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Katie Taylor Can Fight!

boxing ring is repulsive and will receive no support from real lovers of the art. Girl boxers will ruin their matrimonial chances

Thomas Hauser

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Katie Taylor Can Fight!

Jimmy Wilde reigned as the world’s first flyweight champion and is regarded by some as the greatest British fighter of all time. Wilde once declared, “The idea of women in the boxing ring is repulsive and will receive no support from real lovers of the art. Girl boxers will ruin their matrimonial chances. No man could fancy a professional bruiser for a bride.”

That was a long time ago. But women’s boxing has yet to enter the consciousness of mainstream sports fans. Christy Martin was a blip on the radar screen by virtue of her appearance on Mike Tyson undercards. Laila Ali garnered attention because she was Muhammad’s daughter. Lucia Rijker, the best female boxer of her era, was largely unknown. The talent pool is thin. Many women boxers don’t know how to slip a punch or where to hold their hands.

Katie Taylor, who fought Victoria Noella Bustos in a 135-pound title unification bout at Barclays Center on April 28, is changing the perception of women’s boxing.

Both of Taylor’s parents were involved with the sweet science. Her father was an Englishman who married an Irish woman and moved to Bray, County Wicklow, where Katie was born on July 2, 1986. He boxed as an amateur and was Katie’s first boxing coach when she took up the sport at age ten. Her mother was one of Ireland’s first female boxing judges. Katie has three older siblings, one of whom is a professor of mathematics at Trinity College.

Katie grew up physically gifted, competitive, and loving sports. She was an elite athlete at a young age in both boxing and soccer. The downside to being a fighter is that fighters get hit. But in the end, she gravitated to boxing.

Later, she would explain, “There comes a point in the life of all junior boxers, when you hit fourteen or fifteen years old, when the punches start to hurt and you have to decide whether you’re going to take it seriously or not at all. There is no middle ground.”

At age 15, boxing as an amateur, Taylor participated in the first officially sanctioned woman’s match in the history of Ireland. Thereafter, she won six gold medals at the European Championships and five at the Women’s World championships. She was the flag bearer for Ireland at the 2012 London Olympics and became a national hero after winning a gold-medal at the 2012 Olympic games.

“Listening to the anthem [at the awards ceremony],” Katie later reminisced, “was the proudest moment of my life.”

Then came what Taylor calls “the lowest moment of my career.” At the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, she lost in the first round to Mira Potkonen of Finland.

“I just didn’t perform well,” Katie says of the outing. “It’s a simple as that.”

Taylor turned pro in late 2016 and fashioned an 8-and-0 record en route to winning the WBA woman’s lightweight title last year. Her trainer, Ross Enamait, describes his charge as being totally dedicated to her craft.

Katie is confident but not arrogant with regard to her ring skills. She has a well-muscled frame with shoulders that are broader and thighs that are more powerful than might appear at first glance. She’s poised, gracious, articulate, laughs easily, and is unfailingly polite.

She’s also a study in contradictions. She likes attention but is wary of it. There’s a private, somewhat shy, person behind the public facade.

“I lead a simply life,” Katie says. “It’s built around my family and my faith.”

The faith is reflected in her strong Christian convictions and commitment to the Church of the Nazarene. Her family life is a bit more complicated.

For the past year, Taylor has lived in Vernon, Connecticut, an ocean away from many of her loved ones.

“I love the fact that I’m anonymous in America,” Katie explained recently. “I can go for walks and be left alone when I want to be alone. I can just be myself over here.”

All fighters have demons and dreams that drive them. Fame means exposure. And exposure means leaving oneself exposed.

“When you reached an age when the punches hurt and boxing became serious for you,” Katie is asked, “was the motivation you were most aware of when you got in the ring to defend yourself or attack?”

“That’s an interesting question,” she counters.

*

Taylor-Bustos was on the undercard of an HBO doubleheader featuring Danny Jacobs vs. Maciej Sulecki and Jarrell Miller vs. Johann Duhaupas.

Bustos had 18 victories and 4 losses on her ring ledger but had never fought outside of Argentina. More significantly, in 22 professional fights, she had never scored a knockout. The odds favoring Taylor ran as high as 20-to-1 despite the fact that Bustos had been the IBF lightweight champion for over a year.

There was a blip during the medical examinations at the weigh-in on Friday when a New York State Athletic Commission doctor noticed a cold sore on Bustos’s lip. One doesn’t normally think of a cold sore as preventing a fight. But Victoria was told that she needed a clearance letter from a dermatologist. The dermatologist then sent a letter to the commission saying that the sore was “likely” to be contained. That wasn’t good enough for the NYSAC, which consulted next with an infectious disease specialist. It wasn’t until 1:15 PM on fight day that Team Taylor was advised the fight was on.

Taylor’s status as a star and also her gender dictated that she not share a dressing room with other fighters on Saturday night.

Carrying her own gym bag, Katie arrived at room 1B11.09 (the Canarsie Room) in Barclays Center at 6:45 PM. Her long dark hair was pulled back in a single braid. She was wearing black pants, a black T-shirt, gray sneakers, and a black jacket with “Katie Taylor” emblazoned in gold on the back.

Ross Enamait and manager Brian Peters were with her.

The dressing room was fifteen feet long and ten feet wide with black industrial carpet, walls painted pale yellow, and recessed lighting above. A gray table built into one of the walls ran the length of the room with a wall-to-wall mirror above it. Seven black cushioned folding metal chairs were set against the table. A black leather sofa stood against the opposite wall.

Tomas Rohan (who works with Peters) and filmmaker Ross Whitaker joined the trio. It was a small group. No expanding circle of family, friends, and hangers-on.

Enamait unpacked his bag and put the tools of his trade on the table.

Veteran cutman Danny Milano (who would be working Katie’s corner for the first time) brought in a half-dozen white terrycloth towels.

“I’ve been following the women for a while now,” Milano had said earlier in the day. “They tend to lose their composure more quickly than the men when things aren’t going their way. But not this one.”

Katie sat on the sofa, propped her feet up on a chair, and sipped from a bottle of water.

At 7:10, Enamait asked a New York State Athletic Commission deputy commissioner if Bustos had arrived at the arena.

She hadn’t.

“I’ll feel better when I know she’s here,” the trainer said.

At 7:20, Brian Peters left the room to see if Bustos was on site yet. Five minutes later, he returned.

“She’s here.”

It was a quiet dressing room. For much of the time that Katie was there, she sat alone on the sofa, watching undercard fights on a TV monitor. Other times, Enamait or Peters sat beside her, engaging in quiet conversation.

Male or female, the rituals for battle are the same. A pre-fight physical examination and the taking of a urine sample were followed by the referee’s dressing room instructions.

Occasionally, Katie stood and stretched.

At 7:40, she put on a pair of black-and-gold boxing trunks, a matching top, and a fuchsia T-shirt with words from Psalm 18 in white letters on the front (“It is God who arms me with strength”) and back (“He trains my hands for battle”).

Enamait began taping Katie’s hands, right hand first. At 8:15, the job was done.

Katie stretched on her own and shadow-boxed briefly.

Enamait greased her hair with petroleum jelly to hold it in place.

The assumption was that Katie would win. But boxing is boxing. She was about to venture into the unknown. In less than an hour, a woman trained in the art of hurting would try to hurt her.

“I get nervous before every fight,” Taylor has said. “I’d be worried if I wasn’t nervous. But I feel like I’m most alive when I’m in the ring. You don’t know what will happen. That’s what makes it so exciting.”

There was more shadow-boxing. Katie’s face looked harder now. She was transforming into a warrior.

Enamait gloved her up.

Trainer and fighter worked the pads together.

“Don’t give her any free shots,” Enamait cautioned.

Brian Peters helped Katie into a black robe with gold trim.

At nine o’clock, a voice instructed, “It’s time to walk.”

The fight went largely as expected.

Taylor has good footwork and good hand-speed coupled with a nasty jab, a sharp straight right, an effective left hook, and a serviceable uppercut. She’s not a big puncher but mixes her punches well.

Fighting at a distance in the first half of the bout, Katie was totally dominant. In rounds eight and ten, she chose to trade on the inside (which was the only place Bustos could reach her), stayed in the pocket too long, and took some unnecessary punches. The judges were on the mark with their 99-91, 99-91, 98-92 verdict.

After the fight, Katie returned to her dressing room and sat on the sofa. There were ugly welts on her back and shoulders, a bruise on the left side of her forehead, and a smaller bruise beneath her right eye.

“I’m tired,” she said.

Pressed for more, she elaborated on her performance.

“I can always do better, but I did okay tonight. She [Bustos] was durable, and it was a different style from what I’m used to fighting. I’m still learning my trade. There’s a big difference between the amateurs and the pros. The pros are more physical. But I’m happy with the win, and I’m happy to be a unified champion.”

In recent years, championships have been sadly devalued in boxing. That’s particularly true on the women’s side of the ledger.

John Sheppard, who oversees BoxRec.com, recently reported that boxing’s world sanctioning bodies have created 110 different women’s titles. This means that, assuming each title is available in 17 weight divisions, the sanctioning bodies have belts for 1,870 women’s champions. Meanwhile, according to Boxrec.com, there are only 1,430 active women boxers in the world today. “Thus,” Sheppard notes, “there are approximately 1.3 titles available for each female boxer.”

How can that be?

The answer is that the sanctioning bodies have an insatiable lust for sanctioning fees. For example, the World Boxing Council has thirteen different denominations for women “champions”: World Female, Diamond Female, International Female, Youth Female, Silver Female, Latino Female, FECARBOX Female, FECOMBOX Female, CIS and Slovac Boxing Bureau Female, Asian Boxing Council Female, Asian Boxing Council Silver Female, Asian Boxing Council Continental Female, and Baltic Female.

In this nonsensical world, Katie Taylor stands out as a “real” champion. She now has two world championship belts and, given her druthers, will be in the ring soon competing for the other two quasi-credible titles. By the time women’s boxing advances to the point where there’s a serious pound-for-pound conversation, she hopes to be at the top of the list.

“Everyone has different skills and talents,” Katie says. “This is mine. When people watch me box, I hope they see a boxer, not a female boxer. I would love to bring the sport to another level and take women’s boxing to a place where people really respect it.”

Men’s boxing has a storied tradition. Today’s male fighters can look back in time and say, “I would have loved to have fought Sugar Ray Robinson. Or Muhammad Ali. Or Joe Louis.” Maybe someday, young women fighters will look back on this era and say, “I would have loved to a have fought Katie Taylor.”

Thomas Hauser can be reached by email at thauser@rcn.com. His most recent book – There Will Always Be Boxing – was published by the University of Arkansas Press. In 2004, the Boxing Writers Association of America honored Hauser with the Nat Fleischer Award for career excellence in boxing journalism.

For more on female boxing, visit our sister site THE PRIZEFIGHTERS

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 135: Danny Roman and Super Bantamweights Perform in L.A.

David A. Avila

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Avila Perspective, Chap. 135: Danny Roman and Super Bantamweights Perform in L.A.

The super bantamweight division was virtually unknown by most fans of prizefighting for the last decade.

Then Danny Roman arrived and re-booted the 122-pound division virtually by himself by challenging and defeating world champions from Japan and the United Kingdom.

Roman (28-3-1, 10 KOs) no longer holds the world titles but itches to regain his footing when he fights Ricardo Espinoza (25-3, 21 KOs) at Dignity Health Sports Park on Saturday May 15. Showtime will televise the battle on the Premier Boxing Champions card.

“Everything I do in boxing from here on out is to regain my status as a world champion,” said the normally ultra-reserved Roman, 31.

Ironically, both Roman and Espinoza turned their careers around with numerous battles at boxing shows in Ontario, California. They entered as boys and emerged as battle-tested men.

For the last 20 years Thompson Boxing Promotions has been pumping out world champions and contenders at a furious rate despite their small size in Southern California. They do not pamper or cajole their prospects.

Both Roman and Espinoza suffered their first losses as professionals at Thompson Boxing’s bloody battles at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario. But despite losing, they continued to learn and evolve. Now they meet in Los Angeles on the big stage.

When Roman lost to Japan’s Takashi Okada in 2011 and Juan Reyes in 2013, that could have derailed the Los Angeles-based fighter for good. Instead, he re-grouped and reloaded to become a unified world champion. Roman traveled to Japan and won the WBA super bantamweight world title by stoppage of Shun Kubo in 2017. A couple of years later after several defenses, he clashed with WBO super bantamweight titlist TJ Doheny to win an incredible battle by decision in Los Angeles. It was perhaps the Fight of the Year in 2019 and gained Roman the WBO belt.

Though Roman lost both the WBA and WBO titles to Murodjon Akhmadaliev, it was a disputed split decision. Many felt Roman was the true winner. So now he must battle back toward the top.

Espinoza also fought many bloody affairs at the Doubletree Hotel in Ontario including his first two losses. He lost to Sam Rodriguez in 2016 and Christian Nieto in 2017. Then the power-punching fighter from Tijuana, Mexico knocked out 12 of 13 of his opponents to gain a world title fight that he lost in April 2019. Since then, he has returned to his winning ways and upset undefeated Brandon Valdes last year.

“Danny Roman has fought some really quality opponents that are high in the rankings, but this is my time. This is when I show that I can step up in competition and prove that I belong with the best,” said Espinoza who is very familiar with Roman.

The Tijuana fighter is a punching machine.

“This is not going to be an easy fight because I know my opponent is a tough fighter from Tijuana who is coming with everything he’s got. He’s got a lot of power, so I must be smart on how I throw my combinations,” said Roman who lives within 10 miles of the event. “I believe my experience in big fights is going to be the difference on May 15. I’m expecting a rough fight and I’m ready for an intense battle.”

Now the two veterans of the Ontario, California wars finally meet each other to see who advances toward a world title fight. They won’t have to look far. The main event pits two titleholders against each other.

Unification Battle for Super Bantam Belts

Mexico’s Luis Nery holds the WBC super bantamweight world title and faces Texan Brandon Figueroa who holds a version of the WBA super bantamweight title in the main event on the Dignity Health Sports Park card on Saturday. Showtime will televise.

Nery formerly held the bantamweight title too. But the Tijuana-based fighter had problems making weight and wisely moved up a weight division. So far, the extra pounds hasn’t been a problem.

The problem facing Nery is Figueroa has a solid chin.

Figueroa may look like a pretty boy but he fights like he’s ugly. The Weslaco, Texas native has firepower and a rock chin but does he have the skills to match Nery?

“I come forward. I bring the pressure and I’m definitely going to bring the power, the size and all the advantages I have to make sure that we give the fans a great show. I do respect him as a fighter but we’re just going to have to find out Saturday,” said Figueroa whose brother Omar Figueroa fought in the same venue two weeks ago.

Nery has quickness and agility to supplement his power. He also has experience in world class opposition and that’s something Figueroa lacks.

“Brandon’s style really fits with what I want to do in the ring,” said Nery, a boxer-slugger. “This is going to be an all-out war from the first round on. People are going to be talking about it for a long time after.”

The winner of this clash will hopefully meet the winner of Roman and Espinoza. That would really heat up the super bantamweight division to blue hot levels.

Some of my favorite fighters of the past occupied the super bantamweight division like Wilfredo “Bazooka” Gomez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Israel “Magnifico” Vazquez who twice fought in this same venue. His third fight with Rafael Marquez on March 1, 2008 was voted Fight of the Year for its brutal but spectacular display of super bantamweight power.

The winners of this quasi-super bantamweight tournament can equally achieve the same kind of greatness those former stars achieved. This is a good start.

Fights to Watch (All times are Pacific Coast)

Friday UFC Fight Pass 5:30 p.m. Heather Hardy (22-1) vs Jessica Camara (7-2); Melissa St. Vil (13-4-4) vs Olivia Gerula (18-18-4).

Friday Telemundo 11:30 p.m. Denilson Valtierra (14-0) vs Emanuel Lopez (30-12-1).

Sat. DAZN 10 a.m. Lerrone Richards (14-0) vs Giovanni De Carolis (28-9-1).

Sat. Showtime 7 p.m. Luis Nery (31-0) vs Brandon Figueroa (21-0-1); Danny Roman (28-3-1) vs Ricardo Espinoza (25-3).

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Charr vs Lovejoy: Better Late Than Never, or Not

Phil Woolever

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COLOGNE – There are many questions to be answered regarding Mahmoud Charr’s scheduled fight against Christopher Lovejoy this Saturday night at a training facility along the Rhine. The most primary point to be determined is whether the contest actually occurs.

Charr has been idle since capturing a WBA title belt against Aleksandr Ustinov way back in November 2017. Since then numerous delays and cancellations, many of them out of Charr’s control, have kept the erstwhile ranked heavyweight out of the championship picture and far from the international public eye.

The most recent of such situations found Charr unable to obtain a travel visa for a defense against Trevor Bryan in Florida last January. Machinations by Don King and the WBA in relegating Charr to “in recess” status further tarnished both the promoter and the organization’s already disgraceful reputations.

King has also had a hand in keeping Lovejoy off the rumbling radar, after the boxer previously claimed retirement as a way out of King’s contractual clutches. When Lovejoy attempted to face Dave Allen in London on the undercard of Usyk-Chisora, King contacted Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn with enough of a claim that Lovejoy’s appearance was cancelled.

According to Lovejoy, King has also attempted to block Saturday’s fight, so uncertainty remains until the first bell rings this weekend. That said, everything else about the relatively low key card seems to be well in place, and there is plenty to look forward to, questions and all. A subscriber-based live stream on German news outlet Bild.de will broadcast the bout.

How the long layoff, which began way before the coronavirus pandemic, has affected Charr is probably the most crucial factor, but what the rarely seen Lovejoy brings to the table is as compelling as it is curiously noteworthy. His record of 19-0 with 19 quick knockouts, compiled completely off-grid in frequent madhouse Tijuana could mean damn near anything.

Charr, 31-4 (17), has been stopped three times and in two of those KOs (by Maris Briedis and Alexander Povetkin) he was blasted into one-shot oblivion. Under Saturday’s scenario one of the few possible surprises might be if Lovejoy doesn’t try to get Charr out of there immediately.

Lovejoy, listed at 6’4”, looks substantially larger than 6’3” Charr, but not any taller. An uneducated guess indicates a strong possibility that the more proven Charr is capable of wearing Lovejoy down, especially considering how he did it against a respectable version of Ustinov.

When Lovejoy refused to shake Charr’s hand and insulted his courage during their press conference photo op, there was a slight but very significant twitch in Charr’s almost constantly upbeat countenance. If Lovejoy doesn’t indeed carry huge power in his punches, he may have inspired a painful night.

To put Charr’s simmering anger in perspective, it must be remembered that he still looked like he was calmly waiting for his food while being carried out on a stretcher after getting shot four times in the lower abdomen during a 2015 ambush in nearby Essen. When his assailant, a former boxing protégé, confessed by saying he only meant to shoot him in the leg, Charr told an emotion packed courtroom bygones were bygones, saying “I am a man who forgives.”

A refugee at five years old whose father was killed in the Lebanese civil war, Charr seems to clearly envision a bigger picture than just his boxing career, and he consistently posts positive motivational copy on social media, including an end of Ramadan message stressing nonpartisan hope for the current Gaza conflict.

The 10-round fight carries no title designation but whatever they may or may not step into the ring with, one thing Charr and Lovejoy share is the potential for a make-or-break performance.

If Charr wins, people will dismiss Lovejoy’s merit in the first place but it still keeps a bit of shine on his championship claims, increasing his leverage regarding Bryan or even bigger game. If Lovejoy wins, especially by dramatic KO, he has definitely upped his recognition factor marketability.

The only safe bet is that the winner will probably hear from somebody representing Don King.

And maybe even Fres Oquendo.

Questions, questions.

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The Tartan Tornado Invades Las Vegas, Harkening Back to Sugar Ray Robinson

Arne K. Lang

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On Sunday, Feb. 26, 1961, Sugar Ray Robinson arrived in Las Vegas for his match six days later with Gene Fullmer at the two-year-old Las Vegas Convention Center. Reporters on hand to greet Robinson at the airport were taken aback by his large entourage. With him were his manager George Gainford, his trainer and his trainer’s assistant, his mother, his traveling secretary, his personal physician, his dietician, his bodyguard, his personal barber and a sparring partner – eleven bodies in all including Robinson.

Flash forward 60 years. When WBA/IBF world super lightweight champion Josh Taylor arrived in Las Vegas on April 24, his party also numbered eleven. Arriving with him from Edinburgh were his trainer Ben Davison, his former amateur coach Terry McCormack (pictured on the right) and assorted others including a videoanalyst, a physiotherapist, and several longtime friends and gym mates including undefeated (10-0) European bantamweight title-holder Lee McGregor and sparring partner Chris Kongo.

Once he was settled in, Sugar Ray had less than a full week to finish off his preparation for his title fight with arch-rival Fullmer. By contrast, Josh Taylor and his team arrived in Las Vegas a full month before Taylor was set to square off against WBC/WBO counterpart Jose Ramirez in the biggest fight in Las Vegas since Fury-Wilder II, a lapse of 14 months.

There are other differences between Team Robinson and Team Taylor which touch on the way that boxing has changed from a promotional standpoint. Sugar Ray and his party stayed at the Dunes Casino Resort on the Strip where Robinson picked up some loose change holding afternoon pre-fight workouts in the hotel’s showroom at $1 a head. Team Taylor is staying as a group in a large, luxury home in the “burbs” where there are fewer distractions and when he is ready to spar at the Top Rank Gym, “foreigners” are shooed away. Which isn’t to say that Josh Taylor isn’t friendly. Quite the opposite; the Tartan Tornado has been very approachable and unstinting of his time with the few local reporters that have been hep to his whereabouts.

Taylor hails from Prestonpans, a town eight miles east of Edinburgh, Scotland’s second-largest city. His dad works as a landscape gardener and his mother as a receptionist. He has one sibling, a younger sister. This past December he became engaged to hairdresser Danielle Murphy, his longtime girlfriend. They have known each other for 10 years.

On Wikipedia, Prestonpans is portrayed as a small fishing village, but that is highly misleading. For a better reference, think of towns in the American rust belt that have been bruised by the loss of manufacturing jobs. Taylor and his neighbors will tell you that the policies of Margaret Thatcher, British PM from 1979 to 1990, compounded the damage.

At age 17, Taylor, now 30, found his way to McCormack’s Lochend Boxing Club in Edinburgh. At this humble gym — a little shack situated smack against a public housing project — he honed the skills that made him an elite amateur, a globetrotter who culminated his tenure with a gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

Taylor turned pro for Barry McGuigan’s Cyclone Promotions. McGuigan entrusts his fighters to his trainer/son Shane McGuigan. The McGuigans already had Carl Frampton in the fold. Under the McGuigans stewardship, Frampton became a champion in two weight classes.

Taylor’s fight with Jose Ramirez will be his fourth in the United States. Josh made his pro debut in El Paso and also fought at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. The common thread in all three fights is Frampton who also appeared on those cards, the last two as the headliner with Leo Santa Cruz in the opposite corner.

As a pro, Taylor is undefeated (17-0, 13 KOs). Ramirez, the pride of Central California’s vast San Joaquin Valley, home to more than 4 million people, is also undefeated (26-0, 17 KOs), but the Scotsman is considered to have fought the stronger schedule. Taylor’s last five opponents were collectively 110-1 at the time that he fought them with the lone blemish inflicted by Terence Crawford.

Taylor’s signature win was his Oct. 26, 2019 conquest of Regis Prograis at London’s O2 Arena. Both came in undefeated, both owned a share of the world super lightweight title, and the match had the added allure of being the final round of a World Boxing Super Series tournament with the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy, an impressive piece of hardware, bestowed on the winner.

The fight was expected to be highly entertaining and it overachieved. The noted historian Matt McGrain called it “the inarguable 140lb fight of the decade.” At the end both fighters were marked-up, especially the victorious Taylor who sported a beauty of a shiner over his right eye. “I have never been prouder of an injury,” Taylor told this reporter.

pontrepans

His relationship with the McGuigans unraveled after this fight. Shane McGuigan took it hard. “I’ve invested four-and-a-half years of my time and energy in someone who just doesn’t deserve it,” he said. “If you want loyalty in boxing, buy a dog (a saying previously credited to the late British boxing promoter Mickey Duff).”

“Don’t buy a dog and then put it in the kennel,” replied Taylor, noting that he had been left alone for long periods by Shane McGuigan when training in England and that he wasn’t provided a key to the gym when his trainer was out of town.

Veteran British boxing scribe Colin Hart took the McGuigans’ side in a story that ran in the Sun, faulting Josh for his disloyalty. What Hart failed to note is that in every deal that Taylor has signed, he has insisted that his amateur coach be included. McCormack assisted McGuigan in the corner and continues in that role under Davison, the young trainer who reinvigorated Tyson Fury before their amicable split.

“I have never been so happy as I am now,” says Taylor. “I am content and relaxed.” And he insists that he harbors no hard feelings toward the McGuigans. “I’m grateful for what they did for me.”

This olive branch, of sorts, stands in stark contrast to his pal Carl Frampton whose break from the McGuigans was scarred with unbending acrimony. (Shane McGuigan’s latest protégé is Lawrence Okolie who turned in a sensational performance while blasting out Krzyzstof Glowacki to win the WBO world cruiserweight title on March 20. There’s no question that Shane is one of the sharpest young trainers in the sport, but if he were a physician, one might say that he needs to work on improving his bedside manner.)

The Taylor-Ramirez fight will be held at the Virgin Hotel (formerly the Hard Rock which was closed for 13 months while the new owners of the property, in their words, “reimagined” it). The winner will be the undisputed 140-pound champion, holding all four meaningful belts. If that be Taylor, who is a small favorite, that would put him on the same pedestal as Ken Buchanan who became a national hero when he won the world lightweight title from Ismael Laguna in 1970, a diadem he lost on a controversial punch to Roberto Duran who refused to give him a rematch.

Now 75 years old and residing in an assisted living facility in Edinburgh, the city of his birth, Buchanan was among the first to predict that Taylor would become a world champion. The two are well-acquainted. Buchanan pops in occasionally at McCormack’s gym. He has visited Taylor at his family home where, Josh notes, his mother welcomed him as she would any honored guest, meaning she put on a spot of tea.

Taylor vs Ramirez is a sellout. The bout will be televised free in the United States on ESPN. It’s a very compelling attraction.

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