Josh Taylor is facing the riskiest fight of his career but promoter Barry McGuigan believes that kind of challenge simply gets the Prestonpans boxer’s juices flowing.
Up against the experienced and highly-rated Viktor “The Iceman” Postol, in Saturday’s final eliminator in the scrap to secure a shot at the prestigious WBC World Super Lightweight title, the fight represents a step up in standard for the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, who is just 12 bouts into his professional career.
But Taylor and his camp are confident in his ability to handle the ongoing acceleration to the top of the sport.
“This guy is quality and his record speaks for itself,” said McGuigan. “Thirty fights, 29 wins, nobody has ever stopped him – not even the great Terence Crawford.”
Crawford, who is rated as one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, is the only one to have beaten the former WBC light welterweight champion, though, winning a unanimous points decision in their title unification bout in 2016.
“But I honestly believe these are the risks you have to take to excite the boxing world. And Josh needs a challenge to get him fired up,” McGuigan said.
“You saw what he did against Ohara Davies. And I believe he’s a big-time fighter, a pressure fighter who likes the big occasion. The more the pressure is on, the better he fights. He needs to be in great shape for this guy and he is in great shape. He will also have to be focused from the very first bell to the last bell.”
Since he dropped fellow British prospect Davies twice, forcing the referee to intervene in the seventh round and hand the fight to Taylor, the Scot has defeated the experienced Miguel Vasquez and Nicaraguan Winston Campos to extend his unbeaten record as a pro and convince trainer Shane McGuigan and head of Cyclone Promotions, Barry, that he is ready for this latest test.
But, while confidence in their own man is high there is some trepidation, illustrated by the promoter’s reaction to a hand extended through a media huddle to greet him. The handshake came from one of Postal’s team as the fighters and their trainers staged some public workouts for shoppers and boxing fans at Glasgow’s St Enoch Centre and the retired Irish boxer-turned-promoter was well aware of its significance.
“There’s the disarming thing. When the manager comes over to shake your hand, that shows me they are in shape. They are true professionals.
“Can Josh stop Postol? There is every likelihood that he can. But he has to hit him clean first – and he’s not the easiest guy to hit clean. He’s got good feet, good hands and hits very accurately.
“Although his record doesn’t suggest it, he’s actually a very dangerous puncher because he places his shots well. He places them all around the middle of your chest so, no matter where you move your head, he hits something. It’s a real test. But I honestly believe Taylor will be superb.
“I think what you are seeing here is a guy who is the opposite of Ohara Davies. He was a loudmouth. I don’t want to insult him but everyone knows he shouts his mouth off – and Taylor turned him inside out, beat the living daylights out of him.
“Postol has never been like that. He just turns up and does the business and his style and technique has caused us a bit of an issue, because you don’t get many pros who fight like him. So we’ve had to go back to some good quality amateurs who stand upright, move in and out. Then we’ve chucked in bigger guys at the end, stronger guys, so Josh had a really good array of sparring.”
And with all eyes on the prize McGuigan said the 27-year-old Scot has come through a great training camp and is itching to get going at the SSE Hydro of Saturday night.
The scene of his Commonwealth Games success less than four years ago, he has come a long way but against a man with seven years more experience, who has a dangerous reach and boasts patience, poise and durability. Taylor, who has yet to be taken the distance in a pro bout, knows he could be in for the biggest test of his career.
But, if the Ukrainian camp is relaxed, Taylor is as cool as The Iceman as he targets his tilt at the WBC title.
“That is what we are here for,” conceded his promoter. “This is the final hurdle, we get over this and we have a shot at it. That is what is on our mind, nothing more, nothing less. And Saturday night is what that is all about. It is a great title, let’s be honest about it. Jose Ramirez [the reigning WBC champion] is a great fighter and that would be a great fight for Josh. That’s something we are looking for, but it is all about Saturday.”