New unified super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor revealed he was relying on pure instinct and adrenalin as he struggled to see opponent Regis Prograis during the latter rounds of his heroic victory at London’s O2 Arena.
The East Lothian boxer, who received a majority decision from the ringside judges following an energy-sapping 12 rounds that is sure to be a contender for Fight of the Year, added the WBA title to the IBF belt he won in Glasgow in May.
In doing so, the 28-year-old becomes the first Scottish boxer to unify a weight division since former undisputed world lightweight champion Ken Buchanan in 1971. The Prestonpans fighter also received the prestigious Ring Magazine belt and the Muhammad Ali Trophy as the winner of the World Boxing Super Series.
It’s quite a remarkable feat for Taylor, who has joined the sport’s top table after just 16 professional bouts. And boy did the previously unbeaten Prograis, who fought with a heart of a lion, make him work for it. It was the first time Prograis, two years his opponent’s senior, had fought outwith his native United States. Both boxers promised a war
and they duly delivered on the banks of the River Thames.
It was, however, a cagey opening to what turned into a technically brilliant contest and it wasn’t long before the pair traded punches, both boxers renowned for throwing their full weight behind the gloves.
Prograis’ poise and head movement worked a treat as he switched from defence to attack that saw him shade the early stages.
But Taylor has so much within his armoury, showing no mercy in close quarters that eventually put the New Orleans native on the back foot as the rounds wore on. The skill on show was a joy to behold and the 15,000 packed inside the O2 appreciated it.
“Those last three and a half rounds I really couldn’t see anything coming,” said Taylor, sporting a deep gash to his right eye. “I was fighting on pure instinct. It was an accidental clash of heads that caused the cut but he was ducking and diving and the eye ended up closing up pretty quickly. All of my tactics went completely out of the window and it was just pure heart and determination, particularly in those last two rounds.
“I always believed I’d be world champion. I never believed I’d be fighting for unifications, Ring Magazine belts, Ali Trophies, all within just 16 fights. Wow. It’s hard to put it into words.
“Hopefully, I get the recognition I deserve. Everyone says I fly under the radar and, to be honest, I don’t mind that. I’m not a show pony, I don’t act up for the cameras. I like doing my own thing.
“But this is going to take my profile to the next level and everyone will start getting behind me now. Hopefully, if I get this (Jose) Ramirez fight in America, I’ll take a travelling army with me. Hopefully, I get the kind of support Ricky Hatton did. That would be unbelievable.
“I’ve already had a little bit of American interest early on in my career having fought three times on Carl Frampton’s undercards.
“So, I had exposure to the American fans already. But, after defeating someone like Regis, I will have won more fans in the States.”
Taylor has his eye on Prograis’ compatriot Ramirez, 27, the current holder of the WBC and WBO belts, a fighter also with an unblemished record. There is already suggestions of the duo meeting in spring next year, with both Edinburgh Castle and Madison Square Garden in New York touted as possible venues.
“Ramirez can get it. I believe that’s an easier fight that Prograis. I really do,” he said. “It’s more straightforward. The last four fights I’ve been involved in have been world class.
“I’ve only spoke to Ramirez once, back at the World Championships in Baku in 2011. I’ve had him in my sights for a while. If this tournament (WBSS) hadn’t come around I would have fought him by
“You never know with boxing politics but’s he’s fighting Postal next. He would have had to fight me at some point but the great thing about this Word Boxing Super Series is I’ve had three world class fights
and I’ve proved I’m the best.
“Viktor Postal, Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk and then Prograis. Out of the four’s records there’s been 94 fights and one defeat – and that was Postol to Terence Crawford. “I’ve had to beat all these guys in 16 fights. I think I’m due a wee break – maybe I’ll fight a few bin men next! I’m on Cloud Nine. It will take time to sink in.”