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Josh Taylor is the Real Deal But Will Have His Hands Full Against Baranchyk

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  • Josh Taylor is the Real Deal But Will Have His Hands Full Against Baranchyk

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    By Matt McGrain

    To properly understand the mindset of the British boxing promoter, one could do worse than to heed the recent words of legendary fight-maker Frank Warren.

    “The fighters made the fight,” he remarked off-handily of the forthcoming clash between British heavyweight prospects Daniel Dubois and Nathan Gorman. “Neither one of them would pull out.”

    While it might be the logical thinking of anyone holding only a passing familiarity with the boxing industry that it is the job of fight promoters to make the fights that the public want to see, in the United Kingdom, oftentimes nothing is further from the truth. The job of the British fight promoter is essentially to identify talent and enrich it and in the course of enriching it, enrich himself.

    The approach taken by Josh Taylor and his embattled promoter Barry McGuigan can be seen to be refreshing, then. In entering the WBSS 140lb tournament Taylor knew that before he had amassed fifteen fights he would, at some point, be called upon to put it all on the line. That time has come as the Edinburgh born Scotsman (pictured on the right in this simulation) prepares to match Belarusian Ivan Baranchyk (19-0) in the semi-final of that tournament this coming Saturday at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow. At stake is an alphabet strap, but more pertinently, a chance to fight and emerge victorious and then win the final of the tournament, a feat which would see a new 140lb king legitimized and promised a seat at the pound-for-pound table.

    For now, the significant matter of Taylor-Baranchyk, a clash between the second and seventh best light-welterweights in the business according to TBRB.

    Baranchyk’s nickname, “The Beast” seemed promotionally optimistic until last March when he stepped out of the shadowy world of eight-rounders staged in Oklahoma (he had long since departed his short-lived Minsk stronghold) and stepped in with the legitimately dangerous and formerly ranked Petr Petrov. Baranchyk swept Petrov before him, dropping him three times and brutalizing him along the ropes, forcing the referee’s intervention.

    He was even more impressive in dispatching unbeaten southpaw Anthony Yigit later that year in the quarter finals of the 140lbs WBSS. This tournament excelled in shining a light on unfashionable but talented fighters and the meeting between Baranchyk and Yigit was a superb example. Yigit is a talented, quick-handed fighter who had every reason to believe his own talent could carry him to the semi-finals and beyond, but in Baranchyk he was presented with a difficult foil.

    Aggressive and rough, Baranchyk dominated his undefeated opponent with two-handed bursts, and the expert roughhousing of a much more storied professional. But he is no thug. Defense-splitting lead-uppercuts are punctuated by his own impressive dipping defense; Baranchyk, big at the weight, broad and strong in appearance, does not seem to love these evasive maneuvers though. His heart is in firing back and his legs, for all that he can use them for mobility, are in pressure. Hit him, he hits you. Look for him, you will find him.

    Whether by way of skillful punch-picking, swarming aggression, or dark-arts, Barnchyk had already marked up Yigit’s left eye by the end of the second. In the third he deployed a merciless body attack. Baranchyk strayed low; Yigit waved him in but after seven torrid rounds, he was pulled by the ringside doctor, his left eye by then grotesquely swollen shut. He had not won a round on my card.

    I was left with the impression that Yigit, the recipient of forearms to the back of the head, rabbit-punches to the back of the head, a low blow, as well as numerous well-executed punches to head and body, was physically incapable of coping with the ceaseless offense that Baranchyk has at his disposal.

    Josh Taylor then, has his hands full.

    I have described Taylor on these pages as “absolutely real.” Readers will hopefully forgive the sweeping yet indistinct nature of the statement in light of the fact that Scotland has never had such a fighter during my adult lifetime and that, as a Scotsman, this is an exciting truth. Ricky Burns was better than he is now generally given credit for and carried a heart as big as any modern pugilist, Scott Harrison carried a belt but was ravaged by the hardly unique yet all too commonly Scottish failing of savage indiscipline; Taylor shows none of these proclivities. He is a boxer that impresses other fighters with his ceaseless energy; he is addicted to shadow-boxing rather than alcohol and has a rare and unbridled sporting ambition which has brought him to the edge of stardom.

    He also has technical ability far in excess of any seen on these shores since the heyday of the great lightweight Ken Buchanan, a comparison which is being made less and less quietly.

    While he was being torn to pieces, Yigit proved that Baranchyk could be hit. He has too much width on his swarming – though timed – attacks for it to be otherwise. Taylor, on the other hand, is packed as tight as a drum. Sweeping shots, including a picture-perfect left hook, are not eschewed during his smooth, angled attacks, but he goes straight-down the middle as suddenly and as well as any fighter not named Lomachenko. This is a huge boon against a fighter like Baranchyk, and although he will not walk into the Scotsman’s shots, he is available for excellent punches. Taylor will likely look to move, to keep the Belarusian off him early, before, if necessary, descending into the dangers of the pocket in an attempt to repel Baranchyk’s mauling pressure with cleaner punches.

    Furthermore, although Baranchyk thrived upon the deepening chaos that surrounded Yigit, he looked fatigued by the end of the seventh round. Taylor’s engine is proven; the accompanying and inevitable gut-check at high-octane pace is perhaps the final test before Taylor, should he be victorious, meets the legitimately world-class Regis Prograis in the final. That is a Fight of the Year contender in the making.

    “I have seen a lot that I can exploit,” he told Boxing Social of Baranchyk earlier this week. “He’s very tough, he applies the pressure and he lets his hand go with venom in every shot. I’m expecting a tough fight, especially early on…but it’ll take a very special fighter to beat me.”

    Taylor has properly appraised his opponent and has also predicted a stoppage. It would be foolish, not to mention unpatriotic of me to disagree with him.

    Chief support is provided by a fighter who has already reached the heights Taylor hopes to reach: The Monster, Naoya Inoue, boxes in his own WBSS semi-final against Emmanuel Rodriguez, the world’s number six bantamweight. Taylor-Barnachyk promises a grueling, excellent fight, but it is possible the main-event will be blown away by the penultimate contest.

    Whatever the detail, and it is not often I get to say this, the fight world’s capital this coming Saturday is Glasgow.

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