Erasing disappointment from the soul is a challenge in itself, a task made considerably more difficult when someone has fallen short of their own
This summer’s Olympics was the platform on which amateur lightweight boxer Josh Taylor believed he was destined to show the world his raw talent – a belief that was nothing other than admirable to say the least.
That’s not to suggest he didn’t make an impression at the ExCel Arena in London. He underlined his capabilities after brushing aside his first-round opponent, Brazilian Robson Conceicao, leaving the ring with a smile as wide as Disney’s Cheshire Cat and ready for his next challenging opponent.
His second-round challenger, however – Italian Domenico Valentino – proved one step too far for the Prestonpans prodigy as he succumbed to a 15-10 defeat. He knows he didn’t do himself any justice in a loss that continues to prey on the 21-year-old’s mind almost eight weeks on.
“I went there with winning a medal in my mind.” Taylor said. “I’m still a bit angry with the way I boxed against Valentino. It’s hard to think about it because I know I can perform a lot better than I did. If I had given my best performance and had been beaten then I would be feeling a lot better about it than I am. But because I didn’t, it’s always a case of what if I had?
“Going into the last round, I was in two minds with the scoring. One side was saying I just need to go for him and give him as hard a time as possible, while the other half was saying I’m one point behind, I need to hit him but also not get hit myself. However, I knew I had been beaten when the bell went.”
Taylor acknowledges Amateur Boxing Scotland chairman Richard Thomas’s justification that the result against Valentino won’t have raised too many eyebrows, taking into account his Italian opponent has benefitted from a 12-year Olympic programme – a stark contrast from his own 12-week stint with Team GB.
“I know all that and I am really proud of what I have managed to achieve, but I know I could have fought better. It’s still really annoying me every time I think about it. I had sleepless nights for about three weeks, but it needs to be onwards and upwards from now on. I’ve got a long career ahead of me and I’ll learn from the experience for next time.”
Nevertheless, underneath all the regret and agitation at not hitting the targets he was so eager to do so, Taylor does admit to having had an experience he will cherish for as long as he lives – a memory to look back on and say: “I was there”.
“It was an experience of a lifetime and that crowd in the arena alone was brilliant,” he said. “The atmosphere in the athletes’ village was also something else. Everyone was friendly and having a good laugh, so I loved every moment of it. I met guys like Andy Murray, Chris Hoy and Ryan Giggs and they’re all really down to earth and nice guys. I had my family down with me as well and they were only staying ten minutes away from the athletes’ village, so it was great support to see them during the Games.”
Taylor’s return to his hometown of Prestonpans after his Olympic debut was temporary, with an imminent trip to the Californian sun with his Lochend Boxing Club team-mates providing a small opportunity to unwind in the midst of some strenuous training sessions at Freddie Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles.
“It was brilliant to get out there.” Taylor said. “It was a bit of a holiday as well, but there was still a lot of serious training. The sparring was superb, working with some top-class pros, so it has opened my eyes quite a bit.
“We went out a couple of times and went to a few karaoke bars and places like that. It was nothing too heavy as I was up the next morning running and wanted to be fresh for training, so it was just a couple of hours here and there.”
Since returning home for a second time, the youngster has enjoyed some much-needed catch-up time with a family that has aided Taylor in his new Olympian identity. However, his experiences in London are sure to have made him stronger, with the lure of another crack at an Olympic gold medal in Rio de Janeiro in four years’ time proving too great to ignore.
Taylor added: “Things have been fairly quiet since I have been home from LA, which is nice. I’ve been back in Sheffield, though, to start back training with the GB squad where I’m sure I’ll find out in the next couple of weeks what’s coming up. I’m still going through the emotions but I need to refocus and get back into it. I’d love another crack at the Olympics and I now have the experience, so it would be good to give it another go.”