Josh Taylor focused on Miguel Vazquez, hopes for world title shot in 2018

By Tom Gray

Fight fans love a competitive two-way battle, but sometimes a virtuoso performance can be equally as enthralling.

That was the case when the superbly gifted southpaw Josh Taylor finally got his hands on long-time rival Ohara Davies in Glasgow, Scotland, on July 8. It was a clash between two of the top junior welterweight prospects in British boxing and opinion was divided on the outcome. Within seconds, the gulf in class was apparent.

Taylor, who is rated No. 10 by THE RING at 140 pounds, went through his entire repertoire, flooring the Englishman twice on his way to a stunning seventh-round stoppage. It was a coming out party for the quick-fisted Scotsman and confirmation of his overall quality. At ringside, there were members of the media sitting with their mouths open.

“I enjoyed every minute of it; the buildup, the hype and the momentum it has given me in terms of my profile,” said Taylor in an interview with RingTV.com. “Everyone was really interested in seeing it because they thought it was a 50-50 fight. I knew it wasn’t. I knew all along that I had the beating of Ohara Davies and that I was going to stop him.

“Overall, it was a great experience. It was exciting because there was a bit of needle between me and him. In terms of the fight, I felt I performed very well but, even straight after I’d won, I knew there were things I could have done a little bit smoother. I could have made things even easier for myself.”

If Taylor could have made things easier than they were that night, then Davies should be counting his blessings. The precocious Londoner couldn’t land a punch of consequence and absorbed a frightful pounding.

Next up for Taylor is former IBF lightweight titleholder Miguel Vazquez. With eight world title fights on his resume, the 30-year-old Mexican stylist is unquestionably the most seasoned and decorated opponent that the Scottish southpaw will have encountered. The pair meet on Saturday at the Royal Highland Center in Edinburgh.

“Vazquez looks very awkward,” said Taylor. “Sometimes he looks like he’s not switched on but he actually is. His style is just naturally herky-jerky. Everything you do, he’s very reactive. He works well off the jab and he moves his feet a lot.

“I’m going to have to get on the front foot and go looking for him. At the same time, I’ll have to be patient and apply educated pressure. In some of the videos I’ve watched, Vazquez does come forward and if he catches you with a shot, he looks to follow up. He can do a bit of everything, so I need to be on top of my game. If I win, I’ll be knocking on the door of some really big fights.”

Since two-weight world champion Terence Crawford officially announced his intention to move up to welterweight, it’s been like Christmas come early at 140 pounds. Crawford unified the entire junior welterweight division and the American switch-hitter is currently in the process of vacating all his belts.

California-based Kazakhstani Sergey Lipinets picked up the vacant IBF title at the expense of Akihiro Kondo on Saturday and top 140-pounders the world over are eager to pick up the rest of the hardware. Taylor (10-0, 9 knockouts) also expressed his desire to get in the world title picture as soon as possible.

“That’s what I’m in the game for,” said the Scotsman. “I’d love to get a shot at one of the belts and realize my dream of becoming world champion. From there, it’s a matter of staying on top. I want to make sure that once I’m at that level, I’m ready for it. I don’t want to get there and feel that I was rushed in too early.

“By this time next year, I’d like to be challenging for a world title or already have a world title. But, at the same time, I don’t want to look past my next fight. I need to get this one out of the way first. Vazquez is a genuine fighter and he’s operated at the highest level for many years. He’s got the experience in abundance and he’ll be using it. This is a hard fight, so I’m fully focused on it.”

Taylor looks to have that little bit of magic dust and it will take a very special performance from Vazquez (39-5, 15 KOs) to derail him.

Taylor-Vazquez will be shown live and exclusive on Channel 5 in the U.K. from 9:45 p.m. Limited tickets are available via Ticketmaster

Tom Gray is a UK Correspondent/ Editor for RingTV.com and a member of THE RING ratings panel. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

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