In Pursuit of Excellence: Josh Taylor

July 26, 2022

For many athletes, competing at the highest level is, technically, still a hobby as they find time to train and participate in elite competitions while also managing to hold down a day job, using days off and holiday entitlements to allow them to travel abroad in pursuit of excellence. 

Then there are others who can use those high-profile events to make a living out of their chosen sport.  Josh Taylor is among their number.  

The 31-year-old competed for Scotland at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi as a teenager, coming home with a silver medal in the light-welterweight division, then went one better on home soil in Glasgow four years later. 

Shortly after that success he joined the professional ranks and became the first British boxer to hold all four major belts (WBA, WBC, WBHO and IBF) in the same weight category. 

It doesn’t get much better than being recognised as one of the few undisputed world champions of the modern era. 

Yet the man from Prestonpans insists that winning gold for Scotland while his relatives cheered him on remains his most satisfying achievement. 

“Fortunately, I made up for the disappointment of Delhi at the 2014 Games in Glasgow,” said Taylor. 

“That was a great occasion: the weather during the Games was perfect – almost as hot as it had been in India! 

“Once again there was a great atmosphere among the athletes in the village and the spectators at the events. I didn’t get to sample too much of that, though, because I managed to go all the way to the final again; at least I got to enjoy the party afterwards. 

“Getting the gold that time made all the difference, of course. I beat Namibia’s Jonas Junias in the final right after Charlie Flynn had won the gold in the flyweight division. 

“It was an unbelievable feeling to stand on the podium and sing Flower Of Scotland – in Scotland! – with all my family and friends and the rest of the nation singing along with me and watching the flag being raised. 

“Obviously, I’ve gone on to enjoy my time in the professional ranks, winning world titles and eventually unifying the 140lb division but I can honestly say that being presented with my medal that night at the SSE Hydro was the proudest moment of my career. 

“I knew before the final that I would turn pro if I took the gold. It was the perfect way to bow out.” 

One of the men in his corner at that tournament was Boxing Scotland’s joint director and national coach, Craig McEvoy, who was impressed by what he saw. 

“The thing which struck me straight away was how focused he is while training – you could set a firework off next to him and he wouldn’t notice,” he said. Josh’s technical ability and his movement also stood out. 

“He’s also one of the mentally toughest fighters I’ve ever come across. He’d picked up a hand injury at the 2012 Olympics and I recall working with him when he boxed a Frenchman not long afterwards. “Josh won the fight but his left hand would double in size after every bout, turning into a big balloon. He didn’t make a fuss about that, though: he would just stick it into a bucket of ice afterwards until the swelling went back down. That hand was his main weapon in the ring but he’d do that before every bout and sparring session for the next two years.” 

Surgery eventually remedied that problem but McEvoy stresses that the qualities which allowed him to succeed globally were present from their first meeting a decade ago. 

“Josh has a great boxing IQ,” he claimed. “He strikes like a cobra at close range and he almost always gets his tactics spot on. 

“He was also a workaholic and there were times when you had to force him to ease off and give himself a rest but he was a joy to train, a Rolls Royce of a boxer. 

“What he has done for the sport in this country is immense and, probably, under-appreciated by the media. He’s a good lad as well.”   

Taylor enjoyed his first taste of the Games in India almost as much. 

“Delhi was brilliant: I loved going all the way there and seeing a totally different culture – the music, the food and the lifestyle,” said the 31-year-old. 

“It was just amazing, even though we weren’t allowed to go out; we had to stay in the village. However, on our days off from the boxing we managed to get out and see the locals and taste the food and, of all the lads in our team, I think I was the only one who didn’t come down with Delhi belly when we ate out. 

“It was just a great experience, meeting different people from so many different countries. A lot of them are my friends to this day and I still keep in touch with them. 

“When I reached the final and ended up with the silver medal I was gutted. I gave it my best shot but I was too inexperienced at that time. 

“I fought England’s Tom Stalker, who is one of the best amateur fighters Britain has ever produced – one of the most successful ones, anyway – and I’d only been boxing for three-and-a-half years at that stage. 

“Even so, when we met I was only edged out on points. I wasn’t outclassed or outfought but I lost out on the computer scoring and I was devastated at not taking the gold. 

“From memory, he beat me 11-5 but the bout was a lot closer than that suggests. It was only when I got back home that I thought: ‘You did okay there’ and I wish I’d realised that earlier. 

“The medal ceremony was held a couple of days later and I still hadn’t got over the defeat. I had tears in my eyes on the podium and I was still raging because he’d beaten me.”

Written by Ewing Grahame  

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