THE shaman takes a burning stick and uses the embers to delicately burn through a layer of his patient’s skin. He then applies the carefully harvested kambo – a secretion taken from the giant monkey frog – to the new wounds. This ancient ceremony isn’t taking place in the steamy depths of the Amazon rainforest but in south east Manchester and the focus of the healing ritual isn’t a tribal warrior but Middleton welterweight, Liam Taylor.
“I’ve had three treatments. It’s a serious detox,” Taylor told BN. “How you detox depends on how you live I think. I live quite clean so it’s never been too bad. You can feel terrible at first and they leave you alone for a little while. Within an hour or so you feel totally re-energised. I feel great afterwards.
“I’ve also done some breathwork. You concentrate on a breathing pattern for about 40 minutes. You start seeing shapes, your hands look strange. It’s very difficult to explain to be honest with you. Two people watch over you and you’re fully aware of everything that’s going on. I really liked it.”
Kambo can be used to prepare the body for the mind opening Ayahuasca ceremony but that step in Taylor’s spiritual journey will have to go on the back burner for the time being. “Ayahuasca will have to wait until I’ve finished boxing. Apparently the visions it brings on are more to do with love.”
Taylor has remained unbeaten during the four years he has spent at The Finest Gym on the outskirts of Manchester’s city centre. New recruits can initially be taken aback by the standard of dedication and technical precision required by trainer, Steve Maylett but Taylor adapted quickly and has begun to exert his own influence. These days it is commonplace to see former WBO lightweight champion, Terry Flanagan, following a yoga routine after a heavy speed and power session and veganism, long distance cycling and open water swimming have all found their way into the lives of his gym mates.
“I’d like to think I have,” he said. “Everybody brings different things to the table. I don’t like to preach but if anybody is willing to listen then I’ll give my side of things and I’m willing to listen to others. I came here and didn’t have a clue about the importance of water and all other things so I’ve taken that on and I’ve given my own. It’s worked out well.”
An Ayahuasca ceremony can bring repressed memories to the fore and induce a dream-like state of timelessness. If Taylor does one day take the trip, four seconds in particular might play over and over. Last October the 29-year-old dropped Chris Jenkins before a head clash opened up the Welshman’s eye and brought an abrupt end to proceedings as the fourth round drew to a close. Ahead on the scorecards, Taylor was four seconds away from becoming the British and Commonwealth champion. Instead, the title fight was declared a technical draw. Rather than being granted an immediate rematch, Taylor had to watch on as Conor Benn was installed as Jenkins’ mandatory challenger.
Next Wednesday (August 26), he gets back to business and takes on the tough, unbeaten Darren Tetley. A victory will put him right back in the title mix and give him the chance to bury the Jenkins heartbreak even deeper in his subconscious.
“I thought about it for the next month or so. It probably ruined my Christmas period,” he said. “It was hard to take at first but I had a fresh start in the new year and knew that I had to push on.
“I knew that if I got beaten convincingly then it would definitely be my last fight. That’s how I see my career now. I’m at domestic level but I commit myself like a world champion does. If I couldn’t win at this level with this much effort then I wouldn’t be fighting.
“I won a title eliminator against a worthy opponent in Tyrone Nurse and was winning against the current champion and not to be given an immediate rematch hurt. Conor Benn can’t fight as well as me. He can’t fight as well as Chris Jenkins. He doesn’t deserve it. It’s as simple as that. There are ten British fighters who deserve it more than him.
“I’m in boxing to test myself and I’m now of the mindset that I’m not bothered which titles are on the line. As long as I’m in exciting fights where I can push myself against good talent, that’s all that matters.”