The grudge match between Scotland’s Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor and England’s Ohara Davies took place at Braehead Arena, near Glasgow, on Saturday night.
The promotion, appropriately titled “Bad Blood”, placed two young, undefeated fighters against each other in a contest many observers viewed as a pick ’em fight. In my preview article (Bad Blood In Glasgow) I gave the nod to Taylor but anticipated a close fight which would go the distance. The judges were not needed as Taylor, boxing intelligently and sticking to his clever game-plan, dominated the fight before earning a TKO in round seven.
As the fight was progressing it was clear to see that Davies’ awkward style had been perfectly offset by Taylor’s tactic of boxing him up close therefore rendering the London boxer’s long looping attacks fairly useless. As Davies was swinging and missing Taylor was taking advantage, countering with hard shots of his own to head and body, the body work was particularly impressive, which over the piece took Davies’ bravado away then eventually broke his spirit and will to continue. This fight is a great example of how diligent preparation can turn what looked to be a tough fight on paper into a one-sided affair in the ring. Trainer Shane McGuigan deserves a mention for devising the strategy while Taylor takes our applause for executing it perfectly. Davies was reduced to swinging wildly, hoping something was going to connect as Taylor’s masterful performance proved he is a level above the talkative Englishman.
Davies had plenty to say on social media and at press obligations in the lead up to this fight. His fans were also fearless with many travelling to Glasgow and predicting that their man would win in dominant fashion. It must have been a humbling experience for Davies and his followers as the rounds were unfolding. Taylor on the other hand was more composed in the pre-fight encounters giving the impression he would do his talking in the ring on fight night. This is exactly how it played out.
The contest got off to a slow start with the fighters splitting the first two rounds on my very unofficial card. The rocking atmosphere in the arena as the bout began did not lead to the combatants engaging in too many exchanges during the opening six minutes; round one went to Davies as I thought he established his jab and demonstrated the better ring generalship while the second session was Taylor’s as he began to show his speedy jab and land a couple of body shots. It was the third round where the fight started for real. Taylor decided this was the correct moment to stand in close with Davies and start implementing his coach’s instructions. Taylor was getting the better of the action and hurt Davies with a right to the body towards the end of the stanza. Taylor pursued his foe across the ring and landed a jab which forced Davies to the canvas as the bell was about to ring. The away fighter was up promptly as he took the eight count from referee Howard Foster but Taylor’s authority in the contest had now been established.
Rounds four to six followed a similar pattern. Southpaw Taylor boxing at close quarters with Davies and landing scoring blows with regularity. Taylor’s reflexes were also sharp enough to avoid most of Davies’ punches which by this stage had become nothing more that a series of wild lunges. The Englishman was beginning to look amateurish as his work had no structure or thought about it. Taylor on the other hand was pulling away in terms of the score card while keeping Davies in a constant world of pain with his fast, precise punches. Again I was impressed with Taylor’s shot variety, his speed allowing him to land combinations on his fading opponent.
Round seven brought the conclusion of the fight. After a quiet opening minute Taylor began backing away to lure Davies into a trap. Davies, thinking he was at last having a bit of joy, stalked Taylor into the corner and threw a left to the body. As this punch was being delivered Taylor nailed his foe with a perfectly timed right hook to the chin which deposited Davies firmly onto his rear end. He knew the game was up as he sat on the canvas shaking his head before rising when the count reached six. He walked forward and Taylor landed a straight left which forced Davies to turn his back indicating to the referee he had had enough. Foster realised we had reached a “no mas” moment and jumped in to officially end the contest just as Taylor was unloading further punishment onto the beleaguered Davies.
With his victory Taylor added Davies’ WBC Silver belt to his own Commonwealth 140lb title. He also demonstrated that he is a far better boxer than Ohara Davies and may not be too far away from mixing it up at the world level.
Once the dust had settled both men spoke to iFL TV:
Taylor – “I knew I was going to win, I’m over the moon. I’m surprised that he quit. I knew I could beat him and I knew I could stop him but I’m very surprised that he quit.”
Davies – “It’s quite embarrassing taking a loss like that in front of a big crowd of millions but that’s life. It is a bit more embarrassing because I’ve spoken a lot but I’m not going to change my character. I’m still going to speak. I’m still going to entertain.”
Moving forward Davies (15-1-0, 12KOs) will need to take his lumps from this experience and try to use it to improve. I still expect the Englishman to have success in his career although I’m unsure if he will ever be a serious contender for world title honours.
As for Taylor, (10-0-0, 9KOs) despite his relatively few professional fights I think he is on the fringes of world level. His manager, Barry McGuigan, mentioned at ringside last night that he thinks after one more fight Taylor will be ready for a world title shot. McGuigan’s desired opponent for Taylor’s next outing is Ricky Burns. An all Scottish clash with Burns would excite boxing fans here and a win for Taylor would represent the passing of the torch in terms of who is the leading Scottish fighter at the elite level of the sport.
It was a privilege to be in the venue last night to witness in person an imperious performance from Josh Taylor in what was his toughest fight to date. He made what could have been a difficult fight look easy by following the plan laid out for him to the letter. His speed, accuracy and brilliant variety of punches were all far too much for Ohara Davies. As Taylor’s career moves on I suspect that Davies will not be the last fighter to be completely overwhelmed and blasted out of contention by “The Tartan Tornado”, Scotland’s and indeed the UK’s newest and brightest boxing star.