Josh Taylor: Why world champion's only fear is losing, even if it's snakes and ladders
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It could be deemed a complete cop-out for boxer Josh Taylor to suggest he has a genuine fear of losing. But scratch away at the surface and you can see where the undisputed super lightweight champion is coming from.
He has yet to experience defeat as a professional in 18 contests and was a standout in the amateurs which culminated in gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2014. His body language said it all when presented with silver as a gawky teenager four years prior in Delhi. He was on the brink of tears as he stood next to the victorious Thomas Stalker who, at the time, had swiped away the one thing he'd fought tooth and nail for. The lion's share of 19-year-olds would bend over backwards to bring home silver for their country. Not Taylor. His body and mindset simply don't align that way. His last loss in the ring was eight years ago as Almasbek Alibekov got the better of the Prestonpans puncher in an international challenge match between Great Britain and Kazakhstan.
"I've got a massive fear of getting beat," he explained. "That’s what keeps me sharp and on my toes. It gives me the butterflies and keeps making me perform. It’s the fear of getting beat. I want to win. I’m a fiercely competitive person so everything I do I want to win at. I don’t want to get beat at anything.
"I’ve always been like that. I hated losing. Even playing snakes and ladders when I was a kid. If I got beat the whole board would go up in the air, I’d rip it up and wouldn’t play again. I just hate getting beat – letting myself down, letting everyone else down as well. The fans and everyone."
Things have progressed just a tad since his snakes and ladders days. The 31-year-old Scot puts all his marbles on the line tonight at the Hydro, in Glasgow, against Chorley's Jack Catterall. The aforementioned snakes and ladders board would have been 'up in the air' at yesterday's weigh-in when the duo faced off for one final time. The tension in the Lomond auditorium at the SEC was palpable. Catterall was first to react, thrusting his hand around Taylor's throat before the world champion returned the compliment. The altercation was quickly diffused as security stepped in.
"Listen I’m really long in the tooth and calm under pressure no matter what people think," Taylor said. "I’ve been in fights where rounds haven’t gone my way. I always turn it around and I don’t panic. I’m very cool, calm and collected in the ring. I’m poised and I know I’m cool under pressure.
"I know there might be times in the fight when it’s not all going my way. That’s fine, we’ve got a long time to be in there – there’s 36 minutes to work him out.
"You can only beat the people who are put in front of you. He hasn’t boxed any top-level opposition but it doesn’t mean he can’t do it. I hadn’t been in with anyone like Viktor Postol before and I came up with the goods so it can happen. I’m not underestimating anyone.
"I know Jack’s a good fighter and a class operator and he’s here to win and better his and his family’s life. He’s posing a big threat to me and my plans and me being able to provide for my future family as well. So, it’s an important fight for me and him. He’s getting a chance to do it in a oner which makes me a little bit ticked off. I’ve cleared out the division, I’ve done it the hard way."
Catterall, 28, accepts he is the massive underdog and is anticipating a chorus of boos from a partisan and, at times, hostile crowd at a sold-out Hydro. But the Englishman insists he can spring a shock across the boxing fraternity.
"I know how to turn it on when that bell goes," he said. "I’ve won all 26 of my fights quite comfortably and I don’t need to act up now to try and sell this fight. My contract is signed and I have a bout on Saturday night whether or not we had a scrap at the weigh-in.
“That doesn’t matter to me. If he comes in too eager, then he won’t be as sharp and he won’t be remembering the drills he learned in the gym but we’ll see.
“I don’t think you can prepare for this sort of atmosphere unless you arrange for 14,000 fans to come into an arena and boo you two or three times a week.
“But I believe I’ve surrounded myself with the right people and I’ve been in the right mindset for months now.
“I know what to expect and I’ll be disappointed if I come out there and hear the fans cheering me. If Josh was coming to Chorley to fight me then he’d be getting booed as well.
“But the important thing to remember is that the fans aren’t in the ring throwing punches. As long as I get there safely, it’ll just be me and Josh. My ring walk song won’t be God Save The Queen – I want to make it to the ring so I can have a scrap with Josh! It’s 17 years since I first pulled the gloves on and it’s all been leading up to this point.”
•Josh Taylor defends his world titles at the Hydro, in Glasgow, against undefeated Englishman Jack Catterall on Saturday, February 26, with the support of WOW HYDRATE, the latest innovation in fitness, refuelling the body without carbs or sugar.
Where can you buy WOW HYDRATE in Scotland?
WOW HYDRATE is available at major supermarkets including Morrisons and Tesco, an can be picked up at a range of convenience stores across the country, as well as Archerfield Links Golf Course, Dumfries Golf Club, Fluidity Fitness gym in Newbridge, Fight Factory Gym in Glasgow and Recovery Lounge Gym in Paisley.