by Jordan Neild
Too often in boxing, the best fighters in each division, never actually get in a ring with each other. Unfortunately, over the years it has become a common theme in the sport, much to the frustration of boxing fans worldwide. However, on Saturday evening we get to see the two best 140lb fighters on the planet clash at London’s 02 Arena. When Josh ‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor (15-0 12KO) and Regis ‘Rougarou’ Prograis (24-0 20K0) meet this weekend for the IBF, WBA Super, WBC Diamond & The Ring Magazine belts, as well as the coveted Muhammad Ali Trophy, they bring a combined 39 wins and 32 knockouts between them.
In those combined 39 fights, nobody has managed to cause either fighter any real trouble but the difference this time around is that, for the first time as professional’s both men will stare across the ring and see an equal, they will see an opponent that carries the same level of physical power, has just as much technical ability, just as much natural talent and perhaps most importantly, the same level of ambition. Neither man knows how to lose, but on Saturday evening only one can prevail.
For Josh Taylor, Saturday night is the culmination of years of hard work. Hailing from the Prestonpans, a small fishing town east of Edinburgh, he was an elite amateur capturing medals at two Commonwealth Games. He turned over to the professional ranks under the watchful eye of Barry Mcguigan and his son Shane and has been faultless to this point.
Momentum really began to build for the Scotsman after impressive wins over domestic rival Ohara Davies in 2017. A hard-fought win over former world champion Viktor Postol in 2018 launched him onto the world scene and after entering the World Boxing Super Series,. ‘The Tartan Tornado’ has displayed every attribute needed to be considered a world-class fighter.
At, 28, Taylor is coming into his prime years as an athlete and during the tournament, he has shown not only his incredible natural boxing ability but also a violent nasty streak, that every great champion has displayed perfectly with a vicious, seven-round dismantling of the previously undefeated Ryan Martin in the quarter-final. The semi-final followed, and this time Taylor proved he can also be disciplined, gritty and workmanlike to snatch the IBF World Title from the talented and previously unbeaten, Ivan Baranchyk.
When Regis Prograis enters the ring this weekend, he will be looking to crown what has been an extraordinary journey both inside and outside of the ring. At just 16, he fled the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans to Houston, where he found solace in the art of boxing, honing his skills at the famous Savannah Gym, once home to Evander Holyfield.
Dubbed ‘Rougarou’ after an infamous beastly creature of legend in Southeast Louisiana, Prograis combines skill with raw power. Only 4 of his previous 24 opponents have heard the final bell and with his slick, southpaw defence also an invaluable weapon, he is becoming one of the most difficult puzzles to work out in world boxing. Just like Taylor, he was an outstanding amateur winning 87 of his 94 bouts, before turning over professional.
As a professional, he has operated largely in ‘first gear’, making fights against very good fighters look very easy. A quarter final win against former Lightweight World Champion Terry Flanagan was followed by a six-round dismantling of the hard hitting Kiryl Relikh.
The fight has the feel of an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object. The respect between the pair has been maintained and despite the fact they are contrasting characters outside the ring, it feels like both men have a deep, unspoken respect for each other.
Refreshingly this weekend, we will witness two fighters who feel no need to engage in cringeworthy trash talk, two immensely talented champions who are focused, solely, on dominating the division and are prepared to meet head-on for the right to call themselves the best 140lb fighter on the planet. In the modern age, fans are force fed fights that are built on false rivalry, social media slurs, and circus like press conferences. The excitement that is building for this fight, on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, is a timely reminder that nothing unites the boxing public like the best fighting the best.