Sports

Josh Taylor becomes undisputed champion at 140; how good is he, and what’s next for him?


The difference between good and great fighters is the ability to make adjustments on the fly. And that ability is what separated Josh Taylor from Jose Ramirez on Saturday night as the Scottish fighter became the fifth undisputed champion in the four-belt era with a unanimous decision victory over Ramirez in Las Vegas.

Taylor joined Bernard Hopkins, Jermain Taylor, Terence Crawford and Oleksandr Usyk as the only fighters to hold all four world titles in a weight class at the same time. It wasn’t simply that he pulled off the feat by upending the previously unbeaten Ramirez; it was how he went about his business.

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For the first five rounds, Ramirez appeared to have found the winning formula for handing Taylor his first defeat. He bulled forward, barreled into the champion and repeatedly drilled him with power shots as he attacked the body. Instead of wilting, Taylor took notes. In the sixth, he made an adjustment that changed the dynamic of the fight.

Taylor decided to hold his ground instead of retreating when Ramirez made his move forward. Recognizing that Ramirez didn’t alter his approach, Taylor dipped to his left and fired a left hand that caught his opponent flush on the chin. Ramirez’s own momentum, coupled with Taylor’s accuracy, sent the Fresno, Calif., fighter to the canvas.

Ramirez didn’t seem to be hurt by the punch, but it sent a clear message that Taylor’s adjustment would pay off for him if Ramirez continued to do things the same way.

The seventh round really took the wind out of Ramirez’s sails. Part of the blame can be placed squarely on the shoulders of referee Kenny Bayless, who routinely injected himself into the fight whenever Taylor and Ramirez clinched. Rather than allowing them to fight on the inside, Bayless would quickly look to break them up.

Taylor recognized that Ramirez would relax his guard when Bayless drew near, and so he waited for the right moment to uncork a beautiful uppercut that dropped Ramirez to the canvas and hurt him badly.

The fight was never the same after that. Ramirez knew only one way to fight while Taylor made the proper adjustments.

If there was one thing that Taylor did wrong down the stretch, it was taking his foot off the gas in the championship rounds and allowing Ramirez to win rounds. Nevertheless, the end result was a 114-112 decision for Taylor, who is now recognized as the undisputed king of the junior welterweight division.

How good is Josh Taylor?

Well, his last five opponents — Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk, Regis Prograis, Apinun Khongson and Jose Ramirez — had a combined 97-0 record before facing him. By comparison, Crawford’s journey to becoming undisputed at 140 pounds included him defeating Thomas Dulorme (22-1), Viktor Postol (28-0) and Julius Indongo (22-0). One could argue that Taylor’s opposition in the division was slightly tougher than Crawford’s.

The 30-year-old Taylor joins a new generation of fighters who are wasting little time challenging the best in their division. He is the second-fastest fighter to become an undisputed champion, doing it after just his 18th professional fight. It took Hopkins 49 fights, Crawford needed 32 fights and Jermain Taylor accomplished the feat in his 24th bout. Only Usyk became undisputed faster than Taylor as the Ukrainian accomplished it in his 15th fight.

Bottom line: Taylor is now in elite company and the boxing world will have to acknowledge his greatness.

What’s next for Josh Taylor?

Now that he has effectively captured all of the titles, he can either move up to 147 pounds and challenge himself against one of boxing’s deepest divisions, or he can turn his attention to Gervonta Davis’ debut at 140 pounds on June 26 vs. Mario Barrios. Should Davis come out victorious, a battle between Taylor and “Tank” would easily garner the Scottish champion the most attention he has ever had.

Both options are tantalizing, but there’s no need to rush. For now, Taylor can head back to his home country as one of the best fighters in the world and a fighter who just etched his name into the history books.


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