If Josh Taylor is to be presented as the new Commonwealth super-lightweight champion at Meadowbank on Friday night, he’ll hope mum Diane has plucked up enough courage to turn around to join in the celebrations.
Whilst the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has spent the last two weeks fine-tuning his game-plan in London ahead of his first professional title fight against Derby’s Dave Ryan, Diane has instead found her routine sleeping pattern thrown into complete disarray.
“I’ve hardly slept these last two weeks and that’s all to do with the anxiety of Friday night,” she explained while waiting to be reunited with her son at Lochend Amateur Boxing Club following a delayed flight from London Gatwick.
“I don’t think I even see half of the fight to be honest. When I go to see him I usually just stand next to the wall and don’t move. If he was taking some hard shots I’d have to either leave the arena or jump in the ring.
“Of course I want him to win, but it’s just the stress of it all. I try not to tell Josh how I am feeling. My doctor is quite good with helping me get through it though! I don’t want Josh worrying about how I feel because he needs to focus on his fight coming up.”
The safety of boxers has never been more paramount in wake of the tragic death of Dundee boxer Mike Towell last month, whose life was cut short having suffered a bleed on the brain during a British title-eliminator bout in Glasgow. Towell was just 25 and, the same age as Josh.
“It was terrible what happened and because he was the same age as Josh it really hit home. It’s absolutely devastating,” Diane said.
“But what mother doesn’t worry when their son is stepping inside a boxing ring? It’s terrible and really nerve-racking because we know the dangers, but we’ve just got to go with it. It’s only really been in the last few years that it’s really hit me with the risks he is taking.
“I think the better the level Josh is fighting at, the worse the stress gets for myself. My husband James is slightly different but the last time Josh fought at Meadowbank last year [against Adam Mate], his wee sister Finch even turned to me and said ‘mum, I’m feeling really sick’.”
Just then, Josh enters through the wooden doors of his old amateur boxing club in Sleigh Drive to a warm embrace from Diane.
“It’s a dangerous sport, I know the risks I’m taking going into the ring so I can understand completely where she is coming from,” he replied when asked about his mum’s reservations. “But I prepare as best as I can and I just keep reassuring her that I’m going to be fine.”
It was only yesterday Josh’s manager Barry McGuigan of Cyclone Promotions was on Sky News discussing the benefits of introducing a scanner to the sport where it can detect bleeding on the brain – a piece of technology both Josh and Diane are in favour.
“If we are to bring in something that can detect a bleed then great,” Josh said. “Who knows, Mike Towell might still have been alive today. When I heard what had happened I was in complete shock and it just shows that these things do happen.”
For now, Diane is happy to have her boy back in their Prestonpans home – at least until the weekend – and reveals she still pinches herself at just how far he’s come in such a short space of time – a timely reminder that Josh had never come into contact with boxing until the age of 16.
“With all that’s been said, I’m just so proud of Josh, I couldn’t be anymore proud,” she said. “He’s just come on leaps and bounds. I never expected for him to reach this level and to be honest, I still don’t think it’s sunk in how far he has come. He was always good at school sports, he liked motocross and was actually a really good football player, but it was his Tae Kwon Do that really took over when he was younger.
“I was actually a bit disappointed when he said he wanted to try boxing because he’d put so much into his Tae Kwon Do and that was him leaving it behind. But I said ‘fair enough’ and there’s no looking back now. It’s been amazing.
“It’s going to be a tough fight for him on Friday, but he’s going to win it. Personally I’d like it to be over within two rounds again but I know he needs the round under his belt this time.”
Over to you now, Josh.
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