‘I would go crazy if I lost at Snakes and Lad­ders’

A ‘spite­ful’ com­pet­i­tive edge has pro­pelled Josh Tay­lor from the street fights of his youth to tomorrow’s world ti­tle de­fence

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Gareth A Davies Box­ing Cor­re­spon­dent

‘I’m a bad loser, a very bad loser … al­ways have been,” ex­plains Josh Tay­lor as he un­wraps his hands af­ter a beau­ti­ful dis­play of shapes and an­gles in the ring. The “lefty” world cham­pion is with­out doubt a fan-pleaser. The Scots­man’s at­ti­tude, un­shake­able self-be­lief and gran­ite will must be to the fore tomorrow night against Api­nun Khong­song as he be­comes the first Bri­ton to de­fend a world ti­tle since lock­down be­gan due to Covid-19.

It will be be­hind closed doors, of course, very dif­fer­ent to the fights the 29-year-old once had in the streets from Ed­in­burgh to Pre­ston­pans, the fish­ing town in East Loth­ian, from where he hails.

They breed them tough there, where Tay­lor runs early in the morn­ing and swims in the North Sea. “I had to learn to stand up for my­self, be­cause I was small grow­ing up. But ev­ery­thing I did as a kid, no mat­ter what it was … it could be Snakes and Lad­ders with my younger sis­ter, and she’d beat me and the whole thing would be up in the air; sports days at school, foot­ball … if we lost, I’d go crazy. For as long as I can re­mem­ber, I had to win, even on a push­bike as kids.

“I’d go off in a huff. I’m a bad loser, al­ways have been. I want to win. I was su­per com­pet­i­tive. If I got beat, I’d get an­gry. I hated it. I wanted to play again un­til I won. The fight comes out, the nas­ti­ness, the spite­ful­ness. I can be re­ally spite­ful, that’s al­ways been there.”

Quite some ad­mis­sion, but box­ing’s un­der­belly forces in­tro­spec­tion. The dark side of Tay­lor has brought rays of light to his life, though. He got the box­ing bug at 14 and trav­elled the 25 miles to Ed­in­burgh to train in a gym four times a week. There were street fights, too, in his youth, be­fore sense pre­vailed.

The skills, the dis­ci­pline, the use of that “dark will” have cer­tainly brought him suc­cesses: he was a 2012 Olympian, then be­came a Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal­list in Glas­gow in 2014 be­fore ris­ing over the last five years, un­de­feated in 16 fights as a pro­fes­sional to hold two world su­per-light­weight ti­tles. He claimed them with a points de­ci­sion at the World Box­ing Su­per Se­ries fi­nal in a bril­liant, al­lac­tion thriller with Regis Prograis last year.

Tay­lor is with­out doubt one of the most skilled fight­ers in Bri­tain. Ini­tially with Barry McGuigan’s Cy­clone Pro­mo­tions, he signed a deal with MTK Global and Bob Arum this year, and, al­though be­gin­ning the elite part of his ca­reer now, if he gets past Khong­song – who has 13 knock­outs from his 16 ca­reer wins – Scot­land could have an undis­puted cham­pion to ri­val other greats such as Ken Buchanan and Ricky Burns, should he tri­umph against Jose Ramirez, who holds the other two world ti­tle belts. Arum says stag­ing the fight in Ed­in­burgh, early next year, “will hap­pen as long as the num­bers add up”. Lit­tle doubt the fans would come out for Tay­lor. At home, there are no airs and graces. “I’m just Josh from Pre­ston­pans. I love the place and the peo­ple. It’s a hard place, a tough place but I love it. Af­ter runs, I’ll swim. Only in the sum­mer mind. I don’t think the com­pet­i­tive­ness will ever leave me,” he said, adding that the re­in­force­ment comes from both par­ents to be as he is. “They know I’m ul­tra com­pet­i­tive, and could not be prouder. My dad is hard as nails, no non­sense. And that’s where I get it from, but he al­ways said if you’re go­ing to do some­thing you have to do it with your full heart. He’s right. My mum loves that I’m box­ing and is the proud­est woman alive. But I think she hates fight week and the fight. I can sense it, she’s a bag of nerves. I’m her baby boy.” Af­ter tomorrow’s fight at BT Sport’s stu­dios in Strat­ford, the next step could be ex­cit­ing. “Bob Arum has pro­moted the best and it’s a priv­i­lege to know that if I per­form I can show­case my skills in both the UK and the USA. “I’ve got to set new goals af­ter I’m undis­puted cham­pion and that is to move up to 147lb and chal­lenge for another world ti­tle. I thought that move was a no-brainer, es­pe­cially think­ing about wider goals. The Ramirez fight, Ter­ence Craw­ford, they’re all Top Rank fight­ers, so they are eas­ier fights to make.” Tay­lor shadow boxes. “I just have to keep on win­ning. I can’t af­ford to lose. I won’t lose. I refuse to.” That is what makes cham­pi­ons.

‘My dad is hard as nails, no non­sense. And that’s where I get it from’

Giv­ing his all: Josh Tay­lor has taken his dad’s words to heart to rise to the top

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.