Josh Taylor v Jose Ramirez: Scot eyes place among greats as title bout looms

By Andy BurkeBBC Scotland
Taylor primed for 'jackpot' Ramirez bout

Scottish boxers have provided many glorious nights and epic fights in the 50 years since the legendary Ken Buchanan became the nation's last undisputed world champion, but arguably none have been bigger than the bout that could define Josh Taylor's career next month in America.

Taylor takes on Jose Carlos Ramirez on 22 May looking to become the first fighter in Scottish - and British - boxing history to become undisputed world champion in the four-belt era.

These opportunities do not come along very often. Since 1988 when the WBO was formed and became recognised as the fourth governing body, there have been just six fights, across the divisions, with all four belts on the line.

The excruciatingly lengthy negotiations to make the Tyson Fury-Anthony Joshua fight for the title of undisputed heavyweight champion demonstrates why these contests are so rare, but when they do take place, legends are made.

"I always believed I would be world champion, that was my dream, but did I think I would be fighting to become undisputed world champion? Deep down, probably not," Taylor tells BBC Scotland as he prepares to fly out to the USA to begin final preparations for the bout with Ramirez.

"When you think of fighting for undisputed title fights, you think of the superstars of the sport, and now Josh Taylor is going to be in a fight of this magnitude for all these titles and it's just a real 'pinch me' moment.

"I just can't wait. It's going to be a massive fight and a massive achievement for me. It will put Scotland back on the map."

History at stake for both fighters

Bernard Hopkins and Terence Crawford - boxing royalty who have previously achieved what Taylor is looking to do by capturing all four belts in a single weight class.

A victory for Taylor could be filed neatly not just alongside Buchanan's victory over Ismael Laguna in 1970 as one of the greatest victories for a British fighter, but among the best Scottish achievements in any sport. This fight is that big.

As much as we will be swept up in the Taylor narrative and view the fight through that lens, Ramirez will be just as convinced that destiny has brought him to this moment, that history is his for the making.

"He would be the first American-Mexican fighter to become undisputed four-belt champion, so he's going to have the bit between his teeth as well," said Taylor.

"It's a massive fight for both of us. He brings a massive challenge. He's a unified world champion, unbeaten like myself, 26-0. He's a strong, come-forward pressure fighter who tries to overwhelm his opponents and leaves it all in the ring.

"I'm going to give him the respect he deserves because he's an outstanding fighter, but I just believe I do everything better than him. Every fight I've watched of his, he does the same things over and over, the same patterns, same movements.

"I feel really confident in this fight, I feel like I have not got anything to worry about. I don't think he's going to have anything that I haven't seen before."

When Taylor steps into the ring, it will be 19 months since his stunning victory over Regis Prograis that saw him become unified light-welterweight champion. In the intervening period, his only action has been a one-round demolition of Thailand's Apinun Khongsong.

Not a lot of ring action to have in the bank before such a huge fight, but the Scot is adamant some tough sparring will make up for a lack of time under the lights.

Topping the bill but no travelling fans

It is Taylor's misfortune that the defining fight of his career so far will not be quite as special as it might have been in normal times.

His dream would have been to produce a famous victory, then immerse himself in the raucous celebrations of his family, friends and an army of Scottish fans.

Taylor boxed on the undercard when Carl Frampton enjoyed some of his biggest nights Stateside, most notably his stunning 2016 win over Leo Santa Cruz in New York, and vowed one day he would enjoy his own success in similar fashion. Covid has put paid to that.

"I've trained and dedicated my whole life to getting a fight like this, and then you get it and you're not allowed to take anybody with you," he says.

"My mum, my dad, my sister, Danielle [his fiancee], are the most important people and they're not able to come. They're the people that have been there from day one. It's a kick in the teeth.

"It's frustrating because I know I've got a great support and I would have taken a lot of people over there. It would have been good to have won this fight and the day after met up with the people, put a little money behind the bar and spent time with them as a way of saying thank you for the support through my whole career, my whole journey. But I'm not going to be able to do that.

"I'm going to have to just get over it, I am over it, and focus on the fight and the job in hand."

It's even more motivation to secure a return date to America. If he overcomes Ramirez, Bob Arum and his Top Rank promotional team will be certain to push the Tartan Tornado towards further exposure to the American audience to build the Taylor brand.

Perhaps then the Scottish fight fans can see their hero do his stuff in some of boxing's iconic venues, against some of the sport's biggest stars.

"I fully believe I'm going to beat Ramirez and I believe I'll be back in Vegas at one point and hopefully everything is back to normal and we can do it then and make up for lost time," Taylor adds.

"Being part of Frampton's camp and seeing that, I just thought it was a real nice way to thank his fans. A touch of class. I'd like to do that for the great support I've got. We will be back in Vegas again one day and we'll do it right."

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