don't know how to say it or express it enough. I'm 25-years-old, seven-time world champion, two-time lineal world champion, two division world champion, I mean two Hall of Fame careers in one at just 25 ,you can't tell me I'm not great. This is what I do. I might retire. I'm kind of tired. I'm not getting paid enough - one million dollars? Get the f**k out of here. I'm tired of everyone bullying me. I'm young, a kid too at heart.
"I'm the guy that makes it hard on myself. All these guys are easy. There's not a damn fighter in this world who can beat me. Trust me. And I think I showed a lot of people that."