Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor once again produced an impressive performance as he turned away the challenge of former world champion Miguel “El Titere” Vazquez at The Royal Highland Centre in Edinburgh, Scotland on Saturday. Taylor's showing was punctuated by a huge exclamation mark as he became the first man to stop the Mexican – ending the contest with a fizzing right to the body late in the ninth round.
In doing so Taylor successfully defended his WBC silver light-welterweight belt and perhaps more importantly raised his profile on the world stage. If the other runners and riders in the 140lb division weren't aware of Taylor previously then they most definitely should be now.
The version of Vazquez that showed up in Edinburgh was not some cheap imitation looking for a payday. This was a tough, skilled fighter who looked like he had uploaded an aggressive file to his memory. This was The Puppet 2.0, fighting much more offensively, trying to ruin Taylor's perfect start to his pro campaign and move past him in the WBC rankings. Watching Vazquez work at close quarters, his movement seemed much more fluid than I was expecting and his tactics mirrored his appetite for destruction. The way he engaged with Taylor was a surprise, there was not so much lateral movement, Vazquez boxed with the hunger of a fighter just starting their career. He was a credit to himself and his country in Scotland on Saturday.
The only problem for Vazquez – Taylor was better. There were moments when it looked like Taylor was having one or two struggles but ultimately the Scotsman solved the problems that Vazquez presented and enhanced his reputation by scoring an emphatic win.
The bout began with Vazquez moving forward to take the fight to Taylor. He took the opening round on my card as his attacking start seemed to surprise the home fighter who took many more punches than he would be happy with in that opening session. Taylor met fire with fire in the second frame and got the better of the exchanges. An amazing amount of the action was taking place at close quarters and it was during one of these incidents that an accidental clash of heads opened a cut above Taylor's left eye.
Now Taylor was dealing with a seemingly inspired opponent and some adversity in the form of a cut. The fans in the sold out venue were noticeably quieter than they had been just six minutes earlier as the bout was beginning.
The third round was closely fought with both men having some joy although Taylor began attacking the body of his foe which was an encouraging sign for the home fans. Taylor did not look to be letting the cut affect him. The fourth stanza featured plenty of fighting inside, Taylor again shaded this and was beginning to find a home for his right hook to the body.
Rounds five and six really saw Taylor take over the fight. “The Tartan Tornado” was able to force Vazquez back to the ropes and work the body in the fifth and after switching to orthodox in the sixth Taylor dominated the frequent up close action. His physical strength on the inside was really helping.
Vazquez was still in the contest as we entered the second half of proceedings. He really was showing his tenacity and pedigree as he kept trying to find a way back into the fight. Taylor as well as dominating the inside work was now beating “The Puppet” to the punch on the outside. Vazquez perhaps sensed the situation was beginning to get away from him in the eighth as he employed several tricks to attempt to disrupt the pattern of the fight. Some naughty use of the head and a low looking blow or two followed him looking hurt on the ropes early in the round. As the round ended though I did wonder if he had been hurt or if that had been yet another attempt to disrupt Taylor and force him into a mistake.
It was soon irrelevant. There had been some good back and forth action as the ninth approached its closing stages. Taylor landed two classy uppercuts and as Vazquez adjusted his body position the fight ending right to the body sent “The Puppet” slumping to the canvas. It was a sickening shot and there was nothing Vazquez could do as the referee reached the count of ten. Taylor raised his arms in celebration knowing he had negotiated a difficult fight against a worthy opponent.
Vazquez received some medical attention and was given oxygen before he was able to fully raise himself to his feet. After such a hard fought encounter it was great to see both fighters embrace in a show of sportsmanship as the result was announced to the happy home crowd.
Taylor spoke after his win : “He was very tough. He took some good shots and he was hitting me himself so I just want to give him all due respect. He was catching me with some shots from awkward angles but I started breaking him down. I knew he didn't like body shots and that was what did it.”
Taylor (11-0-0, 10KOs) now looks primed for a shot at a world title. His ranking within the WBC should go up and while he may not get the shot immediately we should see Taylor boxing for world honours at some point next year.
As for Vazquez (39-6-0, 15KOs) he gave it everything and left the ring in Edinburgh having gained the respect of every fan in attendance. Vazquez still looks to this observer to have enough in his arsenal to remain at world level. He may have to rely on name recognition affording him a world opportunity though.
As he has not boxed for or won a world title yet there is no way that Josh Taylor will feature in the thoughts of anyone when it comes to casting their vote for Fighter of the Year but his four outings in 2017 will perhaps stand him in good stead to make a run at that award in the future. The quietly spoken fighter from just outside Edinburgh is on the path to a world title. His growing fan base will be with him every step of the way as he looks to ascend to the pinnacle of the 140lb division.