JOSH TAYLOR appreciates just how much work lies ahead if he is to be classed in the same mould as Scottish boxing great and former world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan.
The Glasgow 2014 gold medallist made his professional debut almost 5000 miles from his East Lothian hometown of Prestonpans in El Paso, Texas, last month, making short work of opponent Archie Weah as the contest was brought to a halt in the second round.
And although the light welterweight fighter was never afforded the opportunity to really show his true credentials against Weah, there is a wave of optimism among some of the sport’s biggest promoters that Taylor is the real deal. Cyclone promoter Barry McGuigan, Taylor’s new manager, labelled the 24-year-old as the “most exciting Scottish talent” since the great Buchanan, who, like Taylor, hails from the Capital and shocked the boxing fraternity when he won the World Championship in 1970.
Given some of Scotland’s former world champions include that of Jim Watt, Alex Arthur and Ricky Burns, McGuigan, a former world champion himself, believes that in securing the Capital star’s signature, he has just acquired Scotland’s next world champion.
“My goal is to be world champion, make no mistake about it,” a defiant Taylor said in an exclusive interview with the Evening News. “It’s a great honour to be tipped as the next Kenny Buchanan. I don’t want to put pressure on myself, but hearing that’s how people are seeing me is just amazing.
“If I can achieve half of what Kenny achieved and bring titles back to Edinburgh then I’ll be delighted. Kenny still comes into the gym at Lochend to train now and then so he’s always about to give out some advice.
“I believe I am going to be fighting for a world title in a few years time and he [McGuigan] believes I have the ability and potential to do that.”
In agreeing a contract with London-based Cyclone Promotions, Taylor fits into a well-knitted team that is spearheaded by IBF world super bantamweight champion, Carl Frampton. Belfast-born Frampton is four years older than Taylor, but has successfully plotted his way from amateur to elite boxer in less than five years – a journey Taylor feels he can replicate, if not better.
“I’m really enjoying my boxing now and just want to be the best I can be,” he said. “Watching how Carl does things, he’s absolute class. I’m learning all the time from him as I watch him day in, day out and how professional he is. His approach to everything is exemplary.
“I knew I was going to be making my debut on Carl’s undercard so training with the likes of him and the other guys in the build up to the fight was just what I needed.
“The deal [with Cyclone] was agreed around April,” Taylor continued. “I went down to London and met with them around February/March time. I had offers from other promoters but the deal from Cyclone was just a great all-round package and one that I couldn’t refuse.
“Everything from getting looked after, to the training, the food, nutrition ... it’s all there so it was a no-brainer for me. And, having Barry McGuigan as your manager, he’s proved to have done a great job with Frampton so that really bodes well for my future.”
Despite Taylor’s pro debut at the Don Haskins Convention Center lasting little more than four minutes, it was a bout he is relieved to have gotten under his belt.
“I enjoyed every minute of it,” he recalled. “I wish I could get back in the ring right now and go again. It was fairly comfortable. I was a bit eager in the first round as I was trying to hit him hard, but I started to relax after that and got a good couple of shots in which got the fight stopped. I don’t go looking for knock-outs, but if it comes then so be it.
“It doesn’t matter how big or small the fight is – I’m always nervous. So being my professional debut, I did feel the nerves. The butterflies were going a bit as I didn’t know what to expect, but I loved it.
“I’ve not really stopped training since the fight. I had a week off after and went on holiday with my girlfriend Danielle, so I had some downtime, but I still did a couple of things while I was away.”
Taylor revealed that his second professional bout could be contested in the Capital in October but, as of yet, no date has been confirmed. For now, he is putting thoughts that potential fight on the backburner and instead focusing on next month’s MGM show at Meadowbank, where Lochend club-mates Lewis Benson, Stephen Tiffney and Tommy Philbin will throw their first punches as pro boxers.
“The MGM show next month is going to be a good night for Lochend having a few fighters on the show, so hopefully they’ll get the wins,” he said. “It’s exciting times.
“I’m hopeful of fighting in Edinburgh too, but that’s still to be confirmed. I should have one or two more fights before Christmas.
“Cyclone are wanting to put shows on in Edinburgh for myself, which would be great because it would give the fans a chance to come and watch me box in my hometown.”
And what about this new nickname of the Tartan Tornado for Taylor?
“It was just a bit of a laugh as all the lads were trying to think of a nickname for me,” Taylor added. “I was at the weigh-in and I had my tartan trunks on, so that’s where the Tartan Tornado came from. It was just a laugh really, but it’s kind of sticking! I do want to be wearing tartan, though, so maybe I’ll come into the ring for my fights wearing a different tartan every time.”