Sometimes there are occasions when a little faith is restored; when all the cynicism surrounding a sport blighted by controversy and drug scandals and poor officiating is put to one side and the boxing community can enjoy something truly worth celebrating. This weekend, we are treated to one such event as Scotland’s Josh Taylor, one of the brightest stars in British boxing’s future, meets former super lightweight world champion Viktor Postol at the SSE Hydro Arena in a fight that will grab attention the world over.
The merits of this matchup are plain to see. Taylor, a ridiculously talented, unbeaten knockout artist who has made huge advances on the domestic scene is getting his first proper test at world level, which as a stand-alone fact makes the fight interesting enough. But when that test comes against someone like Postol – battle hardened, well drilled, willing to trade and most importantly, possessing title ambitions of his own – the fight adopts a legitimacy that is so welcome, and so often missing in the sport outside of world level.
Without doubt, Postol has a lot to lose. Three years ago he was one of the better known names in a packed super-lightweight division, thanks to a 10th round KO victory over the hard-hitting Lucas Martin Matthyssee which won him the WBC title. His reign, however, was short-lived. His first defence came against Terence Crawford, one of the most talented active boxers on the planet, who bullied the Ukrainian over 12 tough rounds, dropping him twice and inflicting the first loss of his career.
A hiatus followed, and times changed. The victory in his returning bout last year against awkward southpaw Jamshidbek Najmiddinov was a good one, but Postol has more to do if he is to prove he isn’t a flash-in-the-pan champion. Good wins over Hank Lundy, Yvan Mendy and Selcuk Aydin before the Crawford loss help his case, and there were many positives to take from his September return – he is still quick footed and controls distance well, but most importantly he demonstrated he still has the stomach for a fight after a heavy left hand sent him to the canvas in the fifth. With two minutes to go, he relied on experience to get him through the round, and eventually emerged a comfortable winner at the end of ten hard fought sessions.
One does wonder, though, what would have happened if it was Taylor who landed that punch. The 27 year old has stopped eleven of his twelve opponents, nine of them before the halfway point, six of them before the third round. His last three fights include wins over Ohara Davis (a fellow unbeaten prospect who was stopped in the seventh), former IBF world champion Miguel Vazquez (who suffered his only stoppage loss to date in the ninth) and late replacement Winston Campos (knocked out in the third).
Put simply, the man is a spiteful puncher, and if Najmiddinov can trouble the Ukrainian then Taylor, a vastly superior fighter, surely stands a chance of doing the same. His power is matched only by a super-sharp boxing intelligence and a ferocious engine that saw the likes of Davies, a capable operator and powerful puncher in his own right, picked apart like so many others by punches from angles that only someone with Taylor’s natural instincts can exploit.
Can Postol be dissected in the same way? Possibly, but there is no way of knowing that for certain. He has, after all, just beaten a hard-punching southpaw in his most recent fight. He will have learnt from that, and will be applying that knowledge to try and take Taylor into the championship rounds, where the Scotsman has never been before, and where he himself has been many times previously.
Despite Postol’s greater experience, the pick is for Taylor. Younger, extremely gifted, with momentum behind him and home advantage spurring him on, a points win or late stoppage seem the most likely out of many different, and perhaps equally likely outcomes. But really, when it comes down to a fight of this quality, the true winners will, undoubtedly, be the fans who watch it.