Josh Taylor revealed he could hardly see from his right eye during the final few rounds of his classic World Boxing Super Series final at O2 Arena where he became the number one fighter in the super-lightweight division.
The Tartan Tornado claimed a majority decision win over previously undefeated American Regis Prograis with the judges scoring the bout 114-114, 117-112, 115-113.
It means the Edinburgh boxer now holds two world championship belts – WBA and IBF titles – in addition to his WBC belt and he lists the Ring Magazine belt and World Boxing Super Series Ali Trophy on his impressive CV.
A swollen right eye and then a serious cut above it during the 11th round cast some doubt on whether the Scotsman could see the fight through with Prograis finishing strongly, but he showed incredible resolve to make it to the last bell and both earned a standing ovation after a boxing exhibition.
Taylor, in his 16th professional contest, said at a press conference: “That was a great fight. The face says it all. It was a hard fight. I got caught a few times, it was more head clashes so it made it harder.
“From about midway through round eight to nine, I could hardly see out of my eye because of the swelling.
“I started getting caught with left hands because I couldn’t see anything coming – it completely shut up – so it was hard to see anything from the side.
“The last two rounds I was fighting on instinct and with one eye. All tactics went out of the window for the last two-and-a-half rounds and I just used all my heart and determination.
“I knew I had won it, but you never know what the judges will say and I was a bit nervous because I wanted it so much.”
Taylor, 26, paid tribute to opponent Prograis, who had recorded 24 straight wins prior to this battle of the best super-lightweights in the division.
“I hit him a couple of times and he never moved. He is a worthy champion and a great opponent. He definitely lived up to his reputation. All respect to Regis and I wish him all the best,” Scotland’s finest said.
With the Commonwealth gold medallist serenaded by the O2 Arena crowd on a number of occasions, he could have been forgiven for thinking he was in his home country.
This was London though, but the city was treated to a masterclass in maybe the fight of the year from Taylor, who used his jab smartly throughout with regularly body blows landed on Prograis.
Despite this, the New Orleans boxer kept coming back, but the Scot had the edge and aims to fight against light welterweight champion Jose Ramirez with the Hibernian fan eyeing a clash at Easter Road.
He added: “Hopefully now I get the recognition I think I deserve. Everyone says I go under the radar and I kind of like that. I am not a show pony.
“But I think this will take my profile to the next level. Everyone will start getting behind me now and if I get this Ramirez fight and it’s abroad, hopefully I can take a travelling army.
“I don’t mind travelling to America and taking the support with me, but I would love it to be in Scotland. I would love it to be at Edinburgh Castle or at Easter Road, the home of my hometown football club.”
Confident Prograis conceded the better man won on the night, but said: “No excuses, but I will be back. I am pretty sure Josh enjoyed it, hopefully we can do part two.”
Taylor’s trainer Shane McGuigan paid tribute to his fighter and admitted an emotionally testing camp, where both experienced losses, helped them get to the end goal.
“It is amazing. This camp hasn’t been the easiest camp. Josh lost his father-in-law, my sister passed away as well, but it brought the two of us together in tough times,” he said.
“During his tough rounds, he dug in and Josh proved he is the best fighter in the world.
“In his 16th fight he is unified champion, with the Muhammad Ali Trophy and the best fighter in the world.”
The Scots at 02 Arena dd not have all good news to cheer with Ricky Burns losing out to Welshman Lee Selby on a majority points decision.
Derek Chisora was smiling, however, after David Price’s corner chucked the towel in midway through the fourth round.
Victory number 32 for the Finchley heavyweight has him dreaming of more big fights ahead.
Chisora added: “We will try squeeze in another one this year.
“Either Baby Miller, Joseph Parker, Oleksandr Usyk. Those three, I really want to get that done this year. I will speak to Eddie Hearn and we will try to push it in.”