Before Josh Taylor looks to make his second defense of his WBO junior welterweight world title against Teofimo Lopez on June 10th, at the theater in Madison Square Garden, in New York City, New York, let’s reflect on one of the best fighters to ever emerge from Europe in the modern era - Josh Taylor.
Up there with the likes of Lennox Lewis, Kell Brook, and Joe Calzaghe - Taylor has become a fighter who has proven his skills to travel as he won on enemy soil to win his undisputed titles when he defeated Jose Ramirez.
Here are the five career-defining moments of Josh Taylor’s career
Hard Fights Early
People might not think to compare a fighter like David Morrell to Josh Taylor, but they are similar in the path they took. Though Taylor did not start out in eight-and-ten-round fights, Taylor fought undefeated Ohara Davies in his tenth pro fight which he stopped, and then, followed that up by stopping former world champion Miguel Vazquez. He wanted to fight Humberto Soto next, but Soto withdrew late forcing a last-minute replacement.
Two fights later, Taylor was fighting Viktor Pistol in his thirteenth pro fight. Taylor turned pro in 2015, and by his third year of being a professional was making noise and being labeled a contender rather than a prospect. The fight with Postol was also set up to secure a mandatory position to inevitably face, the junior welterweight world champion, Jose Ramirez.
The early part of Taylor’s career is a rare feat in modern boxing - all substance with less hype than expected. The amount of praise he got was strictly based on what he was achieving in the ring, and not based on a promotion at large touting him as some transcendent star.
The World Boxing Super Series
Taylor opted to be a part of the World Boxing Super Series, which pitted eight of the most marquee junior welterweights in a tournament bracket with the winners advancing until we had a finale. The winner would win a trophy, etc.
The fighters involved were Ryan Martin, Terry Flanagan, Regis Prograis, Eduard Troyanovsky, Anthony Yigit, Ivan Baranchyk, and Kiryl Relikh.
Despite, the tournament appearing to be a springboard for Regis Prograis’ career, it was Josh Taylor who truly shined. Taylor stopped undefeated Ryan Martin, who was training with Abel Sanchez at the time,
Taylor would win the IBF junior welterweight title when he dominated a very tough and game Ivan Baranchyk, as he scored two knockdowns en route to the first world title of his career.
Taylor was showing not just the boxing ability we had come to expect, but a lot of grit, meanness, and power. Taylor was showing that his skills actually translated at times better at the world level than they did in some of his early developmental fights.
Regis Prograis Win
Heading into this fight it was viewed as the two best junior welterweights in the world as Josh Taylor appeared to be the best fighter outside of the United States and many ranked Regis Prograis above Jose Ramirez, who was the consensus one and two in the division at the time in terms of champions.
Ramirez got dinged a bit since he had the ability to enter the World Boxing Super Series but opted not to as he was the missing piece to the undisputed puzzle in the junior welterweight division from this tournament.
What we saw between Taylor and Prograis was nothing short of a modern classic. A fight that came down to the very last round and the rare fight in which both fighters earned more respect after the fight - regardless of the outcome.
Taylor gutted out a majority decision win over Regis Prograis and cemented himself as the man in the division. Not long after the fight, Taylor would sign a deal with Top Rank Inc that would set in motion a fight with Jose Ramirez.
With the win, Taylor unified the division holding the WBA and IBF junior welterweight world titles.
Jose Ramirez Unification
After winning the World Boxing Super Series, unifying two of the world titles, and claiming the Muhammad Ali Trophy, Taylor was viewed by many as the best in the junior welterweight division despite not having all four world titles. The man with the other two titles was Avenal, California’s Jose Ramirez.
When the undisputed fight finally got made it not just served as a big fight, but a moment in which it was the first major event to have some form of a crowd. Not unlike how the 2021 PGA Championship, served as the return ‘normal’ after the COVID-era with a crowd and a big Phil Mickelson win, Taylor versus Ramirez was the first fight with a live crowd and the end of the Top Rank bubble.
The fight was like all good bouts, two polar opposites. Ramirez fights for the migrant farm workers of the Central Valley, whereas Taylor fights for his country as well, but is much more aggressive and straightforward. Ramirez is a people person, and Taylor is the very definition of a fighter.
This was best seen when after the weigh-in, Taylor got into an exchange with a member of Taylor’s team, which led to Ramirez via social media explaining that he wanted to hurt Taylor, something you rarely hear from Ramirez in pre-fight build-ups.
The end result, Taylor was able to edge a close fight with two knockdowns and make history to become the first undisputed Scottish world champion, since Ken Buchanan, who also happened to attend the fight as well.
Jack Catterall Disaster
Catterall lurked in the shadows. Most of his fights were obscure and hard to find, and despite being a world-class opponent and rightful number-one contender for Taylor’s WBO junior welterweight title, this fight was viewed as a ‘stay-busy’ fight. Catterall even took step-aside money for Taylor to chase his undisputed fight.
The bout was viewed as nothing more than a ‘stay-busy’ fight that evolved into something that would muddy the history of Taylor’s career. Taylor would win a contentious split decision over Jack Catterall, a fight that most of the pundits felt Catterall should’ve won.
In Taylor’s first undisputed world title fight, all the accolades he had achieved prior to the fight now were a tad bit forgotten as boxing is the ultimate, ‘what have you done for me lately’ sport. The pair were set to rematch. Yet, it never happened. Ongoing injuries for Taylor as the hard fights early in his career seem to be catching up with him kept pushing the fight back until…the fight was inevitably postponed and Taylor went in a different direction to face Teofimo Lopez.
Taylor has the best resume in the junior welterweight division, but a loud elephant in the room, as he has not avenged or silenced his worst evening as a pro boxer when he faced Jack Catterall in 2022. Taylor has also only fought three times since 2020, with his fight with Teofimo Lopez being his fourth during that period.
A theme of Taylor’s career has also been this - when he looks good, he looks really good and when he looks really bad, he looks bad. This can best be seen in his last two fights as his fight against Ramirez might be his most complete performance and his fight against Catterall might be his most incomplete.