From America to Scotland, the WBSS continues its worldwide tour
American fans got to witness elite 140-pound World Boxing Super Series combatants Regis Prograis and Ivan Baranchyk in New Orleans, last week, but, over in Scotland, a young boxer with less than 15 fights is being heralded as the next great junior welterweight. No, Josh “The Tartan Tornado” Taylor, 13-0 (11), does not hold an alphabet title belt but he has dispatched of two former champions Viktor Postol and Miguel Vazquez with panache that presented stylistic nightmares for much more experienced boxers. Fans can judge Taylor for themselves on Saturday, when he takes on dangerous American upstart Ryan Martin, 22-0 (12), on the DAZN app (2 p.m. ET/11 a.m. PT). The other great news is Taylor is also part of the WBSS junior welterweight tournament; that means he will eventually be pitted against Prograis or Baranchyk for the right to call himself the best in the division!
It will be an electric atmosphere, with Glasgow’s SSE Hydro arena predicted to sell out, that greets Josh Taylor and reminds Ryan Martin of his outsider status. While the Scotsman is sure to be bolstered and relish the support, he is far from reliant on the proverbial hometown decision. Still, Taylor admits boxing in front of his fans will raise his game, “I don’t think there is anyone who is going to beat me in front of the fans in the Hydro. The atmosphere, the noise they make and the support they give, they throw every punch with me. There is no way anybody is going to beat me at the SSE Hydro.”
Taylor, a 2012 Olympian and 2014 Commonwealth Games champ, brings an excellent amateur pedigree to the fight and splendid size that makes him a threat on multiple levels. When asked to describe what makes him an effective boxer at the highest level, Taylor noted, “My style is based on hand speed timing. I can punch hard but I am not a one-punch knockout artist. I will either put you down or hurt you. I don’t think there is anyone that boxes the way I box.” A perfect record is testament to that and, at age 27, Taylor is rounding into form and taking on a title run at the perfect time.
At this time last year, Taylor established he can mix it up with the best when he became the first man to stop ultra-tricky former IBF lightweight champion Miguel Vazquez. Taylor lived up to this “Tartan Tornado” nickname, overwhelming Vazquez with volume before pouncing with power, when he spotted openings, as the rounds wore on. Taylor showed mental maturity, fighting through a cut over his eye, from the second round on, before a deft hook to the body stopped Vazquez in the ninth round.
Any lingering doubts about Taylor’s level were put to rest in his most recent outing, besting dangerous Viktor Postol in a see-saw battle. The fight featured many close rounds but the former WBC 140-pound champion could not break Taylor’s spirit, despite an excellent start. Taylor displayed late power again, dropping Postol in the 10th round. Importantly Taylor showed he was not afraid to take risks, “I started poorly. I was trying a wee bit too hard in the early rounds. It took time to start relaxing but I adapted. I had to adjust to his game plan but despite that, I felt great. I’m happy with with performance. It maybe wasn’t the best performance but I take a lot of positives, given it was a top-drawer opponent.”
Hall of Fame inductee and former featherweight champion Barry McGuigan, who promotes and manages Taylor, was able to see the positives of the victory over Postol, “He won on a bad night and I am absolutely thrilled. Very few fighters can made adjustments in the middle of a fight; that takes something special. He’s shown that he’s a world-class fighter tonight.”
As for his opposition on Saturday, Taylor told Neil McGlade of The Scotsman newspaper that he had never heard of Ryan Martin prior to being drawn against the American in the WBSS quarterfinal, “Martin is a bit of a dark horse because he is a bit of an unknown. I’d never heard of him before this tournament. I’ve studied enough of him now to know what I need to watch for. I know he is a very well-rounded fighter. He’s got fast hands; he’s good defensively. He’s got a good variety of punches and he knows his way around the ring. It will be a tough fight but I’m fully confident I am going to win it.”
Ryan Martin should not be an unknown commodity for American fight fans, opening the Gennady Golovkin-Daniel Jacobs pay-per-view and graduating from the tough “ShoBox” series (renowned for featuring top prospects who eventually go on to win world titles) before headlining an ESPN show. Martin draws strength from a fantastic 202-22 amateur record, just failing to make the 2012 Olympic team after a loss to former IBF lightweight beltholder Robert Easter Jr., and trains alongside Golovkin, sharing trainer Abel Sanchez at his famed Big Bear facility, the Summit. Martin had a slow start to his career after becoming one the first to sign with SMS Promotions, the now-defunct company owned by rapper/actor 50 Cent aka Curtis Jackson.
The level-headed Tennessean says he is mindful of what faces him traveling to Scotland but has no reservations or hesitations once he gets inside the ring, “I don’t mind fighting in Scotland. For me it’s just another ring. I have heard that the crowd in Scotland is different from what I am used to but I will soak it all in and stay focused.” Staying focused on his game plan remains key, “I need to go there and do what I do best: showcase my skills and come out victorious. I know Taylor is a good boxer but nothing overwhelming. I believe I’m faster, more athletic and just as strong as him. I think my speed is going to play a key difference.”
Despite his underdog status, Martin is looking forward to the opportunity the WBSS tourney provides, “Big wins in the tournament will definitely be like, ‘Wow, where did this kid come from? Who is this Ryan Martin kid?’ I’m very grateful to be on this platform,” a platform Martin says his style is perfectly suited for, “I am a boxer-puncher. I love to entertain; I love to excite people, to press action! It’s definitely going to be fireworks through the whole tournament. It’s definitely going to be fireworks through the whole tournament. I have nothing to lose. The pressure is all on Josh Taylor.”
In preparing for Taylor, a confident Martin explained that they paid special attention to Taylor’s fight against Postol, “I took a lot from that fight. Postol fought from long range and had success. He was fighting in spurts. It was a good fight and both had their moments. I feel like I can think more clearly in the ring and, all around, I have more fun in there.” Trainer Abel Sanchez is just glad his protege is finally getting a big fight, thanks to the WBSS tourney, “I don’t think Josh Taylor has the skills to beat Ryan Martin. He’s a big puncher but, as you saw in the Postol fight, he gets confused. It’s just a matter of us getting ready and making sure that everything is correct.”
Saturday’s card marks the fifth of six consecutive weeks in which a WBSS event is staged on the DAZN app, a great framework that may well produce two consecutive “Fighters of the Year” (undisputed cruiserweight champion Oleksandr Usyk this year and the winner of the bantamweight tourney in 2019). However only one of the main event boxers will experience the difference between getting a big fight on the worldwide WBSS stage and actually taking advantage of it.