Scottish light-welterweight Josh Taylor will become the first British boxer to be crowned undisputed world champion in the four-belt era if he defeats Jose Carlos Ramirez in Las Vegas.
Whichever one of Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua has their hand raised in victory if the two heavyweight titans actually fight in August, they may well be merely the second British boxer to hold all four major world titles simultaneously.
Scotland’s Josh Taylor can beat them both to it.
The 30-year-old Prestonpans pugilist (17-0, 13 KOs) already has possession of the IBF and WBA light-welterweight titles and has set his gaze on the remaining two straps in the division.
Jose Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs) holds both the WBC and WBO belts and is himself chasing history; he would be the first Mexican-American four-belt undisputed champion.
Two men. Four belts. One champion. It’s fitting the stage for this all-or-nothing bout is Las Vegas.
But this fight is about far more than the straps themselves. It’s about legacy. It’s about immortality.
Make no mistake: this is the biggest fight involving a Scot most of us are likely to see.
So how did he get here?
As a youngster, Taylor used his feet more than his hands. He practised taekwondo from the age of five but, after witnessing the rise of fellow east coast boxer Alex Arthur, decided to test out the sweet science.
He has never looked back.
Further inspired by Ken Buchanan (Scotland’s only undisputed world champion, albeit in an era when only the WBC and WBA belts were considered major) the ‘Tartan Tornado’ took to boxing like a duck to water.
In just a few short years he had qualified for the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, taking home a silver medal in the lightweight division.
Never one to embrace finishing second best — as a youngster he once threw his headguard at a referee for stopping a fight due to a nosebleed — at the time Taylor said he was “just gutted not to get gold”.
A spot at the 2012 London Olympics followed.
While that southern incursion may have ended in the round of 16, even qualifying was an achievement no Scottish lightweight could lay claim to since the legendary Dick McTaggart in the 1960s.
Unlike many of his London team-mates — namely Joshua, Luke Campbell and Anthony Ogogo — Taylor opted not to turn professional the following year but instead turned his attention homeward, to Glasgow.
As one of the most high-profile athletes for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Scotland’s largest city, it would have been easy to get caught up in all the attention.
Not Taylor, though.
While the poster boy, swimmer Michael Jamieson, memorably came up short, Taylor led Team Scotland’s boxers to an even more memorable success by collecting gold at light-welterweight.
Superstar in the making
With the commonwealth suitably convinced of his ability, Taylor set out to let the rest of the world know too.
Setting a blistering pace, the southpaw swatted aside all comers — including, memorably, a mouthy Ohara Davies inside seven rounds — to compile a professional record of 14 wins and no losses with 12 knockouts before the end of 2018.
Chief among those first 14 victories was a convincing unanimous decision win over Viktor Postol (more on him later) in Glasgow.
But it was 2019 he really made his mark.
Two fights, two decision wins may not sound glamorous but, as always with boxing, the devil is in the detail.
First up: Taylor floored the unbeaten Belarusian Ivan Baranchyk twice to triumph in the World Boxing Super Series semi-finals.
In truth, Baranchyk did well to last the distance. Taylor, after just 15 pro fights, was taking the IBF light-welterweight title back to Prestonpans.
Then came Regis Prograis.
Sometimes you wonder if a fighter has that ruthless streak required to reach the very, very top. Sometimes questions are asked.
Taylor answered them emphatically against Prograis.
The American (then 24-0, 20 KOs) arrived in the UK with a fearsome, fledgling reputation but Taylor rose to the occasion in a barnstorming encounter.
Indeed, the fight was so close and fought with such genuine intensity that Prograis still doesn’t think he lost it.
In a fight-of-the-year contender, the Scot exuded that quality the true greats seem to possess: when the going gets tough, far from shrinking from it, he rose to meet it. He actually welcomed it.
To win the IBF, WBA, Ring Magazine titles and Muhammad Ali Trophy in 16 fights — it’s almost unheard of.”
Taylor dropped to his knees in the centre of the ring upon getting the (deserved) nod via majority decision.
His expression was the perfect mix of elation, relief and satisfaction.
Now, well, in typically Taylor fashion he brushes aside just how momentous an occasion that was, simply telling a recent documentary “that’s another one ticked off”.
Now 16-0, the WBA title was nestled safely next to his IBF strap.
Taylor improved to 17-0 with a first-round stoppage of another unbeaten fighter, Thailand’s Apinun Khongsong, in September 2020.
— Josh Taylor (@JoshTaylorBoxer) May 9, 2021
But it was the culmination of those first, sweet 16 that mattered most — as Taylor himself acknowledged.
He said in the build-up to fight week: “To win the IBF, WBA, Ring Magazine and Muhammad Ali trophy [given to the WBSS winner] in 16 fights — it’s almost unheard of.”
The thing is, it’s not almost unheard of. It is unheard of. No British man has hit those heights in so few fights.
Taylor’s already great; against Ramirez he can become extraordinary.
Fight night details: Tale of the tape; Where can I watch?
Strange, then, that neither Sky Sports nor BT Sport have picked up the event, which will have just 3,000 fans in attendance due to Covid restrictions.
Instead, if UK fans want to watch history in the making, the only (legitimate) avenue open to them is FiteTV, a digital streaming service.
Given the location, it’s a very late (or very early, depending on your disposition) start to proceedings with the ring walks expected sometime after 3am on Sunday UK time.
The undercard features, among others, Jose Zepeda (33-2, 26 KOs) versus Hank Lundy (31-8-1, 14 KOs) while Elvis Rodriguez (11-0-1, 10 KOs) takes on Kenneth Sims Jr (15-2-1, 5 KOs).
A Jaguar blocking the way
By all accounts Jose Carlos Ramirez is a good guy.
The 5ft 10in Californian stepped in during the pandemic to aid thousands of farmworkers in his hometown by securing food, water, masks and educational material for them.
In the ring, Ramirez is just as relentless in pursuit of his goals.
A natural pressure fighter with a good engine and powerful hands, ‘The Jaguar’ could make life difficult for Taylor if he backs him up against the ropes.
Of course, the Scot has already shown against Prograis that he will not shy away from opponents who seek to take the centre of the ring from him.
To do the same against Ramirez, Taylor’s excellent footwork could prove vital.
Generally, when a southpaw takes on an orthodox fighter, there’s a tussle as each tries to get their foot on the outside for positional advantage.
But if Taylor can assert his own gameplan early and often — and everything he has done and said to date suggests that’s exactly what he’ll do — Ramirez could be in a world of trouble.
The Mexican-American somewhat struggled against the last southpaw he faced, Jose Zepeda, although he did eventually take a majority decision win before stopping Maurice Hooker in six in his next bout.
Taylor can box different ways; he is more versatile and can adapt… he can go forward on Ramirez and beat him up in his yard.”
Likewise, in his last outing, Ramirez won a majority decision against Postol but in considerably less convincing fashion than Taylor.
The Ukrainian, having shared a ring with both men, gives the “slight edge” to Taylor.
Picking out the Tartan Tornado’s footwork, intelligence and switch-hitting as key attributes, Postol told Ring Magazine recently: “Taylor can box different ways; he is more versatile and can adapt to many styles.
“He can go forward on Ramirez and beat him up in his yard as he also hits very hard.”
Yet Ramirez is clearly just as motivated not only to be the best, but to be recognised as such.
He said in a pre-fight documentary: “Having two world titles is a huge deal but the fans are still going to believe there may be other world champions out there who could be better.
“I had to put myself in there to get all the titles and become undisputed.”
I had to put myself in there to get all the titles and become undisputed
Jose Carlos Ramirez
Between the two of them, Ramirez and Taylor have defeated the rest of the top five light-welterweights in the world.
There is no elephant in the room in this division. It’s the best against the best.
It is truly a bout that fight fans and casual observers alike should not miss. You cannot hype it up enough. It’s legacy-defining. It’s for all the marbles.
Ramirez clearly believes he has already shown he has what it takes to be ‘the man’.
There’s only one problem with that: he’s never had to survive a Tornado before.
Sean Martin is a digital sports journalist for The Press & Journal