Fight with Lopez represents grieving Taylor's date with destiny

Josh Taylor fights Teofimo Lopez in the knowledge that he is realising one of his late uncle’s dreams.

The WBO super lightweight champion’s uncle William died last year, and did so as one of Taylor’s biggest and longest-term admirers.

He followed Taylor as a promising teenaged amateur fighter, and was so convinced by his potential that he placed a bet on him to one day headline at Madison Square Garden in New York.

It is at the theatre at Madison Square Garden that Taylor, 32, will make the latest defence of his title on so significant an occasion but, to Taylor’s sorrow, his uncle will not be present.

“My uncle, when I was younger, I got into boxing when I was 14, 15, and my dad – we used to go to club shows and stuff – used to come with me and my cousin as well,” he said. "Every time, after three or four fights, I’d be beating Scottish champions and British champions, and going to internationals and coming back with medals – gold medals – and stuff, and my uncle William was like, ‘You’re going to be a world champion, son’. 

“Even back then, in those days. ‘We’re going to start saving up. You’re going to Madison Square Garden one day.’ He was just always saying it from the very start. 

“He passed away last year, unfortunately, so he’s missing it, but he’s here. He’s here with me. So this is a special moment for me.

“I’m not sure [how much he was on course to win]. But he did place a bet a few years ago that I was going to be world champion.”

Taylor regardless sees Saturday’s fight with the 25-year-old Lopez as capable of delivering him the glory he was denied the night he became the undisputed champion. 

On that occasion, in May 2021 against Jose Carlos Ramirez, the circumstances of the Covid pandemic contributed to him fighting his then-rival for all four world titles at the lightly regarded Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas in front of an unremarkable crowd.

Saturday’s fight is on course to set a new gate record for the theatre at The Garden, and ahead of potentially his toughest date he said: “It’s making up for Vegas. Vegas was my biggest achievement, and the biggest fight – in Vegas. Who else has ever got to fight in Vegas for all the marbles? 

“Every fighter dreams of fighting in Las Vegas or Madison Square Garden in a big fight, and I land one – for all the glory – and it’s all shutdown and locked down; in front of a limited crowd; no friends; no family, fanbase, travelling support. No broadcaster picking it up in the UK – it was very frustrating. That year it was probably the best sporting achievement in the UK, and it wasn’t really seen by most people. 

“As soon as I got the chance to come back here. ‘Yes, absolutely, let’s come back.’ Fighting at Madison Square Garden, the Mecca of boxing; topping another bill and doing the business. I’ve got friends, family, travelling support, so I’m absolutely buzzing.”