“He’s in the shape of his life” is the customary assertion from any boxing promoter or manager in the countdown to fight night.
However, you get the sense that this time there is some substance to Barry McGuigan’s thoughts ahead of Josh Taylor’s World Boxing Super Series quarter-final showdown with undefeated American Ryan Martin next month.
Former WBA featherweight champion McGuigan, Taylor’s manager, believes he has the best super lightweight fighter in the world in his Cyclone stable and is urging the Edinburgh WBC Silver champion to show just that at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow on Saturday, 3 November.
“Josh is in the best shape he’s been in for a long time – I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look this good three weeks before a fight,” McGuigan explained.
“Josh is settled down in London now and he knows what’s going to happen – or what can happen – in the next three fights.
“He knows that if he wins against Martin then his next fight [the semi-final against Anthony Yigit or Ivan Baranchyk] will be for a world title and the bout after that will be for another world title, and the Muhammad Ali trophy.
“For many athletes it’s about the mental focus and Josh has got his head switched on; he doesn’t care where he fights as long as he knows what’s ahead of him.
“These boys are travelling all over the world in this tournament and I was in Jeddah with George [Groves] a couple of weeks ago. The WBSS are taking the fights to different places because they want to promote boxing.
“But, as his manager, I want Josh to fight here because there’s something about boxing here that can’t be matched anywhere.
“These are all going to be hard fights, whoever Josh ends up facing. They each bring different qualities and different problems to solve.”
McGuigan admitted that despite a slow start in his previous victory over Ukrainian Viktor Postol in June, undefeated Taylor’s qualities eventually shone through.
“That happened against Postol and Josh wasn’t quite with it in the opening three or four rounds,” he said. “But he had time to catch up and he had showed what he’s made of by the tenth round, when he almost got him out of there and he finished like a train.
“But he can’t afford a start like that against Martin and I’m sure we won’t see that. He’ll be out of the blocks quickly.
“His sparring has been sensational up until now and he still has to peak. He’s very confident and I think he can win the whole tournament but it’s one fight at a time – everything has to be compartmentalised.
“I don’t like long gaps between contests – going 12 months without a fight is not good. You have a window of time in your life as an athlete when you can perform at your best and, once you go past that time, it’s gone forever and you can’t get it back.
“You can’t go away for a year and then flick the switch back on – this game’s all about continuity, fighting regularly and keeping on top of your weight.
“The biggest issue in our sport is that guys balloon up in weight and then have to lose it quickly, but if you keep them active and let them know what’s coming up they’ll be bang on it.
“Josh is responsible and he’s never far away from it. One time he put on a stone and a half but he’s really got his head together now. He’s focused and he knows he needs to be.”