Josh Taylor sets sights on massive step forward

Josh Taylor turns on the style at  Lochend amateur gym yesterday. Picture: Scott Louden
Josh Taylor turns on the style at Lochend amateur gym yesterday. Picture: Scott Louden
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JOSH Taylor is a man of many names. As well as the one bestowed on him at birth, he has picked up a couple of new monikers as he forges ahead with his professional career. Christened the Tartan Tornado by his management, his housemates have been less charitable, calling him Hank.

“Me and the lads all have a good laugh, we rip each other all day, it’s relentless,” said the 24-year-old.

Barry McGuigan  keeps a watchful eye on Taylor's preparations. Picture: Scott Louden

Barry McGuigan keeps a watchful eye on Taylor's preparations. Picture: Scott Louden

“My nickname is from the film Me, Myself & Irene because I got a haircut one time and it was like Hank, who was played by Jim Carrey, and the way I box is quite twitchy. They all call me Hank now. I might even get that on my next pair of shorts. We just slag each other to pass the time.”

Identified as the perfect way to unwind after gruelling sessions in the gym, the house of fun has helped the Prestonpans boxer relax as he gears up for his most testing fight to date, in front of a partisan Edinburgh crowd, at Meadowbank, tomorrow.

Based at the McGuigan gym in London where he is managed by former WBA world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan and trained by his son, Shane, he shares digs with some of the other fighters, each with their own ambitions to reach the top of the sport.

“There are five of us. There’s me, Anthony Cacace, Josh Pritchard, Carl Frampton, and one of the coaches, Steve. He is there to make sure we behave ourselves. We would probably be up to all sorts if he wasn’t there. It’s good and we enjoy it. It takes the pressure off because we are all going through it together and we push each other. We all work hard in training and it’s not so lonely because we are going through it together.”

This week’s fight, against Hungarian Adam Mate, sees him pitted against a tough opponent in what is only his second professional bout. His competitor has 15 wins under his belt and is vastly experienced, but, having stepped up from the amateur ranks following his gold medal success at last year’s Commonwealth Games, he made an impressive debut in the USA, where he made short shrift of his first test. But Taylor and his management recognise this is a massive step-up, but it is a challenge both believe the Scotsman is up to.

“I have only had the one fight, so I’m learning one fight at a time, but I’m in the gym every day and sparring with top pros and Shane is a top coach. I feel like I have come on tenfold since I started with Shane but we will find out on Friday if that’s enough.

“I’m up to it. I fought all over the world as an amateur, fighting against the best and with over 150 fights as an amateur I’ve fought all different styles. [Mate] is small and a come-forward fighter and I like that as I am a kind of counter-fighter but I can fight as well, so I reckon, if he comes at me, I can open him up and I will catch him. That’s the plan but we will wait and see how it goes.”

In a session at his old Lochend amateur gym yesterday, he demonstrated the explosive power he possesses. There has been a lot of talk comparing him to legends like Ken Buchanan and hyping him us as one of the best emerging professional talents in the UK, but, ahead of the weigh-in today, Taylor made it clear that he wants to swap the talking for getting into the ring and taking care of business. “The last time I fought in Edinburgh was back in 2011, just after the last Commonwealth Games, in Delhi, and we sold about 800 tickets and that was brilliant and that was a great experience.

“All my mad pals and my family were there going radge and the atmosphere was electric. I’m expecting that again. It will be great. It adds a percentage to your game. Obviously, they are not in there fighting with you, but it lifts you up and gives you that extra bit of grit. I can’t wait. I’m looking forward to it!”

This time around there will be at least 1,200 shouting him on and hoping he can live up to expectations.

“I’m working really hard and pushing myself in every training session and I’m doing a lot of strength work now as well. I’m punching with more intention.

“I think the comparison with Ken Buchanan is more about our styles. I don’t think it’s anything more than that.

“I don’t think Barry is saying I’m the best since Ken but the fact that he thinks I have that potential is a bit of pressure, but it is very encouraging and a big confidence boost. If I can achieve half of what Kenny did, I will be a happy fighter. I do believe I can go and win a world championship and that’s what I want to do.”

He has plenty of names but the title of world champion is one he would eventually love to add to the collection.