A YEAR ago boxer Josh Taylor had a Commonwealth Games gold in his possession and he had plenty of big dreams but he was hampered by the fact that he also had an injured hand.
The light welterweight had to put his preparation to take the professional world by storm on hold to give his left hand time to heal. But, as he heads into only his second professional bout in front of an enthusiastic home crowd at the Meadowbank Arena in Edinburgh tonight, he intends to make up for lost time.
“It was October, so this time last year that I had the operation on my hand, my backhand,” said the 24-year-old Scot. “But it’s feeling awesome now and I’m hitting the pads full on and it’s better than it ever was. I was out for about four or five months and I have been building up slowly since then. Hitting gradually harder and harder and then full on and it’s full steam ahead now.”
He proved his prowess in the ring when he made his pro debut, in El Paso, Texas, and now wants to build some momentum against a notable and experienced boxer, Adam Mate. The Hungarian is a tough opponent so early in his career but Taylor’s manager, Barry McGuigan, loves the way his man can rise to a challenge and believes he can lay down a marker and generate an even bigger home following by consigning the hand injury to history and beating his opponent when he tops tonight’s bill.
“We are trying to make Josh sit down on his punches a little bit more and hit with a bit more power,” said McGuigan. “He’s a slashing, very hard puncher, and the difference between the pro and the amateur game is the punching surface on the pro gloves is much smaller and therefore a lot of the guys in the amateur game can’t take it and often many of them end up hurting their hands. But Josh’s hands are solid as a rock and he’s punching really hard.”
Explosive power matched with precision shots are the proof that the hand is healed and the desire is there. It shows in every training session and every time he peppers the pads with blows which are proving tricky for anyone to roll with.
“He’s hitting these guys in the gym and having them out on their feet and we have to watch because we have guys who don’t come back,” adds former world champion McGuigan. “He’s looking amazing in sparring. He’s sparred with top light middleweights and welterweights and looked amazing. He is a 140- pound fighter who is punching at least two divisions above his weight. That’s why we feel we can take chances with him. Mate is very experienced so for us to put him in against a fighter of that calibre is his second pro fight is a bit of a bold statement. But we have that sort of belief in him. I genuinely think we can move him aggressively.
“It’s a dangerous thing, but we know the business pretty well and who he should be fighting and when he’s ready to make a step up. We’ve already shown our intentions by pitting him against a guy who won the IBO international title and fought for the WBO European lightweight title. So this is a genuine tough task. But he’s been sparring eight and ten rounds which is remarkable. I’ve had guys in the gym who I thought were real prospects but I don’t know if I’ve had a better kid than him.”