Josh Taylor queries absence of big crowd in Vegas but is grateful for limited numbers at unification fight
Scottish sports fans are renowned for forking out a bob or two to travel the world and revel in their heroes’ success.
That will again be evident next month when the Tartan Army descend upon London for Scotland’s Euro 2020 Group D clash against England at Wembley, albeit the volume of fans crossing the border will be scaled back significantly due to Covid restrictions.
Nevertheless, for those who do don the kilts and see you Jimmy hats in making the trip south, John McGinn et al will more than feel their presence. Oh how Josh Taylor could do with even a small portion of that true Scottish grit in Las Vegas on Saturday night.
The Virgin Hotels resort, where the 30-year-old will attempt to become Scotland's first undisputed champion since Ken Buchanan and Britain's first-ever boxer to hold all four belts, will enter the ring in far more modest surroundings for a fight of this calibre. It's expected there will be little more than 1,000 fans in attendance and the vast majority of those will be rooting for Mexican-American Jose Ramirez. The 28-year-old is the final stumbling block for Taylor to negotiate in the super lightweight division.
But the East Lothian star is the consummate professional and as disappointing as it is not to have a travelling Tartan Army of his own, including mum Diane, dad James and fiancée Danielle, he controls his own destiny.
"I wish the venue was at full capacity like Texas had the other week for Canelo and Saunders," Taylor said. "There were 70,000 fans with no masks or social distancing. Why can’t we do it here? It’s a little bit frustrating there’s not a bigger crowd. But I’m glad there will be some fans in and I want to put on a show.
"The fans give you those butterflies and they create an atmosphere. They make the event bigger and better. There will be singing and booing towards me but that gives you that bit extra of determination. My last fight (against Apinun Khongsong in London in September) was very hard to stay in the zone coming into the ring with no fans. It was a glorified sparring match and hard to deal with mentally. It will be awesome having some kind of normality back."
There has been a mutual respect between the division's top undefeated boxers and that very much remains the script little more than 48 hours until they throw their first jab. Ukrainian Viktor Postol, the former WBC champion, who has lost to both men - Taylor in 2018 and Ramirez last August – has tipped the Prestonpans puncher to come out on top after being on the receiving end of a contentious loss nine months ago.
"Listen, you take his fight with Postol with a pinch of salt," Taylor warned. "It was his last performance, it’s been and gone. I wasn’t too impressed with it – but I expect the very best of Jose Ramirez this weekend. This fight’s been in the pipeline for a very long time, there haven’t been any delays like there were with his last fight against Postol, when it was put off three or four times.
"So, I’m expecting the best version of Ramirez there has ever been. And, if he comes out on Saturday night, it’ll be a tough fight. I’m expecting a very good, strong, come-forward fighter. And I’m expecting a tough 12 rounds. I’ve trained for a tough 12 rounds.
"So, I’m not going on his last performance, I’m focusing on Saturday. And I look at the good performances he has turned in over the years. He’s a very good fighter. I just believe I’m better than him. And I’ll prove it."
This weekend is the second duel operating under the tutelage of Tyson Fury's former trainer, Ben Davison. Taylor parted ways with Shane McGuigan 17 months ago, and despite a lack of opportunities to put those sharpened tools into practice, the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist feels in a good place.
“It’s been brilliant with Ben," he said. "I’ve never been so relaxed and happy in a camp. I took a few weeks off after Khongsong and went home for my first Christmas off since I turned pro. I ate some good food and put on a little bit of weight. But I was back in London in the new year and back in the gym.
"We’ve trained diligently and we’ve got a great game plan. The relationship with Ben is brilliant. It’s more than just a boxer/trainer, it’s a friendship. But when we get in the gym, he’s the boss. I’m happy with the way it’s gone.”
Davison, meanwhile, is expecting Taylor to prove he is the undisputed No.1 super lightweight.
"How tough the fight is depends on how Josh goes about it," the 28-year-old explained. "If he approaches it in the right way then this is, potentially, a showcase performance for Josh but he can also make it a tough fight. I believe Josh has the superior skills set.
"We've had longer together for this fight than before and that should definitely come to fruition this weekend. Before he turned professional, he had a massive amateur pedigree and when he came to me last year, he was already unified world champion."
Ramirez v Taylor will stream live and exclusively in the UK on FITE for £9.99. Live coverage begins at 1.30am on Sunday morning.
Our coverage of Josh Taylor’s undisputed world title fight is proudly brought to you in association with WOW Hydrate www.wowhydrate.com