Josh Taylor and Viktor Postol gave us a fight to remember at The Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday night.
The contest, billed as a final eliminator for the WBC 140lb title, turned into a serious battle. Both men pushed one another to the limit, giving and taking huge shots while engaging in a constant physical struggle for supremacy on the inside. In the end Taylor was awarded a unanimous decision. The scores of 118-110, 117-110 and 119-108 showed that the judges favoured the home fighter in the vast majority of the 12 close rounds that we witnessed. I scored it 116-111 for Taylor but was impressed with Postol throughout the bout.
Most of the rounds had an ebb and flow to them with it being possible to make a case for both men taking many of the sessions. As it was I favoured Taylor's speed and variety over Postol's disciplined, tactical boxing. On the night the judges did too but I can certainly see the argument that the only difference in the fight was the tenth round knock down Taylor inflicted on Postol as being valid.
The fight began with southpaw Taylor mixing up his jab, going to the head and the body. This enabled him to throw and land with a signature left to the body. Foreshadowing what was to follow Postol retaliated by landing a hard looking body shot of his own – it was already clear this would not be an easy night for Taylor. The second round featured the first of many attempts by Taylor to bring the fight inside. Postol impressively stood up to it, matching the Scotsman in this department. The best punch of this session was a stinging right hook which Taylor landed on his foe's head.
Three big left hands from Taylor, which landed on the target, caught my eye in round three. Postol's jab was looking effective and would've probably won him the round had it not been for the three successful bombs Taylor detonated. Postol did get himself on the board in the next frame. His work was positive and he dealt with Taylor's attempt to go back to a body based attack effectively. Round five saw the initiative swing back to Taylor as he utilised his speed to land often. There were several clinches in this round but the referee did a good job allowing the boxers to work out of the majority of them.
Taylor was doubling up on the jab in the sixth round and having success, so much so that Postol's main response was just to try and tie his man up. The man from Ukraine grabbed the momentum in round seven though, meeting fire with fire in the middle of the ring early, before backing Taylor up during a late exchange. This time it was the Taylor initiating the clinch. Round eight was another positive one for Postol. His jab was firing like it was the opening round and Taylor was made to miss on more than one occasion. The next frame saw Taylor back on top. He opened by landing a strong left hand on Postol's face and also hit the target with a great right check hook. After this Postol went into damage limitation mode and held whenever he could until the bell.
Round ten saw the younger Taylor make the breakthrough. There was some good back and forth swapping of leather going on in an even looking session until Taylor, after switching briefly to orthodox before going back to southpaw, hit the jackpot with a left which was thrown from a low angle. It landed on Postol's temple and the visiting fighter was down. He beat the count and the round ended but what did he have left?
The answer was enough to fire back impressively in the eleventh. While he had to take some punishment he landed the sharper shots and secured himself another round on my card. We went to the final round and Taylor dominated it. He hurt Postol early in the round, sending him staggering backwards across the ring. Postol got his legs back and moving forward again but the effort had taken its toll. Finally Taylor was the boss of the up close physical battle. It is testament to Postol's conditioning that he heard the final bell after the pressure Taylor exerted towards the very end.
Taylor also deserves credit for his engine. In a fight where he had to take some great shots form Postol, Taylor completed twelve rounds for the first time in his career and was still able to produce an impressive output during the championship rounds. Viktor Postol (29-2-0, 12KOs), despite the defeat earned much respect and proved that even at 34-years-old he is still an elite fighter in the division.
The winner spoke after the bout: “It wasn't easy at all. He was very awkward and he was much better with his timing on his feet than I was expecting. He put it on me a bit in the seventh, he caught me as I was pulling out. I switched off for just a split second and his shot over the top hit me right on the button but I recovered from it pretty well. I'm happy with the way I performed and I learned a hell of a lot in that fight.”
Wise words as ultimately this fight will stand Taylor (13-0-0, 11KOs) in good stead moving forward. Postol was his acid test and in his 13th pro fight he came through it.
We will see what happens next with Josh Taylor. He has now boxed his way to the mandatory position in the WBC rankings. Is a fight with titleholder Jose Ramirez just around the corner or will the mooted WBSS light-welterweight tournament see Taylor going down that road? Time will tell. What we do know is that we were treated to a marvellous sporting event which would have been worthy of a full world title fight. Josh Taylor and Viktor Postol left it all in the ring, it was a privilege to be there to witness it.
Before the Taylor vs. Postol treat a short undercard took place. IBO Female lightweight champion Chantelle Cameron (7-0-0, 5KOs) opened the show, fighting a non-title defence against Natalia Aguirre from Argentina. Cameron, of England, looked far bigger and stronger than her opponent and was on the front foot for the majority of the contest. despite having a heavy strapping on her left knee Aguirre moved nimbly around the ring, making it difficult for Cameron to pin her down easily. On the occasions Cameron did get into range good head movement from the Argentinian prevented her from landing anything too clean in the early going. This would only last so long though as Cameron switched to a more body based attack from round three onward. This was a wise strategy as after a knockdown and a further 20 seconds of unanswered punches in the sixth round the referee called a halt to the contest. Cameron has power and with Shane McGuigan in her corner to help her tweak things tactically during fights she could go far.
“Lightning” Lee McGregor, the 21-year-old prospect from Edinburgh, Scotland moved to 4-0-0, 4KOs and captured the IBF Youth bantamweight title in the process. The highly thought of youngster started off behind his fast jab, doubling up on it as he underlined his speed advantage over opponent Goodluck Mrema of Tanzania. Roared on by an impressive bunch of fans, McGregor looked a class above his game opponent. The bout was ended in the fourth round when Mrema got trapped in the corner and in the process of trying to punch his way out was caught with a monster left hook. It was a heavy knockout. The Tanzanian needed oxygen before he was able to walk across the ring to congratulate McGregor. It is early days for McGregor but he is certainly a fighter to keep an eye on.
Another fighter with large numbers of fans who made lots of noise during his bout is Gary “Razor” Rae. The bantamweight from Barrhead, Scotland faced off against Johnson Tellez of Nicaragua in a six round contest. Rae opened up patiently behind his cultured left jab before giving an indication towards the end of the first round that he wanted to move through the gears by landing a quality right uppercut on his opponent. Rae's offense was gradually coming to the fore; more right hands landed in the second round while in the third session Rae showed nice footwork to cut off Tellez' escape routes on more than one occasion. Rae's footwork was on display again in the fourth as he controlled the distance of the fight nicely. Rae's timing was spot on by this point in the bout and he was able to land at will. It looked like Rae was pushing for the stoppage in the final two rounds as he got more aggressive, opening up the full repertoire of punches to try and vanquish his foe. Tellez is a durable guy though and fighters like him serve an invaluable purpose in boxing, giving less experienced boxers rounds which will benefit them in the long run. Gary Rae (8-0-0, 2KOs) has lovely boxing fundamentals and like McGregor is one to watch.
In other action heavyweight Martin Bakole (11-0-0, 8KOs) was far too much for D.L. Jones. His power had Jones down twice in the opening 62 seconds before the referee stopped the fight. Bakole will hopefully be presented with a bigger test next time out as he looks to have good potential. In a similar scenario Tommy Philbin (11-0-0, 4KOs) stopped over-matched Dominik Landgraf in round one. Edinburgh fighter Philbin invested in a body attack and after seeing Landgraf hit the canvas twice the referee wisely brought the contest to an end.