The Sportsman Boxer Of The Year - Number 4: Josh Taylor

'The Tartan Tornado' made history when he became the 140Ib division's first undisputed king
08:00, 21 Dec 2021

It’s been quite a year in the squared circle. Trilogies have reached their brutal conclusion, undisputed champions have been crowned, and shocking upsets have left us slack-jawed in wonder. As 2021 draws to a close, The Sportsman has picked the five fighters that have defined an extraordinary year of fistic happenings. Join us as we count down to The Sportsman Boxer Of The Year.

Ricky Hatton never did it. Neither did Kostya Tsyzu. Floyd Mayweather never came close, and Manny Pacquiao didn’t either. In fact, only one man has ever reigned as the undisputed four-belt champion of the super lightweight division. That man is Josh Taylor.

‘The Tartan Tornado’ had spent the previous few years blowing through his division, sweeping aside everything in his path on the way to winning the World Boxing Super Series. The tournament, matching eight of the finest 140-pounders in the world, saw Taylor emerge as the IBF, WBA and The Ring champion. Josh then solidified his world championship status by scoring a first-round knockout over Thailand’s unbeaten Apinun Khongsong.

In May of this year, Taylor took the next step in his already-excellent career when he met WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez. The bout would crown the first ever four-belt undisputed champion at the weight, and only the fifth in history at any weight. Ramirez was a fearsome foe, a 26-0 Californian who had rattled off five straight wins in world title fights. ‘JCR’ had beaten good men, scalping the likes of Maurice Hooker, Jose Zepeda and mutual opponent Viktor Postol. In short, Ramirez was the best fighter Josh Taylor had ever faced.

What made this undisputed championship clash so mouth-watering was the fact Taylor was also the best boxer Ramirez had ever shared a ring with. And on that spring night, the proud Scotsman proved it. Initially, it looked like he might fall at the final four-belt hurdle. Ramirez boxed smartly for the first five sessions, building a lead on the scorecards with a patient approach.

Taylor hadn’t come to take part though, he had come to take over. And take over he did, when he levelled the American with a sharp left in the sixth. Josh went back to the well in the seventh, once again sending Ramirez to the canvas with his southpaw power-shot. The momentum belonged to the ‘Tartan Tornado’ now, and he boxed with confidence and world-class precision on the way to a historic decision victory. It was a statement win, perhaps the finest any British fighter managed in 2021.

As well as making history in the super lightweight division as its first undisputed king, Taylor has also etched his name in the annals of Scottish boxing alongside another of the true greats. Josh is the first Scottish undisputed champion since 1971, when the great Ken Buchanan beat Ruben Navarro in Los Angeles to reign at lightweight. ‘The Fighting Carpenter’ was one of the all-time greats, and only lost his crown to the absolutely unstoppable Roberto Duran when ‘Hands of Stone’ was at his indomitable peak.

There might be similarly mountainous challenges ahead for Taylor. Pound-for-pound ranked WBO welterweight boss Terence Crawford, one of the sport’s biggest names, has targeted a bout with the Scotsman. Without doubt, this would be the toughest night of Taylor’s career. But after what we have seen from the Prestponans southpaw over the last few years, as he has collected title belts like Thanos did the Infinity Stones, he might well present one of the biggest challenges Crawford has faced as well. If this fight was to come together and Taylor were to win, it would take something truly herculean to keep him off the top of this list next year.

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