Josh Taylor’s fearless approach an Example to all Championship Pretenders
By Eoin Kennedy: Last Saturday night at The Theatre at the Virgin Hotels, Las Vegas, Nevada, Josh Taylor of Scotland was crowned the undisputed king of the light welterweight division.
In achieving this oh so rare feat Taylor had to do something he’s become quite adept at, beating an undefeated champion.
Of course, Taylor himself is also an undefeated world champion so the task facing his Mexican American opponent Jose Ramirez was just as daunting, and regardless of the result, both fighters left the ring with a tremendous amount of credit after demonstrating huge amounts of passion and determination throughout.
Taylor reigned supreme with his two knockdowns of Ramirez proving decisive (although it really shouldn’t have been as close as the judges scored it) and in the process achieved something that is almost unheard of in modern boxing; he became undisputed champion in just eighteen fights.
In fact, it’s almost unheard of for any fighter to become an undisputed champion in any number of fights in the modern era. This is what makes Taylor’s achievement so incredible.
In the modern era of boxing fighters have been conditioned to protect their undefeated record for as long as possible in order to optimize their long-term marketability.
This is the Mayweather effect. Floyd Mayweather executed arguably the most well-managed career in the history of boxing, and his success was built on the cornerstone of him being undefeated. Floyd’s 0 on his record was his unique selling point. Fans tuned in just as much to see if he could finally be beaten as for the allure of seeing the fight itself.
Many fighters today have followed Mayweather’s lead by laying out a career path that prioritizes protecting their undefeated status. But what a lot of these fighters seem to have forgotten is that Mayweather also defeated eighteen world champions during his career.
Regardless of your personal opinions on Mayweather, it cannot be disputed that his resume will stand the test of time as one of the greatest in the history of boxing and while certain fights do come with caveats (he waited for Manny Pacquiao to wane, he essentially cheated Juan Manuel Marquez on the scales), you just cannot disregard a man who fought Diego Corrales, Arturo Gatti, Zab Judah, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Shane Mosley, Miguel Cotto, Canelo Alvarez, Marcos Maidana twice and beat them all.
While other modern fighters have been inspired by the shrewd career management of the man who calls himself The Best Ever, they seem to forget that Mayweather was repeatedly taking on big fights long before the whole Pacquiao saga slightly diminished his status within the sport.
Josh Taylor has all of the psychological elements that made Mayweather great; he’s willing to fight the toughest challengers put in his way, and he is supremely confident that he will beat them.
In a world where boxers will continually opt for a decent but relatively safe assignment as an opponent instead of facing the very best in their weight division.
Taylor has scoffed at this safety-first career management style and in true throw-back fashion has faced the toughest opposition throughout his career and is now reaping the benefits.
Taylor stepped up in just his tenth fight to face the highly touted Ohara Davies. The Scotsman even stated in a recent interview that his former team, headed up by Shane and Barry McGuigan, wanted him to steer clear of the Davies fight until he had gained some more experience in the paid ranks.
Taylor was having none of it. He insisted that the fight get made and proceeded to emphatically enforce Davies to take a knee and quit such was Taylor’s superiority in the fight. Like a true Scottish warrior, he was willing to back himself in a fight that others felt was too risky. The difference was, while everyone else was focusing on the risk, Taylor was thinking about the reward.
It’s that fearlessness and confidence to back his own ability that has set Josh Taylor apart from many of his contemporaries. If you look downwards towards lightweight, boxing fans have been getting giddy at the prospect of a stacked division that contains Teofimo Lopez, Devin Haney, Gervonta Davis, Vasiliy Lomachenko, and Ryan Garcia, but the mega fights have not been forthcoming, and the signs suggest they may not be imminent either.
Lopez, similar to Taylor, has stepped up and put it all on the line against Lomachenko and in the process recorded a career-defining win that catapulted him into main-stream consciousness and has given him a platform that just would not have existed had he instead opted to fight decent top fifteen contenders instead of the pound for pound great in Lokmachenko.
Taylor and Lopez embody everything that’s great about boxing; they’re young, fearless champions who have put greater mass on legacy than career earnings.
The funny thing is when you roll the dice like Taylor and Lopez and win those big legacy fights, well, your earning potential will also skyrocket in the process.
Fighters like Haney, Davis, and Garcia have all been vocal about how they are the division’s supremo but, thus far, have not been willing to share a ring with one another.
Granted, Garcia is now suffering from mental health issues and is taking a hiatus from the sport; it still cannot be ignored that he defeated Luke Campbell in a WBC world title eliminator to earn the right to fight Haney.
This seemed like a no-brainer; follow up your career-best win by facing a huge rival for a world title in a fight that would probably launch the winner into that stratosphere of mainstream recognition.
Instead, Garcia opted to face Javier Fortuna in a bout that has subsequently been canceled due to Garcia’s health issues, but the question still stands; why fight Fortuna instead of face Haney for the title? Why not dare to be great like Taylor and Lopez? Gervonta Davis is now moving up to light welterweight without having faced any of the big hitters at lightweight.
Only a few months ago, fans were falling over themselves to anoint Davis, Haney, Lopez, and Garcia as the modern-day Four Kings, and while they are still young fighters with plenty of time to get it on, why not do it now?
The boxing world knows about you, wins over the like of Fortuna or Mario Barrios (who Davis faces next in his light welterweight debut) are good victories but they do little to raise your stock whereas fighting one another and winning elevates you to modern-day greatness and makes the casual boxing observer take notice.
The fear of losing has become a cancer in boxing. The obsession with having that zero in a fighter’s record has deprived fans of so many great fights. But there is a flickering light at the end of a dark tunnel that has had an unhealthy obsession with remaining undefeated.
Shawn Porter tasted the second defeat of his career in 2019 against Errol Spence. The talk after the fight wasn’t of Porter’s demise but rather of how incredible the fight was and how despite the loss, that Porter’s stock had risen.
Anthony Joshua showed that a loss can be damaging but not fatal when he instantly rematched Andy Ruiz and reclaimed his heavyweight titles. Boxing needs more fighters willing to lose to be great.
It’s almost cliché to mention it at this point, but the great Bernard Hopkins lost his first professional fight. He happens to be one of the five men who have become an undisputed champion in the four-belt era.
The most recent man to join that ultra-exclusive club was Scotland’s Josh Taylor. The Tartan Tornado has built a career based on having enough self-belief to accept the toughest fights when others wanted to play the long game and protect the fighter’s record.
Those people saw risk, Taylor saw reward. Now on the verge of a mega-fight against pound for pound star Terence Crawford, or a number of other marquee fights should that fight not materialize, Taylor is an example to all of boxing’s pretenders; back yourself, disregard the fear of losing, and embrace the rewards of winning and the sky is the limit. Boxing needs more Josh Taylors.
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- Gervonta Davis won’t fight Josh Taylor – says Leonard Ellerbe