TAYLOR STEPS UP
Even at 34 Postol is a formidable opponent for Taylor, writes
Rising Scot moves up in class to take on the accomplished Postol in Glasgow
AS we approach the midpoint of 2018, there’s no better time to nominate Saturday’s (june23) super-lightweight clash between Josh Taylor and Viktor Postol as the standout bit of matchmaking in Britain so far this year. Either a stroke or genius or a catastrophic misstep, there has been no fight announced in the past six months that has both surprised and delighted as much as Taylor vs. Postol at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow.
In many ways, it’s a boxing anomaly; the sort of fight the sport’s framework – emphasis on risk aversion and undefeated records – usually prevents from happening. But somehow it is happening and Taylor’s bucking a trend and freeing himself from shackles that were never really attached in the first place. It’s a testament to his go-getting spirit. It’s a testament, also, to the faith and confidence of his management team.
Because, on paper at least, it would appear a step too far for the Scotsman at this stage. Postol, after all, is a former WBC world champion whose only defeat in 30 pro fights came at the hands of Terence Crawford, arguably the most gifted American boxer on the planet. (Postol still managed to go the distance.)
Moreover, before that loss, Postol’s danger was made abundantly clear in stoppage wins against the likes of Lucas Matthysse and Selcuk Aydin, both of whom were broken down late. If you need further proof, he also has victories over the likes of Yvan Mendy, the scourge of Luke Campbell, Hank Lundy and Jamshidbek Najmiddinov, all of whom would represent perfectly acceptable opponents for Josh Taylor this weekend. With Postol, 29-1 (12), it’s not just the wins. It’s the all-round style and grace of the man – imagine a smaller Klitschko brother with a greater desire to throw punches – that will present Taylor with looks and problems he has yet to encounter in a relatively short pro career. It’s also his power, sufficient to dent tough guys like Matthysse and Aydin, and the poise and composure he has used to mostly good effect in six 12-rounders. All these things combine to make Saturday’s fight with Taylor, 12-0 (11), a fascinating one. Equally, they stand as reasons why “The Tartan Tornado”, and
those backing him, would have been well within their rights to look elsewhere.
But here’s the secret: Josh Taylor is good. Not just good in the British sense that he might one day step up and win a version of a world title, but good in the sense that he possesses an untypical level of ability and an all-round maturity that belies his 27 years and lack of pro fights. Josh Taylor is so good, in fact, that he stopped Dave Ryan in just his seventh bout, to lift the Commonwealth title, and then, in 2017, silenced Ohara Davies, a fellow unbeaten prospect, before becoming the first to halt former IBF world champion Miguel Vazquez.
When you’re that good, the rules change: risks are taken, patience is stalling.
Which is why Postol, bettered only by Crawford, is deemed a logical next step for Taylor despite the fact Taylor has yet to go 10 rounds, let alone 12.
“He’s a great, great fighter,” said the Taylor. “He’s got great footwork like all the top amateurs have. He’s got the great moves – feet in and out – and is sharp with his right hand. He lines you up with that pawing jab and his right down the middle.
“So, it’s a really decent fight for me and I’m really looking forward to it. It could be a hard fight, and it’s up to me to make sure I’m on top of my game.”
Even then, it won’t be easy. Postol, as well as the edge in experience, is an inch taller than Taylor and has a fourinch reach advantage. What’s more, he wears these perks well, boxing tall behind a consistent jab, and is a big believer in straight punches and textbook combinations.
Indeed, Postol is so well schooled in the basics that his supposed lack of one-punch power – just 12 knockouts from his 29 wins – becomes a moot point because of his accuracy, timing and ability to chip away round after round. It’s why he stops durable types. It’s why breaking his rhythm is so important.
For Taylor, a southpaw, the key to victory lies in his ability to not only disrupt Postol’s rhythm but make the Ukrainian feel every one of his 34 years. Ultimately, that’s what this fight is all about. It’s about age and timing. It’s about that crucial moment when one fighter shows an age-related weakness that allows a younger man to exploit them for one night only. That’s what Taylor, seven years Postol’s junior, will be looking for. That’s what his rabid home fans will be hoping for.
Ominously, the timing of this crossroads fight seems less obviously in favour of the younger man. One could, in fact, go so far as to say it tip-toes the fine line between genius and crazy, in terms of matchmaking, like no other British fight in recent memory. But if Josh Taylor is good enough to consider a challenge like this, much less accept and go through with it, he must surely be good enough to handle what happens in the ring, and good enough, perhaps, to join Terence Crawford on the very short list of men who found a way to defeat Viktor Postol over 12 rounds.
On the undercard, another Scottish hotshot, Lee Mcgregor, steps up in class against Goodluck Mrema from Tanzania.
Mcgregor, known as “Lightning” and just 21, has so far blitzed three journeymen since turning professional last November. In Mrema, however, he finds a 26-year-old who boasts not only a decent record – 22-2 (12) – but also presumably some ambition.
Though there aren’t many wins of note on Mrema’s record, and his two losses both occurred outside his homeland, he represents a solid test for what is only Mcgregor’s fourth pro fight.
THE VERDICT Taylor is the pick but as banana skins go, they don’t get much slippier than Postol.
WEAR AND TEAR? Postol back in 2016, as he prepared for the might of Crawford. After losing, he said Crawford was ‘too fast’
WATCH THE STEP: Postol is Taylor’s most accomplished opponent by some distance