Historically Scotland has always punched above its weight. For such a small-nation with a small population, it has contributed a lot to the world across many industries and enterprises including a pivotal contribution to communications(TV , Radio, etc ) and economics(free-market), both of which have provided the foundation and ‘blue-print’ for the modern world we enjoy today.
Scottish ‘underdog’ type of accomplishments in sport are no different than the aforementioned examples when it comes to setting a similar benchmark of success, and especially in the case of boxing if you were to consider a country with a small demographic of 4 – 5 million and where football dominates as the overwhelming number one sport and also where pugilism ranks behind Rugby Union, Golf and even Shinty(I ain’t joking!) in terms of popularity.
In addition, boxing associations and organisations in Scotland, in comparison to other nations, maintain a less than stellar amateur infrastructure that is somewhat overlooked, lacks funding and harbors its own internal problems and frictions. But, despite the depth of talent-pool shortcoming and bureaucratic setbacks the nation has still managed to produce some fine boxers; fighters such as Benny Lynch, Walter McGowan, Jackie Paterson, Jim Watt, Dick McTaggart, Alex Arthur, Ricky Burns, Scott Harrison, Gary Jacobs, Pat Clinton, Paul Weir and in my opinion the best of all of the aforementioned bunch: Ken Buchanan.
This coming Saturday we could be witnessing the ascendancy of Josh Taylor, a fighter good enough to be potentially added to the upper echelon of that list of Scottish greats who have graced the ring, providing of course he manages to overcome the unbeaten American Reggie Prograis(24(20KOs)-0) who the Scot will be fighting in a super-lightweight world title unification bout at the O2 Arena in London; a bout that will bring the winner a host of titles including the defense of his own IBF title, Prograis’s WBA title and the World Boxing Super Series Muhammad Ali. trophy.
The match-up between the pair should prove to be at the very least lively and action packed, as both men are undefeated, confident and understand the magnitude of the occasion in relation to the juncture of their career.
On paper at least, Prograis seems the more experienced of the two, having competed in a greater number of fights than the Scotsman. However, the quality of that opposition on his record doesn’t really ‘grab your attention’ until about his 15th pro fight. There’s even a few scalps of a few unbeaten fighters or those with a ‘blip or two’ on their record, but the majority of those opponents have been exposed in their own comebacks against lesser unknown boxers which in turn indicates their level of quality.
In retrospect, Taylor pips his U.S. counterpart in the experience department in terms of quality of opposition with wins over the likes of Ryan Martin, Ivan Baranchyk and Victor Postol; fights of a higher caliber that also came earlier in his career vis-a-vis that of his Prograis’s slightly lesser competitive bouts of Terry Flannigan, Julius Indongo and Kiryl Relikh .
But with the above said, there’s potentially a couple of concealed and hidden factors surrounding the Texan that could help to level-out the slight imbalance in experience between both men, if you take into account the sparring he claims to have been exposed to from day one of his boxing career? The U.S. southpaw mentioned in a recent TV interview to have been ‘around the block’ in the world of boxing, sparring with the likes of the Charlo brothers and other world champions of a high standard and how he overcame daily beatings to end up holding his own in these affairs. The quality and caliber of his past gym experience might surface against his Scottish opposite on Saturday?
For the most part, the American southpaw possesses good balance, power, speed, reflexes and accuracy, while being elusive with his upper-body in defence and a style that affords him to throw punches from awkward angles. This is part of his game that Taylor has to be wary of, as Prograis has proven he “can bang” and throws particularly dangerous body-shots from a low-center of gravity with a tucked in chin that helps to minimize the attack surface to any counter or response. In addition, Prograis also likes to tee-up his over-hand left which will be another dangerous shot for the Scot to beware of.
Another factor here, that could potentially be the making or breaking of Taylor, is the spite he carries. The Scot possesses a mean-streak that can be as much of a blessing as it can be a curse in a fight if not controlled. So far he has controlled it well, but he seems to have a ‘bee in his bonnet’ about Prograis to the point of viewing it as a grudge match, while his opponent for this coming Saturday seems calm and relaxed with no display of animosity.
Fighters who exhibit that extra bit of venom in their demeanor usually find a thermal in their spite from which to elevate their game. The edge that brings can allow for a number of advantages such as an increase in punching power due to there being extra desire and emphasis to put ‘everything’ into their blows to really hurt the opponent; it can cause an extra level of output due to their desire to punish and impose, and also provide a higher pain threshold due to a reluctance to be beaten at any cost. It worked greatly for Tommy Hearns in his career, but it was also his down-fall in his epic bout against Marvin Hagler, (for more on that encounter click here) as it caused him to engage recklessly in a way “The Marvelous One” benefited from and which the legendary middleweight southpaw took full advantage of.
If Josh lets his spite-fullness get the better of him, is over-keen and too hasty to impose himself or allows the ‘red-mist’ to set-in, he could find himself in trouble as not only can Prograis punch but he can also find awkward angles that might catch the Scotsman unaware during a ‘firefight’?
As the old adage goes: ‘it’s the punches you don’t see coming that hurt you.’
Going into the fight most pundits have this as a 50/50, but I see the fight more of a 55 / 45 in Taylor ‘s favor if can expose his opponents weaknesses and flaws. Which he has quite a few of.
TAYLOR’S KEYS TO VICTORY
Prograis has a tendency to show repetition behind his jab when coming forward, which he does behind a predictable and measured pace, being comfortable to throw single or double jabs with little variety in order to get into range where he ‘comes alive’ to unleash his vicious body-shots or get his left straight or overhand of. He also has a proclivity to drop his hands after throwing the lead and also during exchanges, which could allow for Josh to find success down the right-handside of his opponent.
I think if Taylor can find his rhythm and keep it long, using his reach and height advantage, the he may find success throwing his left-hand ‘down the pipe’ or hooking of his lead hand or jab feints as Prograis drops his hands reflexively quite a bit after jabbing, during exchanges or when initiating attacks, making him susceptible to this.
In particular his right-handside is the more vulnerable side as he has a tendency at times to drop his hand there as far as below his groin protector. So far he has gotten away with this due to his sharpness and evasiveness and the ability and reluctance of his opp to engage in any meaningful way because of his punching power. He also has an uncanny ability to dictate the pace, but lacks taking advantage of this when it comes to ‘moving through the gears’ in a fight and almost overly content to pot-shot on the outside until he gets inside where he unloads a little more.
This might suit Taylor if he chooses to ‘box’ from the outside and pick his shots?
Inside at short-range is probably where Prograis will be most dangerous for the Scotsman and where he will be looking to position himself.
Taylor has to be extra switched on here and wary here because although he is himself is a good body puncher and could easily compete here to the point he could hurt his American counterpart in a similar fashion, this is an area where the U.S. southpaw may find more success than the Scot in a firefight, due to the Scotsman’s height, reach and in the way that Prograis can be elusive and find angles from a low position. With that said, Josh may be able to counter any advantage here with upper-cuts(particularly the left upper-cut) if timed properly?
Obviously the Scotsman in me wants Taylor to win, but patriotic bias aside and going against the majority of pundits, I honestly think Josh can come away with a victory due to his capability to expose the little flaws that Prograis has been thus so far been getting away with against lesser opposition .
I am personally predicting a points win or late stoppage for Josh if he can expose the aforementioned weaknesses that his U.S. opponent presents. Which I think he can with his ability, speed and sharpness.
In summary, I think this is what Taylor needs to do to win:
- Take advantage of Prograis tendency to drop his hands after he jabs or when he moves his upper-body for defence during exchanges or when he initiates attacks
- Expose his habit of holding his left-hand under his chin and across his chest exposing the left side of his jaw, especially after he jabs predictably
- Be extra wary of his body-shots (especially his from his left) and over left-hand
- Josh should take advantage of his physical height and reach and keep it long and commanding, until an opportune time to unleash on the inside with uppercuts then step back out of range to reset
- Don’t stay in the pocket too long to allow Prograis to take advantage of his strengths
- Give him angles, as he lacks a little when it comes to lateral movement and can place himself in bad positions
- Feint Prograis into reacting in order to counter, as he can momentarily expose his chin when responding
- Don’t allow Prograis to set a pace that suits him(he has an uncanny ability to dictate the pace)