Josh Taylor, arguably the best boxer in Britain at the moment, has to defend his unified world light-welterweight titles in an echoing York Hall empty of fans.
One consolation for the lack of atmosphere is that he loses nothing by way of home advantage by travelling from Scotland to East London, since the Covid-19 pandemic would have prohibited a crowd wherever he fought.
More importantly his incentive for defeating his mandatory challenger, Apinun Khongsong, is expected to be a major fight next year for the undisputed world title against rival WBC and WBO champion Jose Ramirez.
Josh Taylor is arguably the best boxer in Britain, and is gunning for rival Jose Ramirez next year
Taylor’s new Hall of Fame American promoter Bob Arum confirms: ‘That is the aim for Josh and we would hope to be open for his army of Scottish supporters whether that fight takes place in Edinburgh or Las Vegas.’
This weekend’s defence of the Tartan Tornado’s IBF and WBA belts had already been postponed from this spring. Now that the government has cancelled even pilot events with a sprinkling of spectators it is just as well that her is getting on with his interrupted career, albeit in cloistered surroundings but live on BT Sport.
Taylor says: ‘We’ve prepared for this by sparring in my new gym at home in Scotland with no noise, no shouting. So it will not seem all that strange.’ He adds: ‘I’m taking this fight seriously. And although Khongsong seems like a nice guy there will be no friendship in the ring. Just spite.’
Which may be just as well. Although the Scot is a heavy odds on favourite, rightly so, Khongsong is a real puncher who is hoping to exploit Taylor’s warrior propensity for sometimes taking more big shots than necessary.
The Scot is heavy favourite against his mandatory challenger Apinum Khongsong
Although Khongsong has not fought anyone remotely close to the high class of Taylor’s two most recent – Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis – there is a parallel to their records.
Both have won all their 16 fights, with 12 of Taylor’s victories being stoppages and Khongsong landing 13 Kos. The man from Thailand is also tall, rangy and awkward.
So Taylor, who also has a new trainer in former Tyson Fury guru Ben Davison, may have to work for his win. Which would be no bad thins after his year’s absence from the ring.
Former world flyweight champion Charlie Edwards tops the undercard in Bethnal Green in a first fight at bantamweight, against Kyle Williams, saying: ‘I’m so relieved to put behind me the horrific, crucifying self-abuse it took for me to make flyweight.’
Taylor v Khongsong and Edwards v Williams will be televised live this Saturday night on BT Sport.
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