When Barry McGuigan unveiled Josh Taylor as the latest addition to his Cyclone Promotions stable in the summer of 2015, the Northern Irishman resembled a small child on Christmas morning.
“This kid is special,” he stressed to the assembled media at the Scotsman Hotel. “I’m telling you he’s going right to the top.”
Taylor had caught the eye of McGuigan as he signed off an amateur career spanning more than 150 bouts with gold at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow 12 months prior. With a host of promoters jostling for his signature, he knew he had to move fast. Nevertheless, he got his man and has been singing his praises ever since. Fourteen victories later – including three in the US where he also made his professional debut – Taylor is now just hours away from earning himself a place at the sport’s top table.
The Prestonpans puncher will be crowned IBF world super lightweight champion if he can get the better of current belt holder Ivan Baranchyk in the semi-finals of the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) at Glasgow’s SSE Hydro tonight.
“Josh is exceptional and I’ve said that all along. He’s going to campaign at the very highest level. That ladder is here now and, once he’s climbed it, there are a whole series of super fights for him,” said McGuigan, the former world featherweight champion.
“I have watched Josh’s progress and he has always been a great talent. What I do know is that Josh is incredibly motivated to be having this world title fight in front of his own fans. You guys [the media] have all been there with us since the start of the journey and this is the coming together of everything we’ve worked for along the way. But it’s about applying the gloss, learning to be confident and getting in and out of punching range, picking your shots and using your feet.
“If you don’t put it together none of that makes any difference. One punch at this level can turn everything round. So, he needs to concentrate from bell to bell and expect a 12-round fight and be happy if it’s over before that. But he’s got to be focused and he will be.”
Taylor has become the poster boy of Scottish, if not British boxing. And, with the contest also being broadcast live on Sky Sports, the 28-year-old’s profile is about to go through the roof should he become just the 14th Scottish boxer to be crowned world champion.
“It’s great that the fight is close to being a sell-out. Listen, I always wanted him to fight for the title here because this is a tough test,” McGuigan said. “Baranchyk can wallop and he’s dangerous because he believes he can win. So, anyone who thinks that it is going to be easy because Josh is the bookies’ favourite doesn’t understand boxing. Josh is in incredible condition but he’s got to keep his cool from the first bell right the way through because Baranchyk is incredibly tough and he will take a good shot.
“Baranchyk can say what he wants but we know that he didn’t want to come here. His manager didn’t want it because it’s a hard enough fight for his boy anywhere, never mind here in front of a partisan crowd. Knowing that a world title is within your grasp, within 36 minutes, it’s a great thing.
“But, for me, it’s just another spar. It’s just another fight and there are more people in the gym than there should be. It’s going to be atmospheric and he’s got to be able to handle it.
“He’s left no stone unturned and has worked his a*** off. I always get nervous at ringside because I’m close to my fighters, especially Josh. I know what he’s been through and I also know what he’s capable of. We’re taking nothing for granted but, please God, let Josh wake up on Sunday morning as world champion.”