Prograis vs Taylor: Josh Taylor bidding to become Britain’s most gold-laden boxer
Josh Taylor will become the only British boxer with two world title belts if he wins tonight’s super-lightweight unification against Regis Prograis, a true 50-50 fight that nobody can convincingly predict. It is one of the elite fights of 2019, two unbeaten champions meeting at their peak.
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? Face off! ?
These two just don't like each other… pic.twitter.com/TqXscdcePw
And as their tempers have flared this week, genuine spite has been added to the mix, adding to the fascination. Is IBF title-holder Taylor too amped-up? Is WBA title-holder Prograis too chilled?
The World Boxing Super Series final pits two stark opposites against each other. These are two men who can’t understand each other (literally, at times, when Prograis has needed Taylor’s thick Scottish accent to be repeated).
Taylor is an ex-mechanic, an adrenaline junkie and a petrol-head from the outskirts of Edinburgh who doesn’t suffer fools. He was furious that Prograis wore sunglasses inside on a wet October afternoon.
“If I was from New York my name would be massive, and the hype around me would be huge,” said Taylor. “But I’m not a show-pony and I’m not one for dancing around.”
Prograis, on the other hand, wore a slick suit with his nickname ‘Rougarou’ stitched into pin-stripes. Ice hung around his neck, featuring a picture of himself.
? Human by day, monster by night
Hurricane survivor @RPrograis meets a Tartan Tornado head on by channelling the spirit of the mythical [email protected] profiled by @JamesDielhenn: https://t.co/Zv8kk3gIY2 pic.twitter.com/Lxz7FlHvxw
The New Orleans man will walk to the ring tonight in a menacing red mask – this is the Rougarou, a mythical creature that lives in the Louisiana swamp. It inflicts 101-day curses, but gives Prograis strength.
The American is a product of tragedies – he and his family escaped Hurricane Katrina, which destroyed his home city, then Hurricane Harvey. The New Orleans skyline is tattooed across his chest. Prograis doesn’t forget.
He aims to avoid disaster against the ‘Tartan Tornado’ at The O2 in London tonight – 22 of Prograis’ 24 wins have inside the distance, and he’s confident in another early ending.
Prograis said: “He gets hit. Josh has been hurt against Ivan Baranchyk and Viktor Postol who aren’t punchers like me. They’re not sharp, crisp like me, they don’t have the timing that I do.”
Taylor has 12 KOs in 15 wins and has won spiteful grudge matches before. He isn’t the kind of bloke who’s pint you’d want to spill.
“Speed, power, timing, skill. I do it all better than him,” Taylor said. “He hasn’t been tested, he hasn’t been hit by anyone. He hasn’t fought anybody with the desire that I’ve got.”
Claiming the Muhammad Ali trophy tonight and unifying the IBF and WBA belts would make Taylor the most gold-laden boxer in Britain.
Regis Prograis vs Josh Taylor
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Andy Clarke’s verdict
It’s a great fight between two aggressive, skilful, southpaw world champions and it’s very difficult to see it being anything other than a very good fight.
Prograis has had an eight-week camp; three weeks in LA, where Prograis now lives, two in Houston where he’d lived for the previous 14 years at Savannah BC (the gym he learned to box at and has used for years) and the last three weeks in London.
They arrived on Sunday, October 6 with a team of 12 people, living in three Airbnb apartments in Plaistow in east London and training at the nearby Peacock gym. They’ve brought two sparring partners; Austin Williams, a 3-0 Matchroom USA middleweight southpaw, and Taras Shelestyuk, London 2012 Bronze medallist and 2011 World Amateur Champion, now 17-0 as a pro (also a southpaw). His wife Raquel, six-year-old son Ray and three-year-old daughter Khaleesi arrive in fight week and will be coming to the fight.
The build-up has been lively. At the press conference a few weeks back they were happy to do the Toe2Toe podcast together but pretty quickly got into with each other (it never threatened to get out of control) and actually they’re pretty similar characters; confident without being arrogant but spiky and only too happy to stand their ground and trade verbals if they feel the situation requires it.
It’s the final that World Boxing Super Series would have been hoping for as it really is one of the most attractive fights in world boxing currently. Top Rank’s Jose Ramirez is WBC and WBO champ but Prograis and Taylor certainly seem to agree on one thing which is that Ramirez avoided them both when they were WBC interim and silver champions, respectively.
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