Of all the fights on Saturday, the biggest took place in London, where Josh Taylor narrowly outpointed Regis Prograis to unify the IBF and WBA titles at 140 pounds and win the World Boxing Super Series, though that last part sadly felt like something of an afterthought other than the presence of the big Muhammad Ali Trophy in the ring after the fight.
Now, Taylor (16-0, 12 KO) looks forward to what’s next as he buds into a possible real star for the sport, and there are some big ideas.
The biggest fight out there for Taylor, at least at 140 and on paper, is obviously a full unification with Jose Ramirez, who holds the WBO and WBC titles.
Politically, there doesn’t appear to be much stopping Taylor from doing what he wants. He’s not a Matchroom fighter, although Eddie Hearn secured a deal to get Taylor’s fights on Sky Sports in the UK, and he’s not tied to DAZN. And at any rate, Hearn and Matchroom did just work with Top Rank to have Ramirez fight Maurice Hooker on DAZN, which wound up working out for everyone other than Hooker, and hell, even then Hooker’s profile got a boost in a terrific fight where he was incredibly gracious in defeat. If the deal was right for Taylor-Ramirez, I bet the fight could be made even if Matchroom were involved, and it’s no secret that Matchroom would love to do at least a co-promotional, long-term deal with Taylor.
Ramirez (25-0, 17 KO) is currently on the shelf, recently undergoing hand surgery and planning an “early 2020” return against WBC mandatory challenger Viktor Postol. That’s the real issue, probably — Taylor isn’t going to want to wait until at least late spring 2020 to fight again, probably, so while this could very well happen next year, it probably isn’t going to happen next. That’s a shame, but injuries happen and the schedule is what it is, there’s no room for Ramirez to get back into action until at least January.
Rematch with Regis Prograis
There’s probably still something you can sell here, and we know Prograis (24-1, 20 KO) would like to run it back; he said exactly that in his post-fight interview, while giving credit to Taylor for being “the better man” on the night, which got him some appreciative cheers in London.
If you do it again, it’s still best off in the UK, but I don’t think Prograis can complain too much about any favoritism on the cards. All the scores — 114-114, 116-112, and 117-112 — are defensible, I think. You’re talking 6-6, 8-4, and 8-3-1, nothing was too crazy about that, and I say that as someone who had it 6-6.
I don’t know that Taylor would prefer to do an immediate rematch, but it might be the biggest fight for him if he wants to stay at 140. With Ramirez shelved and obligated to face Postol next anyway — he’ll also have a mandatory with Jack Catterall due at some point, while we’re at it — Prograis looks like the biggest fish in the pond still, and by quite a bit. Maurice Hooker is moving up, he’s already beaten Ivan Baranchyk and Postol, and then you’re getting into the likes of Kiryl Relikh, Eduard Troyanovsky, Jose Zepeda, Mario Barrios, and others on that level. Like 147, it’s a division very strong up top, but fades pretty significantly as you go down the list a bit. There are few credible threats to Taylor at 140, and other than perhaps Adrien Broner moving back down in weight, few real names, either.
Which, of course, could mean a move up.
As soon as Prograis-Taylor officially got finalized and all that, when it was clear it was really going to happen, I thought about the winner as a potential for for WBO welterweight titleholder Terence “Bud” Crawford.
Crawford (35-0, 26 KO) is in just an awful career spot in many ways. I mean, in some ways, he isn’t, he’s getting big money to fight guys everyone knows he’s going to beat without much trouble, and that’s kind of the dream, isn’t it? But as far as legacy goes, this year has stunk. When it’s all said and done, Crawford will have taken to the ring twice, once in a flop pay-per-view against an overpaid and overmatched Amir Khan, and once against mandatory challenger Egidijus Kavaliauskas, who has a weird name for most American yokels, so they have to put “MEAN MACHINE” on the fight poster. Some of y’all harp on WWE, but fuck, even they don’t call someone “MEAN MACHINE.”
When Crawford gets through with the Kavaliauskas fight — I’m frankly not even entertaining the idea that he might lose to Kavaliauskas, who barely survived with a draw against Ray Robinson in March — he’s going to be right back to the same problem he’s had all year: he’s a top-flight welterweight with zero top-flight welterweights to fight.
That’s because, as we’ve had to discuss ad nauseam all year long, Premier Boxing Champions have all the other big names at 147 pounds, and PBC and Top Rank are not working together to get “Bud” a big fight. Top Rank tried to get Danny Garcia, and they were turned down, so they had to shell out for a faded Amir Khan, and let’s be real, no Amir Khan we’ve ever seen was going to beat Terence Crawford.
Top Rank could bid big for the services of Taylor in order to secure Crawford one actual salable fight in 2020. If Crawford were to beat Taylor convincingly — by which I mean, no need for a rematch at all — then Top Rank would be right back to the same problem, but boxing generally does put the short-term in focus, patching roads forever and just waiting for the same pothole to inevitably return, with the full knowledge that it will, hoping to be able to patch it again right away.
There’s also a chance that if Taylor does move up, a PBC offer could be more enticing. And if you think about it, yeah, they’re more crowded at 147, but that means they also have the bigger roster of name fighters, in that they have more than one at the weight.
Errol Spence Jr, Manny Pacquiao, Shawn Porter, Keith Thurman, Danny Garcia, even Sergey Lipinets and Yordenis Ugas. Fighting Crawford gives Taylor a chance to beat Crawford, but fighting Crawford could also come with Top Rank having options or even wanting to do a full co-promotional deal with Taylor.
Going to PBC, on the other hand, could open Taylor up to lots of big fights, even/especially if it means working with PBC long-term. Say he fought a Porter or a Thurman and won. Then he’s in line to fight a Spence or Pacquiao. Even if he were to start with Lipinets, the opportunity is there to win and move on to bigger fights, worth a lot of money.
This is all theoretical, of course. Taylor has indicated no immediate interest in going to 147, but if the money starts flying his way — and it very well could — it might be too good to pass up. Boxers have short windows, and Taylor’s turning 29 on Jan. 2. He’s a talented southpaw who just scored the biggest win of his pro career. He’s going to be in demand in one of boxing’s best and richest divisions.
All of the welterweight business — and really all of this business — is also dependent on whether or not Taylor does sign with Matchroom, which has been rumored. Eddie Hearn openly stated he’d spoken with Cyclone Promotions about this past spring, and of course there’d be interest there, they’re a major UK promotional firm and Taylor is becoming a real UK star. But if you look at that DAZN/Sky stable, there’s not a lot of beef at 140 or 147 there.
Maybe Taylor would be perfectly content to ride out his career as a UK pay-per-view attraction fighting the likes of Lewis Ritson or Josh Kelly or Conor Benn or Luke Campbell, or picking the final meat off the bones of Amir Khan, but I have the feeling that’s not the case.
So we’ll see. Taylor is in a great spot career-wise and there’s a good chance money he never dreamed of could be flying his way soon.