Josh Taylor targets world title – but first must see off Soto

Josh Taylor and manager Barry McGuigan announce the March 3 fight with Humberto Soto, right, at the SSE Hydro
Josh Taylor and manager Barry McGuigan announce the March 3 fight with Humberto Soto, right, at the SSE Hydro
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Edinburgh’s Josh Taylor is on course to become a world boxing champion this summer.

The next opponent standing in the WBC Silver super-lightweight champion’s way is Mexico’s former three-weight world champion, Humberto Soto, whom he will face at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday, March 3.

Should the 27-year-old Prestonpans puncher emerge with the 12th victory of his professional career and a second successful defence of his belt, he could be in line to contest his first world title in just five or six months’ time.

“That’s the aim,” Taylor said at yesterday’s official press conference to announce his latest fight. “We’ll see what comes and what belts become available but I’d love to become world champion this year.

“There’s a lot on my shoulders but I don’t feel the pressure. I just brush it off and focus on myself. I’m just enjoying the ride. I believe in my ability and people might say I’m going to be world champion, but that wouldn’t surprise me because that’s what I expect of myself. And that’s not being big headed, I’m confident in my own ability.

“But I never like to look past my next fight as that would be completely stupid of me, especially against this guy.”

Taylor, though, is mindful of what his 37-year-old opponent has achieved in a career spanning 21 years. Indeed, Taylor was just six years old when Soto – a former WBC super-featherweight, featherweight and lightweight world champion – made his professional debut in his hometown of Los Mochis in September 1997.

The Capital fighter, however, can take a surge of confidence from his previous triumph where he stopped Soto’s compatriot Miguel Vazquez in the ninth round at the Royal Highland Centre in November. Vazquez, another former world lightweight champion, had also not been stopped in his previous 44 contests.

“The only guy to stop Soto is Lucas Matthysse and he’s a monster, really heavy handed,” Taylor explained. “But I’m preparing for a really hard 12 rounds so it definitely could go the distance this one. He has experience in abundance so I am going to have to be completely focused.

“He’s a completely different fighter to Vazquez. I had to go looking for him and made a few mistakes in doing so. He was awkward and he hit me with some silly shots like that mad uppercut that was hard to read. He [Soto] is the more all-round and complete fighter so it’s going to be tough that’s for sure. But everyone said Vasquez would go the distance but I got him out so if I can do the same here it would be another massive statement. It would show I mean business this year.”

Taylor will return to the Hydro, a venue which holds fond memories for the fighter, who won gold there at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow almost four years ago. He even conceded victory in six weeks’ time over Soto would struggle to surpass the elation he experienced in August 2014.

“A lot has happened since then but the Games still feel like yesterday,” Taylor reflected. “It will be difficult to beat that experience of winning gold in Glasgow and singing Flower of Scotland in front of my country. It will be hard to better that feeling, to be honest, but that’s the aim.

“It’s going to be brilliant headlining at the Hydro as a pro. Hopefully it’s the sign of things to come. It would be great to be back there later in the year winning or defending a world title. I’m going in the right direction. This will be my first time back since the Commonwealth Games and it will be special walking into the changing rooms and being out there again. It will bring the memories flooding back.

“Last year was a long year so I took some time off the road and away from the gym after the Vazquez fight. I caught up with my family and just relaxed for a while over Christmas.

“It was good to get the mental and physical rest and it helped recharged the batteries because I know this year will be even harder.”