Barry McGuigan believes Josh Taylor’s duel with Ohara Davies is one of the best domestic match-ups boxing has seen for 40 years.
The former WBA featherweight champion cannot wait to unleash 26-year-old Taylor at Braehead Arena on Saturday in a fight being billed ‘Bad Blood’ due to the ongoing name-calling and insults exchanged between both boxers across social media.
Taylor has taken the paid ranks by storm since signing with the Cyclone promoter in summer 2015. The Edinburgh fighter is the Commonwealth super lightweight champion, having reeled off nine consecutive victories – eight of them by knockout.
His opponent this weekend, Hackney-based Davies, isn’t bad in the ring either. Victory in Glasgow would see the undefeated Englishman (15-0) add the Commonwealth title to the WBC silver belt he currently holds.
And these stats sell the fight alone, according to McGuigan, who describes both Taylor and Davies as “world class”.
“It’s probably one of the best fights in 40 years in the UK with young, world-class talent meeting at this early stage in their careers,” the Irishman said. “It is a risky fight but this was always going to be the case because of Josh’s talent. If he can’t beat the likes of Ohara Davies then he’s not going to be world champion. But we know he beats Davies and he’s going to go all the way in the sport.”
McGuigan insists both his own and Taylor’s temperaments have been severely tested by an opponent who is renowned for his controversy outside the ring. The Londoner has never shunned the opportunity to express himself when sat in front of the cameras. That said, he was unusually subdued at the official press conference when the fight was announced in May. However, McGuigan believes his softer approach was a deliberate ploy to unnerve the Scot.
“I’m disappointed with Davies in how he’s conducted himself but he’s done it deliberately,” he explained. “I think people in general had more respect for one another back when I was boxing. Twitter is both a good and a bad thing. It allows us to promote fights and get your name out there but it also enables idiots to say horrible things.
“Davies didn’t want to alienate himself any more from the Scottish audience by being controversial at the press conference but he can’t help himself. As soon as he met us in the airport after he was shouting and being rude. That’s just the character he is. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that he’s a very good fighter.
“To an extent, Josh is still a baby as a professional. He’s still learning and he’s got to control himself in this situation and not lose his head. That’s what Ohara Davies wants him to do. He wants him to lose his cool and come out and have a tear-up with him.
“Josh is a fiery individual and that’s what’s got him to where he is today. We’ve worked very hard with him to keep his focus and concentration. He’s a very talented guy but he also has to portray the right image and behave in the right way.
“Shane [McGuigan – Taylor’s trainer] has been in this situation with Scott Quigg and Carl Frampton before.
“He knows the tensions and irritation and deliberative provocation to try and get you to box a different way. But I think we’ve got it under control and Josh just needs to discipline himself. He will have the majority of the support so he just needs to keep a cool, dismantle this guy and that’s what he will do. We’ve had a guy in sparring Josh who winds you up and annoys you so he’s had to cope with that.”
McGuigan added: “We’re taking another big step here but Josh has responded.
“Normally we wouldn’t spar 12 rounds but he’s been looking magnificent against some big guys.
“Josh’s superior natural ability and higher pedigree in the amateurs is going to come to light in this fight. It’s impossible to walk through the shower without getting wet so he’s going to get hit. But Josh is a phenomenal puncher and sparring partners have been complaining about his power.”