Two knockdowns lifted Josh Taylor from a world titleholder to something akin to a legend, at least in his country.
The Scot put American rival Jose Ramirez down twice in the middle rounds, which proved to be the difference in their fight for the undisputed junior welterweight championship Saturday night at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas.
All three judges scored the back-and-forth scrap 114-112, meaning it would’ve ended in a draw and settled nothing had Ramirez remained on his feet.
As it is, Taylor became just the sixth male fighter to win all the major belts in any division in the four-belt era, which solidified his place as one of best fighters ever from Scotland.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Taylor, who has now beaten Regis Prograis and Ramirez in a span of three fights. “I trained my whole life for this moment, I dedicated my whole life to this moment,
“I’ve dreamed of it so many times over. I’m so happy. I’m over the moon.”
Josh Taylor (left) put Jose Ramirez flat on his back in the Round 7. AP Photo / John Locher
Taylor (18-0, 13 KOs) instigated some trash talk before the fight, which culminated in an altercation after the weigh-in in the new Las Vegas hotel.
However, he said after the fight that it was never personal. His goal was merely to get under the skin of Ramirez in an attempt to get him to fight aggressively, which Taylor believed he could use to his advantage.
And he did, landing a number of hard shots when Ramirez lunged at him.
The fight was roughly even when, seconds after the start Round 6, Taylor countered his opponent with a short left that put him flat on his face. Ramirez obviously wasn’t hurt because he performed well the rest of the round but the tone of the fight had changed.
The knockdown in Round 7 made that clear. The fighters were in the process of untangling when, with about 30 seconds remaining in the round, Ramirez let his guard down and took a perfect left uppercut to the chin that put him flat on his back and hurt him.
Ramirez, who staggered as he got up, was able to survive the round but he didn’t fully recover until some point in Round 8, after which he had some of his best rounds.
Taylor must’ve thought that he had a big lead on the scorecards because he became relatively passive, allowing a desperate Ramirez to outwork him and climb back into the fight. Ramirez won three of the final four rounds on two cards, all four on the third.
Taylor celebrates after becoming undisputed 140-pound champion. AP Photo / John Locher
Boxing Junkie also scored the fight 114-112 for Taylor, six rounds each. And it gave Ramirez three of the final four rounds.
Still, Taylor was critical of the scoring afterward.
“I thought the scorecards were a little tight,” he said. “I thought they were well wider than that. I wasn’t too happy with the selection of the judges, but I wasn’t going to moan. I was confident in winning this fight anyway.”
Of course, a victory is a victory. And Taylor couldn’t have been much happier.
He knows that his countrymen will now speak of him in the same breath as the great Hall of Famer Ken Buchanan, the lightweight champion from the early 1970s who is from the town in which Taylor was born, Edinburgh.
Taylor plans to visit Buchanan – undoubtedly with his four belts in tow – when he returns to Scotland.
“I did it just like you champ!” Taylor said directly to his countryman as he was interviewed. “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.”
Taylor said before the fight on Saturday that he would be interested in moving up to 147 pounds to challenge pound-for-pound king Terence Crawford, who shares Bob Arum as a promoter.
However, he said nothing about his next fight immediately after his victory on Saturday. He was 100% invested in his celebration.
Meanwhile, Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) didn’t speak to the media immediately after the fight but his trainer – Robert Garcia – did. Garcia said he was told by someone at ringside that referee Kenny Bayless, trying to break the fighters, was holding Ramirez’s arm when he was knocked down for the second time.
However, replays made it clear that wasn’t the case. Ramirez might’ve been distracted but it was a fair knockdown.
“Taylor is the undisputed champ,” Garcia said. “I congratulate him. You don’t see that often. He definitely earned it, he made history. I gotta go back and see the fight. People were telling me in the second knockdown … the ref was holding Jose’s hand and he got hit. I have to see it.
“But, hey, we can’t win ’em all.”