FROM dejection in Delhi to glory in Glasgow. That was the journey Josh Taylor set out on four years ago, and he is now only a couple of weeks from his intended destination.
Just 19 at the time of the last Commonwealth Games, the boxer from Prestonpans was in tears and inconsolable immediately after losing 11-3 in the final to Tom Stalker. No matter that the Englishman was five years older and vastly more experienced, Taylor had travelled to India with one object in mind: to win gold. Coming home with silver therefore represented failure.
The tears were the product of frustration rather than self-pity, because he knew he could have boxed far better. No matter that he had only taken up the sport four years earlier after making the switch from taekwondo, Taylor was convinced that he could and should have got the better of the man who, two years later, would become his British team captain at the Olympic Games.
Given time to reflect on the final, the Scot accepted that he had been too harsh on himself, and that being the runner-up in the 60kg weight category was actually a significant achievement in itself. This time round, though, with Stalker having graduated to the professional ranks, Taylor refuses to contemplate coming away from Glasgow with another silver medal.
“I would be disappointed if I didn’t win gold this time,” he said. “I believe in myself and I believe that I can bring the gold home, especially with the games being in Scotland.
“I don’t go into fights to come second best or to do well: I go in to win. That’s just the way I am. I compete to win and second best is no good to me.
“In Delhi a few days later I realised that I had done well and it was a good achievement. At the end of the day I wanted to win and that is why I was so disappointed and there were tears.”
The frustration Taylor displayed after the fight was already in evidence during the final round in Delhi. Three points behind his opponent as that round began, the Scot perhaps tried too hard to force the issue, becoming too tense and allowing the cannier Stalker to stay on top.
“He had loads more experience than me,” Taylor remembered. “That loss was a massive disappointment and I must have watched the fight back ten times or more.
“Every time I watch it, I get angrier – I know I can box better than I did. This time I’ll be more relaxed. Maybe because it was the Commonwealth Games I was uptight. I fought him in the Europeans the year before and I thought I could have beaten him then.
“I got myself too tight going into the last round instead of using my boxing skills. It took me a few weeks to get over that defeat. That was my first Commonwealth Games and big tournament and fighting in front of the cameras and media. I’ve since been to the Olympics in London and fought in the European and the World Championships, so I’m more than ready to go now.”
No matter what Taylor had expected of himself going into Delhi, no matter his feeling that he had let his friends and team-mates down, he was regarded by most observers as a real success. Few had expected him to get close to the final and his ability to peak at the right time was a textbook example of what competitors in any sport aim to do in a major tournament.
Four years on, he is sure he can do the same thing, although this time from a far stronger starting position – and with that crucial factor of enjoying home support. “The crowd and the atmosphere, especially at a Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, will be brilliant. Just to hear the people shout your name will be magic.
“I don’t feel the pressure – I’m just going to go in and enjoy every minute of it. It’s going to be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m going to take it all in my stride.”
Taylor’s bout with Stalker is far from the only Scotland-England clash to have captivated a Commonwealth Games audience, and the Lochend boxing club man is looking forward to the possibility of another in the forthcoming competition. “The main competition and threat will be Sam Maxwell, from England.
“I’m sure everybody would relish an Auld Enemy fight, and that would be a tough bout and really close, but I feel that I could come out on top. Canada, India, Ireland and Australia will also be strong contenders.”
Whatever happens in Glasgow over the next fortnight, Taylor plans to box on as an amateur for a while yet. He only got through one round at London 2012, beating Brazil’s Robson Conceicao 13-9 before losing 15-10 in the last 16 to Domenico Valentino of Italy. He is convinced that, just as he should be more successful in Glasgow than he was in Delhi, so he should fare better at the next Olympics than he did at the last ones.
“I want to fight in the Olympics in Rio in two years time and try to get a medal there,” Taylor explained. “I enjoy what I’m doing and I’m not in a hurry to turn pro. I’d love to get into the British Olympic boxing team for Brazil in 2016. Rio would be a great experience.”