What's in a nickname? When it comes to boxing the in-ring monikers fighters have attached to them often offer a clue towards their fighting style while trying to conjure exciting images in the minds of fans. In recent times it is perhaps fair to say that Scottish boxer Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor is the fighter who has most lived up to the epithet that is emblazoned on his shorts as ‘TTT.'
In case anyone reading is unaware, Taylor won his 18th professional fight this past Saturday in Las Vegas. In doing so, he captured the two alphabet titles his opponent, Jose Ramirez, brought to the ring. Victory also saw Taylor defend the two sanctioning body titles he held coming into the bout, thereby crowning the Scotsman as the undisputed light-welterweight champion of the world.
In order to be regarded as an undisputed champion in modern boxing a fighter must win the belts of the four recognised sanctioning bodies in their weight class. His win in Vegas means Taylor now joins Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Terence Crawford and Oleksandr Usyk in the four-belt era undisputed club in men's boxing. Very exclusive company.
By reaching this point in only 18 outings, Josh Taylor and everyone previously and presently connected to him deserves immense credit. From his early days at Lochend Amateur Boxing Club in Edinburgh under the tutelage of Terry McCormack, to the present day with trainer Ben Davison and Top Rank Promotions, Taylor has answered the challenges presented to him and successfully navigated the political minefield of the pro game to stand on top of the mountain.
Instead of waiting until his career is over, I thought this was an appropriate juncture to offer some context and show some appreciation for what my fellow Scot has achieved so far in the sweet science.
Scotland is a very small country. As fans of our sports people and teams we often have to settle for just being happy to compete on the world stage – it is not too often we get to follow one of our own to the very pinnacle of their chosen sport. When it does happen, excitement levels and national pride certainly rise.
For readers from larger countries such as America I guess the best comparison would be supporting an athlete or team from the same state as you. You may not feel any association to someone hailing from the opposite side of the country, but you probably would want someone from closer to home to be successful. Scotland is small enough that the majority of people here feel that connection to anyone representing this rugged patch of land in the global sporting arena. Along with that, it should be noted that many of our neighbours from the other parts of the UK were firmly behind Josh Taylor at the weekend. He also had support from hardcore boxing fans from further afield – places like Southern California, Tennessee and Wisconsin. I'm sure as Taylor's career goes on he will continue to add fans from all around the world.
Taylor's boxing journey so far can only be described as a whirlwind of success. From representing Great Britain (2012 Olympics) and Scotland (2014 Commonwealth Games) in his amateur days to accepting tough challenges at each stage of his professional campaign, Taylor's odyssey to this point deserves to be lauded.
Right from the start his professional campaign had a different feel to it. He made his bow in the paid ranks on a Carl Frampton card in Texas. Not many boxers from these shores debut so far from home. Although the level of opponent wasn't great it showed that his then promoter/match-maker, Cyclone, had no issues moving Josh Taylor differently to how we had seen other fighters handled in the past (see Taylor vs. Archie Weah below).
From there, Taylor was back home fighting European and Central American opposition at various venues around the UK. For his sixth outing. Taylor returned to America, defeating Evincii Dixon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn on the Santa Cruz-Frampton undercard. This rounded off Taylor's first 12 months as a pro.
Even then buzz was starting to build that eventually Josh Taylor would be involved in fights of Santa Cruz-Frampton magnitude himself. The fighter himself continued to work and improve, picking up his first titles in the process. Dave Ryan was dispatched in Edinburgh as Josh won the Commonwealth 140lb title in front of a home crowd. Wins over Alfonso Olvera and Warren Joubert followed before a genuine domestic grudge match presented itself.
Almost two years to the day from his pro debut, Taylor was matched against 15-0 Ohara Davies. It was a good old fashioned Scotland v England matchup. It was a chance for Taylor to enhance his growing reputation against an ultra-confident opponent who held the WBC Silver title. To borrow words from an old song, Davies was soon sent homewards to think again as Taylor dominated the encounter, winning in round seven.
For his 11th bout the matchmakers stepped things up. Former world champion Miguel Vazquez would be in the opposition corner as Taylor's handlers really looked to push him towards world title bouts. On a cold November night in a multi-purpose venue on the outskirts of Edinburgh Taylor became the first man to stop Vazquez courtesy of a beautiful 9th round body shot. It was abundantly clear from this point that Scotland had a very special boxing talent to follow.
From here the only venue in Scotland equipped with the capacity to host Taylor fights was The Hydro in Glasgow. Josh Taylor fought four in a row there against Winston Campos (late replacement for the injured Humberto Soto), Viktor Postol, Ryan Martin and Ivan Baranchyk. Campos was dispatched with ease as was Martin, while against Postol and Baranchyk the Scotsman had to dig deep for points victories. The Martin and Baranchyk bouts were fought in the World Boxing Super Series tournament – again, entering this event underlined Taylor's willingness to fight the best available opposition in his weight class.
The win over Baranchyk meant Taylor was now a world title holder.
Baranchyk had arrived in Glasgow as the IBF title holder, he left with nothing as The Tartan Tornado advanced to the WBSS final and a showdown with Regis Prograis.
That contest took place in London and it was a modern classic. Both men gave their all in a toe-to-toe battle that Josh Taylor edged by majority decision. It was a major victory – Prograis' WBA title was added to Taylor's collection along with the prestigious Ring Magazine title, not to mention the beautiful Muhammad Ali Trophy for winning the WBSS tournament.
It was October 2019. Taylor was now a major name on the world boxing scene after just four years as a professional.
From London to the world. It was time for Josh Taylor to spread his wings and look for a major global player to promote him. As great a job as Cyclone Promotions had done for him the WBSS must have given Taylor the taste for being involved in major bouts every time he gloved up. In the back of his mind he must have also been looking at the two remaining belts he needed to achieve undisputed status. This led to the Scotsman signing a deal with Las Vegas based outfit Top Rank. The end of his association with Cyclone also brought a close to his time with trainer Shane McGuigan. McGuigan did terrific work with Taylor and as a fan I was sad to see this working relationship come to an end, but that's boxing.
Ben Davison was the man appointed to replace McGuigan as Taylor moved into 2020 with his eyes firmly set on a showdown with fellow Top Rank fighter Jose Ramirez – the man with the other two pieces of the puzzle in his possession. Covid-19 interrupted any thoughts of an undisputed fight between Taylor and Ramirez, forcing us to wait till this past weekend for the fight for all the marbles.
Taylor's unanimous decision win over the very tough and talented Ramirez vindicated his decision to sign with Top Rank. The American promoter has possibly the best TV partnership in the US with ESPN screening all their cards, unfortunately they don't have a current output deal with a traditional UK broadcaster. This led to Taylor v Ramirez being shown on an app called FITE TV on this side of the Atlantic. That is fine for hardcore boxing fans but it was a tad disappointing that a fight of this magnitude took place without any of the major sports channels here showing an interest. Hopefully by the next time Josh Taylor gloves up there will be better coverage for him in his home market.
Which brings us to what happens next for Josh Taylor. His career so far proves he is unafraid to take on all comers. His run of fights from Postol through to Ramirez presented Taylor with opponents sporting a combined record of 127-1. That is an unbelievable undertaking in this day and age. At 30-years-old Taylor still has a few years at the top. I suspect he will maximise this by taking on the toughest challenges available. The Scotsman won't back down from anyone so contests against unified lightweight world champion Teofimo Lopez or frighteningly good welterweight Terence Crawford are certainly not beyond the realms of possibility.
Whatever road Taylor decides to take his growing worldwide band of fans will be with him. The Tartan Tornado has stormed his way across the boxing landscape, meeting each challenge head on and boxing in an entertaining fashion. Firmly regarded as a top ten pound-for-pound fighter, it is great to see a Scotsman at the very top of the boxing world.