Unification fights are, deservedly, a big deal in 21st century boxing as they are about as common as Bigfoot sightings and manna from heaven for hardcore fight fans continually starving for truly meaningful matches. Jose Carlos Ramirez and Josh Taylor clearly deserved their consensus rankings as the top two men in the 140 pound division, and both have shown they are not averse to giving fans action and their opponents punishment. Bottom line: this was a fight fan’s fight, a match that inspired even the most jaded of prizefighting pundits to mark their calendars. No one wanted to miss it and this sense of electric anticipation was only heightened by what looked like genuine animosity between two undefeated warriors at the pre-fight press conferences and the weigh-in.
And thankfully, both Taylor and Ramirez did not let us down, especially in the first half of what proved to be an intriguing and complex distance fight. Taylor’s advantages in terms of quickness and mobility showed early, but Ramirez was undeterred and focused on putting some intense pressure on the Scotsman while landing hurtful body punches. One sensed this was taking a toll on the man from Prestonpans, but then everything changed in round six when Taylor caught Ramirez coming in with a perfectly timed left hand and the American hit the deck.
Ramirez immediately got up and, while rattled, appeared to be unhurt, but that was clearly not the case in round seven when Taylor scored a second knockdown, this time with a beautiful southpaw uppercut, the punch no doubt landing with more authority than would otherwise have been the case, had Kenny Bayless not tapped Ramirez’s arm to indicate he wanted the fighters to break seconds before Taylor launched the shot. The blow connected just as Ramirez, anticipating a lull in the action, relaxed.
In contrast to the earlier knockdown, this time Ramirez was seriously dazed but he was also aided by an obvious slow count from Bayless, the veteran referee no doubt feeling some guilt for letting “JCR” get suckered. Ramirez survived the round but as he was now down two knockdowns in a competitive fight, he faced a long uphill climb to have a chance at a points win. To his credit, he never stopped trying, but it took a couple rounds for him to get his legs back and by then it was clearly Taylor’s fight to lose.
Not to needlessly dwell on the second knockdown, but it did have a huge effect on the outcome. It’s worth noting that this was not a case of Taylor hitting on the break, but more the error of Bayless as his signal to break was clear to Ramirez but not to the Scotsman. As any official will tell you, one doesn’t tap arms to indicate breaks. Instead the ref should give a clear verbal command while pushing apart the fighters or stepping between them. In this case, Bayless tapped one fighter’s arm and then stepped back as Josh let his punch go, for all intents and purposes setting Ramirez up to be clobbered. In addition to this, Bayless was regularly initiating breaks when there was no need to, or hovering so close as to interfere with the action. I cannot be alone in thinking it’s time for Bayless to be planning his retirement party.
While most saw the Scotsman winning with room to spare, all three judges gave it to Taylor by just two points, suggesting that absent the knockdowns the fight could have gone either way, which doesn’t make sense, but let’s not once again dwell on shoddy work from judges since there’s really no point in doing so, but instead accentuate the positive and give credit where it’s due. It was a competitive and entertaining scrap, Ramirez acquitted himself well, and Josh Taylor is one of the best in the game, pound-for-pound. Also worth noting: after only eighteen pro fights, Taylor is clearly a lock for the Hall of Fame.
A concrete indication of how decisive the victory was for “The Tartan Tornado” is reflected by the fact that in the post-fight banter few, if any, are talking rematch. Instead excitement is building for a possible Taylor vs Terence Crawford showdown at welterweight, a highly intriguing match-up, though one suspects Taylor will be out-gunned. Still, it’s an attractive duel between top pound-for-pound talents and one that, presumably, can be easily put together by Top Rank, giving Crawford a long-awaited, and much-deserved, high-profile match-up. But for what it’s worth, this fight fan would be equally stoked to see Taylor mix it up again with Regis Prograis, their first tilt being one of 2019’s best fights.
Finally, it’s worth noting that all the pre-fight bitterness and rancour between Ramirez and Taylor was swept away by displays of sportsmanship and respect, with Josh making clear his trash talk and general obnoxiousness was gamesmanship intended to anger Ramirez, the southpaw looking to take advantage of any reckless aggression. Whether it made a difference in the outcome is impossible to say, but one can’t argue with success, or with the fact that Josh Taylor is now in the running to be 2021’s Fighter Of The Year.
— Neil Crane