Alex Arthur backs Josh Taylor to beat ‘limited’ Jose Ramirez on points

Alex Arthur recalls the moment he first clapped eyes on 15-year-old Josh Taylor as if it was yesterday.

Josh Taylor celebrates victory over Regis Prograis after a brutal fight at The O2 Arena in London. Picture: Stephen Pond/Getty Images

He was in the midst of preparing for the third defence of his European super featherweight title at Meadowbank 15 years ago having just retained his belt two months previously against the ebullient Ricky Burns.

Belarusian Siarhei Huliakevich was Arthur’s next obstacle in the ring, his 24th contest of a career that spanned 12 years and culminated in world honours in 2007.

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However, despite every concerted effort going into his bid to shackle his Eastern European combatant, a contest he would later go on to win, a gawky teenager from Prestonpans was never too far from his thoughts.

Josh Taylor will fight Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas on Saturday. Picture: Bill Murray/SNS

“It’s crazy how I remember it so vividly because I was preparing for my fight that weekend,” Arthur, now 42, recalls. “It was actually a press day at Meadowbank. I think I was challenging for the European title and the media were all there too.

“Josh’s mum Diane, who worked at Meadowbank, asked if he could come down and watch so I just said stick a pair of gloves on and he can join in the training and that was that, it was amazing what he could do for someone who had never boxed before.

“The thing that got me was he instantly took up the southpaw position. I could clearly see how much ability he had. He just knew what he was doing right away so the only way was up for him from then on.

“Whether or not he wanted to continue or not was another thing but he clearly had a lot of potential to make a right good go of it. One of the first things we spoke about that day was I remember he said he always used to kick a lot because of his Taekwondo background, so it was just making the transition to start throwing punches instead.”

Alex Arthur, left, in action against Peter McDonagh at Glasgow's Kelvin Hall in 2010 (Picture: Lynne Cameron/PA)

Arthur needn’t have fretted. Taylor was gripped by boxing fever from that day forward. The 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist has gone on to unlock doors that not even Arthur could have forecast following that first-ever interaction within the bowels of the now redeveloped venue on the capital’s London Road.

IBF and WBA champion Taylor, now 30, won his first world super lightweight title when he defeated Ivan Baranchyk, another Belarusian, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow in May 2019 before unifying the division five months later after a barbaric duel against the previously undefeated American, Regis Prograis, at London’s O2 Arena.

The Scot is now creating his own headlines and is on the cusp of ripping up the history books. Should he overcome Mexican-American and WBC and WBO champion, Jose Ramirez (26-0), at the Virgin Hotels resort in Las Vegas on Saturday night, Taylor will not only become the undisputed super lightweight king of the world, he will also enter British boxing folklore as the first to hold all four belts of a division at the same time. It’s a mouth-watering prospect.

“Josh could make this fight very easy for himself,” Arthur explained. “He could totally outbox Ramirez because I actually don’t think he’s that good. Ramirez is very limited in what he can offer, he’s got poor balance, his variety isn’t great. But he’s got a big heart, great stamina and will throw loads of punches, particularly in the last round.

Alex Arthur

“He’s world class in the present era but I’m not sure you’d call him that if you were to go back to the Ricky Hatton-era and guys around that time. He does a lot behind the guard, his work-rate is incredible, but that’s all he’s got in my opinion.

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“Whether or not the fight is as straightforward as that remains to be seen because of the nature of the beast. It could also turn into a bit of a scrap. I don’t think we’ll see a knock-out so Josh should just box smart. I think he’ll win on points.

“Guys like Ramirez are used to the altitude of Las Vegas, the heat, time zone so they can make it work for them. It has a different impact on you, which I can’t really describe other than it’s odd. It’s hard to explain. You just get a lot tired more quickly.

“I think the fact Josh has been out there for the best part of a month should help him but I still don’t believe that’s enough time to adjust. I think you should do your whole camp out there, ten, maybe 12 weeks before the fight. That’s what I would have done.

“When you actually break down the whole process and what it takes to get yourself fight ready and then not get the verdict, it’s absolutely horrible, soul-destroying I’d call it. I think the judges will be fair, irrespective of it being in America and Josh being the away fighter, as this one is on another level.

“He looks like he’s had a good camp and is having the time of his life out there with his team when he’s not in the gym and why not? He should be living it up. He’s earned his right.”

There has been some criticism steered in the direction of US-based Top Rank for their low-key promotion. The initial plan was for the iconic 17,000-capacity MGM Grand to host the fight, but due to Covid restrictions, there will be little more than 1,200 ringside next weekend.

The bout has also been passed up by both Sky Sports and BT Sport and will instead be shown on digital video streaming service, Fite. It will also be broadcast live by ESPN in the US.

“It’s absolutely crazy to think Sky or BT haven’t taken it,” Arthur said. “I don’t really know what’s going on. It’s not been very well promoted in my opinion. I don’t think Josh is getting the publicity he deserves. We have to remember what he stands on the brink of here. It’s never been done before by a British boxer. It’s pretty poor when you think about it.

“For a fight of this magnitude, it deserves so much more. I’m really shocked. Had this been Eddie Hearn promoting the event then I’m sure it would have been on Sky. I just think Top Rank haven’t worked hard enough to get a good TV deal here in the UK.

“I was actually thinking about going out to Vegas but with the way everything is with the world, it’s just not possible. It’s a nightmare really. I’m sure there would have been a lot of Scots travelled over to see Josh get the win.

“After this I don’t think there’s really anybody else for Josh to fight at 140lbs. I think he needs to go up to 147lbs after this and look for some of the big boys like (Errol) Spence, (Terence) Crawford and make himself some big money as well.

“If Josh were to box Crawford, you’re not going to get much bigger than that. It would be absolutely massive and likely to be the biggest fight he’ll ever have. It would be easy to make as they’re both with the same promoter so it’s exciting.”

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