Josh Taylor and Teofimo Lopez were reunited on Thursday at the final press conference for Saturday’s fight at the theatre at New York’s Madison Square Garden and, perhaps surprisingly – given both are so volatile – they both remained largely calm.
It was also in Madison Square Garden that their press conference was staged and where Lopez – wearing a cream blazer and trousers but no shirt – equally unsurprisingly compared himself to an artist and referenced God. Taylor, wearing a Scotland football shirt and shorts that continued to demonstrate how very different they are, was untroubled by all of his opponent’s bluster until he referenced fellow New York fighter Mike Tyson with the increasingly tedious words: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
For the first time Taylor reacted to what he was saying, and the demeanour that had been calm all week was threatened, but when Lopez quickly returned to saying things Taylor – like ProBox TV, for that matter – could make considerably less sense of, he again appeared noticeably less likely to react.
“Aim for death, for that’s where life begins,” Lopez said while proudly declaring that those were his and no one else’s words. The largely no-nonsense Taylor, likely even more bemused at that than Lopez’s sartorial elegance – he also wore the near-obligatory oversized chain around his neck – simply looked in bemusement at his team and smirked.
“I don’t want to get personal,” started Top Rank’s press conference host before asking a question that risked the two fighters becoming personal and perhaps attracting the attention of at least the attention-challenged social media generation that otherwise might go elsewhere. Again, however – not that the same host would have been concerned, given he definitely didn’t want their exchanges to become personal – neither fighter had too much, on the record at least, to say.
There was, as previously suggested, no face-off between the two fighters. Instead they were separated by a member of security and one considerably bigger – at least in the context of two fighters due to weigh-in tomorrow at no more than 140lbs – member of New York’s finest. It was at that point that Taylor – who would likely be a street fighter if not a boxer, and can be a bully in the boxing ring – started to speak across the man in blue at his naturally smaller opponent in the knowledge that whatever it was he was saying wasn’t being picked up by the microphones they had just stopped using. As soon as both fighters returned to their respective media duties – Taylor, the WBO super lightweight champion, has been significantly more available than his opponent – they were also both again calm.
Among those present throughout was Russ Anber, who will be working Taylor’s corner for the first time alongside Taylor’s new trainer Joe McNally, with whom Anber has an existing relationship via Liam Smith.
Somewhat fittingly – particularly given Saturday’s fight is on course to break the record gate at the theatre – before the end of the day in New York, ProBox TV learned of the death of the respected British boxing journalist Alan Hubbard, who over 50 years ago had been present at The Garden for the Fight of the Century between Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali. Hubbard had also covered Olympic Games and been present at other significant occasions like The Rumble in the Jungle and The Thrilla in Manila, and cared about fighters and his profession; among many fond memories ProBox TV has of Hubbard involved him speaking of how profoundly sad he felt later being ringside watching Ali getting beaten up by Larry Holmes.
He was respected by both those in the media – ProBox TV included largely because of his generosity at a narrowly less cynical time – and the boxing community, as is demonstrated by the fact that his son Richard continues to work for Frank Warren's Queensberry Promotions and that news of his death was announced via social media by Steve Lillis, another respected and long-serving British boxing journalist. On the same evening the BWAA are giving an award to David Diamante, it is difficult not to wonder what the often no-nonsense, knowledgeable and grounded Hubbard would have thought.