WHEN Middleton’s Liam Taylor (21-1, 10 KOs) outpointed Tyrone Nurse over 10 rounds last November, to line up a crack at the British welterweight title, the 28-year-old was delighted with the verdict yet angry that it was a split decision rather than a unanimous one.
“Dynamo” felt aggrieved and let his feelings be known in the dressing room when someone said that it was a close fight in the eyes of some, this writer included, and that there were some close rounds. Wide-eyed, hyped up on adrenaline and, quite frankly, looking a bit maniacal, Taylor came over to me and asked me for my verdict. I had scored it a draw, 95-95, so admitted that, half-expecting to be put on blast, only for Taylor to tell me that he respected my decision while disagreeing with it.
Looking back at the fight, it was a clear and handy win for Taylor so it made me wonder if, and no matter how hard we try, some bias, unconscious or otherwise, flavours how we score a meeting between someone who is unheralded and a former British champion who has been on Sky Sports and draws more water in the game.
“Of course, it plays a big part generally — it is just how it works out,” said Taylor when talking to Boxing News. “I thought I won it pretty handily so was lucky that [promoter] Steve Wood had put the money up to get home advantage. He went out of his way to do that. It could have swayed in another direction if it was in his back garden.”
“Things got said before the fight,” he added. “He said in a few interviews that I wasn’t good enough so I’d had enough and decided to prove him wrong on the night. Looking back, I still don’t think that was the best of me. There is more to me than that performance.
“Before the fight, the nerves got to me a little bit. I didn’t think they were showing too much, but [trainer] Steve [Maylett] knows me as a fighter and said: ‘Look, you’ve worked too hard for this — you are just as good as him so don’t question yourself’. I probably did show the nerves in the first few rounds, didn’t settle until about round three, and that is an experience that I will learn from. I will be quicker in the earlier rounds for the British title.”
The win was doubly sweet because it was a rematch. In their first fight, Nurse dropped Taylor with a body shot in the fourth and ran out a points winner. This time, though, the tables were turned and those 20 rounds with an experienced campaigner like Nurse will prove invaluable.
That loss to Nurse was followed by a win over Mark McKray, Taylor was dropped in that one too and later found out that he had a ruptured tendon in his central right knuckle. Hand surgeon Mike Hayton did the best work he could with it yet warned the fighter that the injury meant that he might never box again.
“I had six-month’s rehabilitation and almost two-years out in total so was wondering if it would all work at the end of it,” admitted Taylor. “I do triathlons between fights. I like to push myself in that way and never want to be a slob so I am always at it. I don’t drink too much, a few times a year, so I kept busy and physically active.
“I worked hard to get it right — in the end it was fine. It was a while before I could punch, I just pushed my way through it and thought if I couldn’t box again I’d continue to push myself with more triathlons. Then boxing came around again so I decided to stick to what I know, getting punched in the face.”
The rest allowed him time to think about his career. Changes were made when he got the go-ahead to return, long-time trainer Darren McCarrick was replaced with Maylett, whose analytical approach to training is a big factor in Taylor’s recent run of form.
“I got injured after McKray so had time to think about where I wanted my career to go. It was the best part of two-years, I decided to make a change and it was a smart decision. I feel like I’ve got a lot of momentum since joining Steve. I feel it in the gym in every camp. The times are improving,” he said.
“Steve is really particular about things. Every detail is covered. Even last time [a six-round decision win over Edvinas Puplauskas], I probably didn’t listen properly in the sense of finishing some things right so we spoke about it after and agreed that when I raise up to the [Chris] Jenkins fight I will be more switched on and show more of the defensive side of things. It is all down to Steve, definitely.”
There had been hopes of meeting Jenkins in May. It now looks likely that it will take place later this year. Taylor believes their meeting will be a classic British title fight. “Jenkins is a very good fighter, don’t get me wrong, but I think I’ve got the beating of him in a high-energy fight that will be good to watch and a treat for the fans,” he predicted.
In the meantime, you would be forgiven for thinking that Taylor might enjoy a few weekends of socialising to keep himself loose before the big one. When we spoke he had just come back from Spain and was about to go on another, completely different, weekend break.
“I’m going on a yoga, vegan retreat — kind of a detox break,” he said when asked what his plans were. “It is my girlfriend’s idea. I do a bit of Yoga anyway so she asked if I fancied this detox retreat. I thought why not. She became vegan a few years ago after watching a programme on TV. I didn’t think she’d do it because she likes steaks, chocolates and all that. She stayed with it and has been at it for three-years now.
“I’m a vegan between training camps myself. When I’m in camp, Steve sets out my diet and it has to include meat. I decided to get into it to make things easier in the kitchen. I enjoy it. It’s quite a good way to live. It is hard, but it has got better as people are really into it now. We were in Marbella and it is really big over there. You can get everything you need. There are lot of substitutes for people with a sweet tooth. They do substitute meat burgers now that taste like beef burgers but are plant-based. It is mad.”
Still, switching from a pure vegan diet to the more traditional boxing one must take its toll in the early days of a training camp. “Yeah, I feel it for the first week,” he said.
“I did try to stay vegan in camp yet my times were impacted on the track and that. We saw it was hitting my performance levels so we decided to switch back to meat when I’m in camp for a fight. I’ll start off vegan, then after a few weeks if I start to feel tired Steve will tell me it is time to get back on my fighting diet. It aids me in a way in the end and it works well.
“I am vegan for health reasons more than anything else. When you read up on what is really in meat it is mad, and scary. After boxing, I’m definitely going full vegan. I’m not going to go around telling everyone I’m vegan all the time, though, because some of them are mad, aren’t they?”
Yep, some vegans have the fanaticism of people who been born again — be it into religion, training or anything else — and try to force their views on other people or take their level of commitment to the extreme. Although he is prepared to enjoy weekend retreats with these types of people, Taylor is not a full-on militant vegan.
“I class myself as someone who eats a plant-based diet. Some of them take it too far. Animal materials being in lots of things is part and parcel of us being at the top of the food chain. You need to farm the animal population to get meat on the shelves. I stick to organic stuff in camp because the cheap meat can be really bad for you. I could go on about this all day, but everyone has their own preferences,” he said.
Ultimately, it is working for Taylor and he hopes that when the time comes he can become the Apex Predator of the domestic 147lbs division.