Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor (10-0-0, 9KOs) returns to the ring on Saturday in his home town of Edinburgh as he defends his WBC silver 140lb title against Mexico's Miguel “El Titere” Vazquez (39-5-0, 15KOs).
The Cyclone Promotions show will take place at The Royal Highland Centre in Scotland's capital city. The event is titled “Risk vs. Reward” – highly appropriate.
For most match-makers the thought of throwing a fighter with only ten professional bouts under their belt in against “El Titere” (The Puppet) would seem outrageous, but Taylor's ability, and the manner in which he has cleared each hurdle he has faced so far suggests the time is right to take this risk.
An accomplished amateur, Taylor has adapted to life in the paid ranks well. Since his 2015 debut he has progressed impressively. This year has been a real breakout one for Taylor. In his three contests so far he has been exposed to fighting in Las Vegas against a rock solid opponent (v. Olvera, UD 8), picked up his first title (Commonwealth v. Joubert, TKO 6) and destroyed a domestic rival to win a more prestigious title (WBC silver v. Davies TKO 7). Rated highly by his manager, Barry McGuigan, Taylor is now looking to round off 2017 with victory over the highly capable and seasoned Vazquez.
Miguel Vazquez arrives in Edinburgh enjoying his own productive year. The former IBF 135lb world champion will also be engaging in his fourth contest of 2017. For Vazquez, the opportunity to catapult himself up the WBC rankings and capture their silver title is one he was never going to turn down at this stage of his career.
To underline just how much experience Vazquez has take a look at some of the fighters he has faced – Canelo Alvarez (twice), Tim Bradley, Breidis Prescott, Ji-Hoon Kim, Mercito Gesta and Denis Shafikov. Indeed Shafikov, Gesta and Prescott were handed their first losses by Miguel. Yes he has suffered five defeats but it is worth noting that he has never been stopped and has a style which Taylor definitely hasn't faced before.
Vazquez fights in a unique manner. He employs a movement based approach, happy to move laterally or back but then bounce in to land one or two punches before jumping back out of range. The jerky way he moves is very much reminiscent of a puppet on strings so whoever gave him his nickname was bang on the money. Because of the way he attacks from all angles his punches are difficult to defend but he doesn't punch with much authority. “The Puppet” cleverly mixes up the rhythm of his attacks, making it difficult for opponents to time him on the way in. He is also not adverse to spoiling when it suits him. Put simply the Mexican is an awkward customer. His method of boxing may not be easy on the eye but it is effective – Vazquez held his IBF world crown for four years.
I checked in with Alex Quevedo on Twitter to gauge how his fellow countrymen and women regard Vazquez as a fighter. Alex is a proud Mexican who trains amateur and professional boxers. “Vazquez is respected,” Alex told me. He continued, “I think one of the biggest myths is that Mexicans are just out for blood – that's not true. We appreciate different styles and realise that not everyone is going to fight like Antonio Margarito. Vazquez is a different cat.”
It will be interesting to see what kind of approach trainer Shane McGuigan has in place for Taylor to get the better of Vazquez on Saturday.
The Scotsman has shown poise and skill in executing the tactics given to him by his coach as the difficulty level of opponent fight by fight has increased. The way Taylor fought Ohara Davies in close in July was beautiful to watch. It highlighted a rapidly growing ring IQ, far beyond the level of a ten fight pro. Saturday's fight will be very different but I am confident Josh will once again carry out the game-plan he is given to a high standard.
Taylor, standing at 5'10 is the same height as his opponent but it will be Vazquez who holds a slight reach advantage. As Vazquez will use his movement to try and dominate the range at which the contest is fought, it will be important for Taylor to efficiently cut off the lanes and angles of escape for Vazquez. If Taylor can manage this then he should be able to wear his opponent down with his superior shot selection and power. It may be bold but I am going to predict that after an early struggle to pin Vazquez down, Taylor will get to grips with his foe and become the first fighter to stop Vazquez. Look for “The Tartan Tornado” by TKO 11.
Before concluding this preview it is worth quickly mentioning the overall picture in the 140lb division at world level. In August Terence Crawford unified all four major world titles but has since stepped up to welterweight leaving all the belts vacant. There will be a bit of a scramble as the organisations make matches to determine the new title holders. As the holder of the WBC silver and ranked number six by that governing body, Taylor needs to keep winning in order to maneuver himself into position to fight for the full title next year. Of course Vazquez will have the same plan – if he wins in Edinburgh he may find himself with a world title shot in the early part of 2018.
Taylor vs. Vazquez will be broadcast live to hopefully a large UK audience by free to air outlet Channel 5 beginning at 10pm local time. At time of writing there are no international arrangements in place to show the fight overseas but I'm sure tech savvy boxing fans around the globe will find a way to watch. A few tickets still remain if any readers are considering attending in person.
Saturday's fight certainly represents a risk for Josh Taylor but if “The Tartan Tornado” can pass what will be his toughest test so far then the knowledge gained will stand him in good stead moving forward. Vazquez will be confident his previous battles and superior know-how in stressful situations will give him an edge and be enough to carry him to victory in Scotland. An intriguing clash is anticipated as we wait to find out who will be leaving with the reward on Saturday night.
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Check back on Sunday for a full ringside report on Taylor vs. Vazquez
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– Colin Morrison is on Twitter @Morrie1981