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Josh Taylor and Naoya Inoue are masterful

Josh Taylor
Action Images/Reuters/Lee Smith
Josh Taylor wins world title, while Inoue lives up to ‘Monster’ nickname, writes Oliver Fennell from ringside

ON a night which saw a Belarusian “Beast” tamed, a Japanese “Monster” wreak havoc, and a visit from a Louisianan “Rougarou”, the most frightening mental imagery actually featured MC Craig Stephen.

The “Rougarou” – WBA super-lightweight champion Regis Prograis, who names himself after the swamp-dwelling creature of Deep South folklore – turned up at the post-fight press conference to hype his impending clash with newly crowned IBF counterpart Josh Taylor wearing a kilt. He sported jeans beneath, and a Scottish journalist pointed out that tradition dictates one should be naked under a kilt.

“I do know that,” said Prograis. “But I borrowed this from your ring announcer. He’s been wearing it all night and it’s kinda sweaty.”
This triggered grimaces, but it was all in good humour, as was the mood between Prograis and Taylor, who was understandably in high spirits after completing a strategic masterpiece against Ivan Baranchyk, “The Beast” from Minsk.

It set up an intriguing match that will not only unify half of the division but also crown the first 140lb winner of the eight-man World Boxing Super Series tournament.

In one of two WBSS semi-final matches on this May 18 card at the SSE Hydro, Baranchyk had promised to break local hearts with his uncompromising aggression. Prestonpans southpaw Taylor, however, executed his game plan to perfection. It was bull-and-matador stuff in the opening two rounds, with Baranchyk barreling forward dangerously but mostly missing.

Having drawn some of the sting, Taylor engaged more from round three, spending more time in the live-fire zone and adding spite to his own shots.
A breakthrough in the sixth saw Taylor score two knockdowns. The first came from a counter right hook that pitched Baranchyk down to his right flank, and the second courtesy of a follow-up attack that made him crumple down along the ropes.

Baranchyk comfortably beat referee Howard Foster’s count both times, but he was left with a huge points disadvantage at halfway, against a challenger who now knew he not only had his opponent’s measure stylistically, but could also hurt and floor him. Accordingly, the Scot fought with added spite and confidence and banked yet more rounds.

Baranchyk understood the urgency of his task and pressed hard, but was unable to find an equaliser. He won the last two rounds, but Taylor by that point had the finishing line in sight and coasted. His job was done.

Scores of 117-109 (Levi Martinez) and 115-111 twice (Jerome Lades and Joerg Milke) confirmed Scotland’s latest world champion. Taylor now has a chance to unify major belts when he faces Prograis, likely in September.

Josh Taylor
Action Images/Reuters/Lee Smith

Taylor saw off Ryan Martin in his quarter-final, while Prograis has beaten Terry Flanagan and Kiryl Relikh.

“This tournament is all about the best fighting the best,” said Prograis, although you’d be forgiven for thinking that was not the case when watching the ease with which bantamweight entrant Naoya Inoue has been dispatching his opposition.

On paper, the Yokohama “Monster” was in a competitive affair in the night’s co-feature, a WBSS bantam semi-final against defending IBF champion Emmanuel Rodriguez of Puerto Rico.

And competitive it was – for one round. Rodriguez employed his reach advantage to pick some nice counter shots and make Inoue miss, but the Japanese fighter adjusted in round two, with immediate effect. Three knockdowns in quick succession brought a sudden and emphatic end.

Left hooks did the damage each time. The first, to the head, bloodied Rodriguez’s nose and dumped him on his behind. Inoue then fired the same punch downstairs for two more knockdowns mere seconds apart. Rodriguez dropped to his knees, in obvious agony, shaking his head both times, but his pride forced him upright. Referee Michael Alexander rightly ruled him out, at 1-19.

Inoue’s monstrous display followed one-round blowouts of Jamie McDonnell and Juan Carlos Payano, and rarely has a boxing nickname looked so apt. The win earned him a third legitimate world title – he had previously held WBC light-fly and WBO super-fly honours, but while he brought the WBA ‘regular’ bantamweight belt in to this match, the real WBA champion at 118lbs is Nonito Donaire, whom Inoue will now meet in that division’s WBSS final.

An unremarkable undercard was topped by former world champ Paul Butler, whose IBF reign was brought to an end by Rodriguez a year ago. The Ellesmere Port man is now a WBSS bantamweight reserve boxer. With his tournament services uncalled-on, Butler marked time with a sixth-round knockout of Mexico’s Salvador Hernandez Sanchez, a left hook to the body triggering a 10-count from referee Kenny Pringle. The finish to this scheduled eight-rounder came at the 2-52 mark.

Three reigning champions enjoyed victorious non-title run-outs. British super-middleweight monarch Zach Parker of Woodville forced a fourth-round stoppage of Frenchman Steven Crambert, Darren Maxwell waving it off at 2-28. Crambert did not appear hurt and protested the ruling. Commonwealth bantamweight ruler Lee McGregor of Edinburgh was taken the distance for the first time, Evesham’s Brett Fidoe employing classic journeyman tactics to make it to the end, where Mr Pringle awarded McGregor the 60-54 win. Northampton’s Chantelle Cameron, who holds the IBO female lightweight title, made it 10 out of 10 with a second-round stoppage of negative Lithuanian Vaida Masiokaite. Mr Maxwell halted the one-sided affair at 0-33.

Former British and European super-featherweight champ Martin J. Ward pitched a shutout to start the night, while unbeaten lightweight Tommy Philbin did likewise in closing the show. Both cruised to 60-54 verdicts, with Mr Pringle ruling for Brentwood’s Ward over Spaniard Antonio Rodriguez, and Mr Maxwell adjudicating for Edinburgh’s Philbin over Harry Matthews of York.

Mr Maxwell also gave every round to Reece McFadden in a four-rounder against Georgi Georgiev. The Motherwell boxer won 40-36 against his Bulgarian foe.

The quickest finish of the night was scored by Montrose man John Docherty. Two knockdowns saw off Spain-based Nicaraguan Wilmer Gonzalez. Paul O’Connor refereed.

The Verdict Taylor and Inoue both put the ‘super’ in Super Series.

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