Taylor is the second undisputed champion from Scotland and only the fifth man to unify four belts
Josh Taylor’s two knockdowns of rival Jose Ramirez in rounds six and seven proved the difference in the Scotsman’s history-making victory in their undisputed light welterweight unification fight in an exhausting, relentless battle in Las Vegas.
By retaining his IBF and WBA belts and claimed the WBC and WBO titles from Ramirez to join Ken Buchanan as the second undisputed champion from Scotland, exactly 50 years after Buchanan was world lightweight champion in the two world title belt era, in 1971, Taylor has established himself as one of the sport’s truly elite fighters.
Victory also made Taylor just the fifth champion to unify all the belts in a weight division in boxing’s four-belt era, after Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, at middleweight, former light welterweight champion Terence Crawford and cruiserweight king Oleksandr Usyk.
What Taylor has in abundance, so clearly on display here, is high fighting IQ and technical excellence, a natural inclination towards a dogfight, spite in abundance, a great chin, heart and stamina. It makes him a very hard man to beat.
It showed here against Ramirez, a man who did not know defeat prior to this contest. In a battle of will and skill, with Taylor alternating between clever boxing and movement, punctuating attacks to the body and head of Ramirez, and countering smartly, the judges Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld all totalled their cards 114-112 in favour of the ‘Tartan Tornado’.
Ramirez, meanwhile used all his rugged physicality in the early rounds in a close first half of the fight. A delighted Taylor will celebrate the historic moment with the inspirational Buchanan.
“I did it just like you! I’ll see you when I get home. Much love. He’s a legend. You gave me so much inspiration to do it, and I’m just like you. See you soon, champ. I’ll be bringing the belts home to show to Ken,” said Taylor. “It hasn’t sunk in, really, and in all honesty I could retire now because I have fulfilled what I set out to do at the start. But when I look at it, I’m just getting started and I know I can get so much better. I could have boxed him more and made it easier for myself, but I got involved in a real battle in there.”
Ben Davison, Taylor’s trainer, had always maintained that stylistically, and technically, his charge would always have the edge. “The key to success was discipline,” explained Davison. “We know Josh loves to get involved in a fight but we knew that there were fundamental errors that Jose Ramirez makes and it was so important for Josh to capitalize on those errors. Fortunately he was able to do so tonight.”
Taylor – his promoter Bob Arum confirmed after the fight – is now likely to defend the titles against Englishman Jack Catterall, the leading challenger for the WBO belt. Arum said that the plan is to take Taylor back to Edinburgh to defend the titles.
“That’s where I’d like to go next, and fight there, and if it’s Catterall, then great, but if there are bigger fights out there now, we will see” said Taylor, who furthered his unbeaten record to 18 fights. This was a first defeat for Ramirez, a Mexican American from California’s central valley, in his 27th contest. Other challenges could include a fight with Crawford, also promoted by Arum, who is a world champion at welterweight.
“I’ve got nothing but love for Ramirez,” said Taylor post-fight, explaining why he had devised a plan of goading his rival during last week, which led to an altercation inside the Las Vegas hotel. “It was not disrespect [I was showing],” revealed Taylor. “It was all just part of the mind games to get in his head, to make him more eager to jump in at me, to use his aggression against him.
“But the scorecards were too close,” added Taylor. “If I hadn’t got the two knockdowns, it would have been a draw, and that would have been ridiculous.”
The knockdowns, indeed, demonstrated the brilliance Taylor possesses. A pinpoint accurate left out of a clinch felled Ramirez in the sixth, and a left uppercut in the seventh round sent his foe flat out on his back late in the period with referee Kenny Bayless allowing a long period of recovery for the home fighter.
Taylor had just 10 seconds left in the round to look for a decisive finish, but the bell saved his rival. Thereafter, although Ramirez battled back obdurately with rugged determination in the championship rounds, fatigue, and having been hurt by Taylor prevented the penetration of his power shots which were more effective in the first third of the contest.
After winning in Sin City, Taylor can look forward to huge support if the Scotsman is permitted a homecoming title defence in Edinburgh, a far cry from the partisan pro-Mexican crowd inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. “What a sensational fight. Both men should be applauded, and a hearty congratulations to the new undisputed champion, Josh Taylor,” offered Arum. “The future is bright for both warriors.”