Josh gambles with Martin ght in WBSS, writes Daniel Herbert
Josh Taylor and Ryan Burnett begin their WBSS campaigns in Glasgow
ONE has to admire Josh Taylor. In an era when many top boxers avoid challenges, the Scottish southpaw has actively sought them out – and now he embraces his toughest yet.
On Saturday (November 3), at his favoured SSE Hydro venue in Glasgow, the Prestonpans man enters the World Boxing Super Series super-lightweight tournament, against an unbeaten opponent to boot in the USA’S Ryan Martin.
Given that in his short pro career (13 fights, all wins) Taylor had already picked up the Commonwealth and WBC Silver belts, one might have expected him to rest on the high ratings he had earned with sanctioning bodies until a world title crack came along. Instead, he and his team at Cyclone Promotions (who stage this weekend’s show) took the calculated risk of entering the WBSS.
“I’m so excited for this tournament,” said Taylor. “It’s massive for me and my profile, because it’s a world tournament.”
Indeed, the first three 140lb quarter-finals have already happened in Japan, where Kirill Relikh beat Eduard Troyanovsky; and New Orleans, where last weekend Regis Prograis beat Terry Flanagan and Ivan Baranchyk stopped Anthony Yigit to clinch a semi against the Taylor-martin winner.
“I should beat Martin and then I’ll be ready to fight anywhere in the semi-finals,” said Taylor, although the 27-year-old – managed by former world featherweight champ Barry Mcguigan – is surely smart enough not to count his chickens before they’ve hatched.
All the more so given that, last time out in June, Taylor had a harderthan-expected time in subduing Viktor Postol, outpointing the Ukrainian over 12 rounds with a late knockdown seeming to tilt things his way definitively (although it was wide on the cards).
Given that Postol is a former WBC champion whose only previous loss came against Terence Crawford, it was a notable victory – just not a repeat of
‘HE HAS POWER AND SPEED. MY HANDS ARE FULL WITH MARTIN’
the dominant performance Josh had produced when knocking out another former global ruler, Mexico’s Miguel Vazquez, in nine rounds a year ago.
Postol provided a timely reminder that there are few pushovers at top level, a lesson that Taylor has seemingly embraced; he has done his research on Martin, who has won all 22 fights without having been really tested.
“He’s a well-rounded fighter,” conceded the Scot. “He has fast hands, is good defensively and has good variation in his punches. He has power as well, despite only 12 stoppages on his record. I know I’ve got my hands full.”
Yet Martin’s place in this tournament is as much down to potential as actual achievement. Born in Ohio and raised in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Ryan is promoted by Gennady Golovkin’s promoter Tom Loeffler and, like “GGG”, trained by Abel Sanchez in Big Bear, California.
A fine pedigree, then, but the truth is the most recognisable name on Martin’s record remains Breidis Prescott, the Colombian who shocked a young Amir Khan with a first-round KO a decade ago. And Ryan beat Prescott (unanimous decision, eight rounds) as recently as May this year, in the American’s first fight scaling 140lbs after previously boxing at lightweight.
Otherwise, Martin’s highlights are picking up the WBC Continental Americas trinket with an eighth-round stoppage of Bryant Cruz in March 2017 and adding the WBA Inter-continental bauble with a 10-round victory over Francisco Rojo six months later. And that was a split decision, with margins of one and three points overruling a seven-point card for Mexico’s Rojo.
Martin, who has been in Scotland since Saturday (October 27), has looked ripped in training camp photos and is certainly talking a good fight.
He said, “I saw Taylor against Postol and thought it was a lot more competitive than some of the media outlets put it out to be. Josh Taylor’s a very good fighter, one of the best in the division.
“This tournament is my chance to get fights and be known more. It’s exciting and it’s going to be fireworks.”
If there is to be a spectacular ending, it’s likely to come from Taylor. He’s not quite the concussive hitter suggested by his 11 early wins but he busts opponents up steadily with his accurate, hurtful shots – and he delivers vicious blows downstairs, one of those finishing Vazquez in style.
Worth noting is that in two of his biggest fights Martin was docked a point for low blows - in round nine against Rojo and in round four against Prescott. Does his technique become ragged against tougher opponents who take him deep into fights? If so, it bodes ill for his chances against Taylor, who has the skills and the engine to push him to the limit – and break him.
That’s the probable scenario for Saturday night, barring unexpected events such as cuts. Expect Taylor to take a look early on before gaining control with his solid hitting and scoring a knockdown or two en route to a conclusive points victory over his less seasoned rival.
Another WBSS quarter-final on the Glasgow bill pits Belfast talent
Ryan Burnett against former multiweight champion Nonito Donaire at bantamweight, with the former defending his WBA “Super” world title.
That is if the “Filipino Flash” makes the 118lbs limit – something he hasn’t done since November 2011, when he retained the WBO bantam crown against Omar Narvaez in New York City.
Since then he has boxed 15 times, most recently when being soundly outscored over 12 rounds by another Northern Irishman, Carl Frampton, at featherweight in April. All 15 bouts were at either 122lbs or 126lbs.
Now Nonito, who turns 36 on November 16, insists he will make 118lbs this weekend but the WBSS organisers are taking no chances and have lined up a reserve in Ellesmere Port’s Paul Butler, who is scheduled to box Yoan Boyeaux over 10 rounds on the Glasgow bill.
Even if he does hit the bantamweight limit, it’s hard to see Donaire recapturing the explosive form of his early career when he flattened the likes of Vic Darchinyan (five rounds at flyweight in 2007) and Fernando Montiel (two rounds at bantam in 2011). A tremendous run of form made him
Boxing News’ International Fighter of the Year for 2012 before the southpaw skills of Guillermo Rigondeaux bamboozled him in 2013, since when he has also lost to Nicholas Walters (stopped in six rounds) and Jessie Magdaleno (points) as well as Frampton.
At 38-5 (24) his record is still highly respectable but his future, at least in a boxing sense, is long behind him. Burnett, on the other hand, is unbeaten at 19-0 (9) and at or approaching his prime at 26. He won the IBF belt from Lee Haskins in June 2017 and added the WBA title against Zhanat Zhakiyanov four months later before hanging on to the latter crown only against Yonfrejo Perez in March this year.
That was Ryan’s sole fight of 2018 but assuming there is no rust he should outbox the ageing Donaire. The Us-based Filipino’s power can make him dangerous in the early rounds before Burnett’s grit and variety grind him down for a wide points win.
Butler, 26-2 (14) and a former IBF champion at bantam, ought to have the skills to see off Boyeaux even if he is left deflated at not being called in to replace Donaire.
The Frenchman is an experienced 41-5 (26) but last time out in December travelled to Japan to be crushed in three rounds of a WBO super-flyweight title bid against the fearsome Naoya Inoue. Butler should triumph on points.
Somewhat overshadowed on this stacked card is an excellent 12-rounder for the vacant British super-middleweight title between Zach Parker and Darryll Williams.
Parker, from Woodville in Derbyshire, is 16-0 (11) with his best win a oneround destruction of Luke Blackledge. Williams, from Forest Hill in south London, boasts a 17-0 (7) ledger that includes two exciting points decisions over Jahmaine Smyle.
Parker’s extra power can tip things his way, probably by late stoppage.
THE VERDICT Taylor can get his campaign off to a flier.
WE HAVE A FIGHT: Taylor and Martin [right] are introduced by promoter, Kalle Sauerland [centre]
NATIONAL PRIDE: Taylor is getting used to delighting his local fans
WILL HE MAKE WEIGHT? Either way, Donaire [right] dropping down to challenge Burnett is unlikely to end well for the Filipino