Top Rank announced on Thursday the signing of unified junior welterweight world titlist Josh Taylor to a multi-year promotional agreement that will have his fights televised on ESPN platforms in the United States.
Here’s what you need to know:
Who is Josh Taylor? What’s his background/fight history?
Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs) is a 29-year-old southpaw with superb all-around skills and a fan-friendly style. He is one of the best fighters to come out of Scotland in many years. He was a standout amateur and a 2012 Olympian, but remained amateur following the Olympics until turning pro in July 2015. Taylor defeated Archie Weah by second-round TKO on that night in El Paso, Texas.
As a professional Taylor moved quickly. He won a 140-pound world title from Ivan Baranchyk in May in the World Boxing Super Series semifinals, then unified two belts with a majority decision win over the favored Regis Prograis in the action-packed final on Oct. 26, a fight that was a contender for 2019 fight of the year.
Why is this signing so significant?
Taylor is not only an undefeated unified titleholder — one of eight currently in boxing — but he is also one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Although Taylor is not currently in ESPN’s rankings, he is close. His vote total places him 13th with plenty of potential to rise.
His signing also adds another very major fighter to Top Rank’s stable, which includes pound-for-pound stars Vasiliy Lomachenko (the unified lightweight world champion), welterweight titlist Terence Crawford and also recently signed unified bantamweight world titlist Naoya Inoue. Then add unified and lineal light heavyweight world champion Artur Beterbiev, unified junior welterweight titleholder Jose Ramirez, lightweight titlist Teofimo Lopez Jr., junior lightweight titlist Miguel Berchelt, junior lightweight titlist Jamel Herring, featherweight titleholder Shakur Stevenson, junior featherweight titlist Emanuel Navarrete, former light heavyweight champion Oleksandr Gvozdyk, unbeaten junior lightweight contender and former featherweight titlist Oscar Valdez and former two-division titlist Carl Frampton. It’s quite a stacked roster at this point at a time when the boxing business is significantly fragmented.
What’s the next step for Josh Taylor?
The first fight of Taylor’s new agreement will come in the spring, likely in the United Kingdom, according to Top Rank. There is no set opponent yet, but given that Taylor has two world titles he could have to face a mandatory challenger. At this time, neither of the two have been designated. Ultimately, Taylor could loom as an eventual challenger for fellow unified junior welterweight world titleholder Jose Ramirez and welterweight titlist Terence Crawford.
What does this mean for an undisputed fight with Ramirez?
Max Kellerman describes Josh Taylor as one of the best fighters in the world, at any weight, and he is thrilled Taylor has signed with Top Rank Boxing.
Taylor has two world titles and Ramirez has the other two in the division. They are now both with the same promotional company and both boxers have said they want to fight each other. There are no issues making the fight, which is one of the most interesting in the sport. The good news is that it is likely to happen.
But it won’t happen next.
Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs) is already scheduled to make one of his mandatory defenses against former titlist Viktor Postol (who lost a decision to Taylor in 2018) on Feb. 1 (on ESPN) in Haikou, China. Ramirez could also potentially fight his other due mandatory defense against Jack Catterall in the summer, according to Top Rank. But as long as Ramirez and Taylor keep winning, Top Rank president Todd duBoef told ESPN that the company has every intention of making the fight — this year. There are no plans to let it marinate. So while there will be interim bouts it is not going to be a long wait for a tremendous matchup as long as the fighters do their part and win.
What does Taylor’s deal say about the World Boxing Super Series?
It says great things. The World Boxing Super Series, despite its flaws and well-documented financial issues, has been a fantastic platform consistently featuring the best against the best since its first season began in late 2017.
So far, there have been four completed eight-man WBSS tournaments (the second season cruiserweight tournament still has the final to go due to delays caused by a sanctioning body) and all four have seen star-making performances with the tournament winners emerging with much bigger names than they had before their participation.
Oleksandr Usyk became the first four-belt undisputed cruiserweight world champion in the first season and he is now on the pound-for-pound list and in a mandatory position to fight for a heavyweight world title. Callum Smith won a super middleweight world title in the final of that first-season tournament and is widely regarded as the No. 1 fighter in the world at 168 pounds.
Naoya Inoue unified bantamweight world titles by outpointing future Hall of Famer Nonito Donaire in their sensational WBSS final on Nov. 7 in what was the 2019 fight of the year. And Taylor unified junior welterweight belts with a tremendous victory over Prograis and put him in position to land a big contract from Top Rank.