Josh Taylor
Josh Taylor

… Wins the Muhammed Ali trophy at the O2 Arena

Josh Taylor overcame Regis Prograis in an epic encounter at the O2 Arena to became the unified super-lightweight champion by majority decision

The judges scored it in the Tartan Tornado’s favour 114-114, 115-113, 117-112

Josh Taylor produced one of the most phenomenal performances by a British boxer for many a year to prove himself the greatest light-welterweight in the world today as well as the winner of what is likely to be acclaimed as the Fight of This Year.

The Tartan Tornado raised a storm under the roof of the O2 with a bloodied majority decision victory over Regis Prograis, the American wolfman whose WBA world title he added to his own IBF belt.

Taylor’s right eye was swollen like a water melon and ultimately gashed wide open but he kept marching on through the blood and the pain of Prograis’ clever punches to make his biggest statement yet in support of Scotland idol Ken Buchanan’s belief that the heir to his throne has been found.

Taylor not only unified two world titles but also won the Muhammad Ali Trophy at stake in this final of the World Super Series and took his earnings from the tournament to €10million.

The pre-fight bickering was forgotten at the shuddering 12th round climax to their epic bagtle as each man acclaimed the other as a great champion. Prograis went so far as to say ‘close as it was I was not the better man on the night.’

It is Taylor who goes on in search of becoming the undisputed champion in a prospective fight against the holder of the two other alphabelts, Jose Ramirez.

That is a privilege earned by a momentous effort of will and courage in the teeth of a brilliant technician and one I believe to be morally his right even though it was so close that my card finished up reading the same as the draw scored by one of the judges.

The other two went for Taylor by 115-112 and a badly seen 117-112,

Some 15,000 seats in the 19,000 capacity 02 were filled, up to half of them by many of whom had made the journey from Edinburgh in deafening support of their Tartan Tornado.

Prograis came to the ring wearing his wolf mask in accordance with the legend in his home town New Orleans of the were-wolf like creature believed to infest the swamps of southern Louisania.

Rougarou is the name of that beast and the nickname under which Taylor’s rival champion does his fighting.

If there were any howls from the US camp they were drowned out by the roar of the clansmen, which grew louder as his aggression in the second half of the first repulsed Progais’ slick start to the fight.

The Prograis southpaw jab then asserted itself and once that platform had been established he began to run through his repertoire of quick-fire punches from sharp angles and brilliant evasive movement.

Taylor was throwing combinations of his own, not without some success, but Prograis has demonstrating some of the variety to his work which he had said he expected to be vital.

Even with his marked height advantage Taylor was still being outjabbed and mostly beaten to the punch. But he founds ways to rally through will and work rate and we were heading into a potentially special fight.

At the end of a particularly gruelling fifth they exchanged blows after the blow and referee Marcus McDonnell had to restore order in the ring.

The American shows off his red entrance gear and mask before the fight with Taylor +6

The American shows off his red entrance gear and mask before the fight with Taylor

Taylor had his best round so far in the sixth and this was as close as close can be. The seventh was even better for the Tornado and it looked for one moment as if he might put Prograis down. It was Taylor’s turn to be hurt in the eighth of a tremendous battle.

Back he came to stagger the American repeatedly in the ninth, perhaps with a hint of desperation as his right eye was beginning to close.

More significantly Prograis looked to be tiring in the championship rounds and began to buckle under the relentless pressure from Taylor.

The eye opened in the 11th and Prograis the wolfman drew heart and strength from the sight of blood.

They fought each to a standstill in a phenomenal last round which may have set the seal on a fight of the year.

The crowd rose in tribute to both men, but with the loudest roars of course for Taylor.

By Jeff Powell For Mailonline.com

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