As the calendar wound down to October 26, hardcore fight fans just knew that Prograis vs Taylor would be one of the best matches of the year. And indeed, after a grueling twelve round finale to the World Boxing Super Series 140 pound tournament, Josh Taylor emerged a deserved majority decision winner over a game Regis Prograis in a tremendous battle that exceeded all reasonable expectations. Tactically absorbing yet action-packed, the contest lived up to everything boxing fans were hoping for, with both fighters rising to the occasion and pushing each other to the last bell.
The build-up to Prograis vs Taylor was marked by rising tension and acrimony between the two champions which threatened to boil over at the weigh-in when they went face-to-face and exchanged harsh words aplenty. Fittingly, the fight at the O2 Arena in London proved an intense and violent affair, both men giving and taking and proving themselves more than worthy of the occasion.
In the opening round they sized each other up, Taylor moving more and occasionally stepping in with his jab, while Prograis was countering with wide hooks to the body. When they got in close Taylor imposed himself and then connected with two lefts over the top and a right hook to the body, a sign of the action to follow.
Prograis was moving backwards in the second but still looking to land his hooks to the body and also starting to throw his jab more regularly. Taylor’s tighter guard was serving him well and he looked the better man whenever they got close with the tidier work and shorter hooks. Prograis showed good head movement and threw out some more jabs, but it was Taylor who landed the crisper, scoring shots.
Prograis was slightly busier in a good third round, jabbing well and utilizing superior head movement again. But more and more Taylor looked like the physically stronger man on the inside, scoring with hooks and uppercuts and landing a solid right hook at the bell.
They started battling jabs in the fourth and Prograis let go with a two-fisted attack upstairs. A couple of uppercuts got through for Taylor and he found even more success later in the round. Both men were digging to the body and continued punching right to the bell as the action heated up nicely.
The fifth was another close round with Prograis more aggressive early and letting the heavier shots go, and Taylor jabbing and finding his distance towards the end. The Scotsman landed a great counter left hook and they punched right to the bell again. A quick warning from referee Marcus McDonnell followed at the beginning of the sixth before the fighters got back down to business. Taylor was digging in some beauties downstairs and the home fighter’s right hook was working well in close. He edged in front by four rounds to two at the half way point on my card.
Prograis was trying to get his jab to work but Taylor was just the more accurate fighter, physically imposing himself and putting Prograis on the back foot more and more. In round eight, for the first time I thought Prograis started to show signs of fatigue, but a bump was developing over Taylor’s right eye as well. Prograis was throwing harder shots from the outside and landed flush with a big left as Taylor was coming in, his best shot of the fight so far.
Finding a bit of rhythm in the ninth and getting comfortable on the back foot, Prograis was allowing Taylor to lead and looking to catch him with counters. As they exchanged hooks in close, Taylor got the upper hand again, landing the more effective blows and letting go with some eye-catching hooks and uppercuts. As he sat down in the corner though, the Scotsman’s right eye was closing rapidly, as the Prograis jab had obviously done some damage.
The pattern of the previous few rounds continued in an excellent tenth, Prograis circling on the outside and Taylor pursuing, jabbing and looking to close the distance. His jab was more accurate, his defense tighter and he’d found a home for his left hook over the top of Prograis’ right.
But the visitor came out throwing some heavy hooks to the body in the eleventh and kept his upper body movement flowing, landing a good uppercut too. A cut opened on Taylor and his eye was swelling shut, as both men showed the effects of a hard battle. They fought a fierce exchange of hooks in a splendid, world-class display of blocking, countering and inside fighting. Prograis was just a little bit more effective for me at this point, landing the heavier shots in a brilliant round.
They got right back into the phone box and continued the close quarters action at the start of the twelfth and final stanza. Prograis connected with some strong lefts and Taylor seemed buzzed for a moment, but came firing back yet again with his own hooks. Both men left it all on the line, throwing down right up to the final bell. Prograis had fought doggedly over the last third of the fight and won the last round on my card, but it looked as though Taylor had still gotten the better of it overall as trainer Shane McGuigan hoisted him aloft.
The first two scorecards reflected just what a hard-fought contest it had been, one judge scoring six rounds a piece (114-114) and the other leaning towards Taylor at seven rounds to five (115-113). The third score had it far too wide for Taylor at 117-112, but even so, all should be satisfied that the final outcome reflected the truth of this hard-fought battle. It was highly competitive, but it was Josh Taylor’s night.
The World Boxing Super Series has promised much, and despite a few bumps behind the scenes, the fights in the ring have absolutely delivered, but Prograis vs Taylor might well be the best so far. The two game warriors offered their respect after the winner was crowned, and the proud victor stood with his newly acquired belts to go along with the Muhammed Ali Trophy. At just 16-0 he has established himself as the premier 140 pounder in the world and one of Scotland’s finest fighters.
“Ramirez, let’s do it!” called out Taylor to the only other man who holds world title belts in the division, Jose Carlos Ramirez. So soon after the conclusion of such a brilliant match-up, boxing fans are perhaps in danger of being a bit greedy by expecting Taylor vs Ramirez to be booked right away, but at super lightweight, no other match matters. Having had all four belts unified by Terence Crawford at the same weight just two years ago, it would be amazing if Taylor were to repeat the feat, but based on his performance tonight, you’d have to make him a clear favourite.
Graciously, Prograis agreed the better man on the night had won, saying he felt like the fight was pretty even until the last few rounds, “…[but] then I caught up. I started timing him, I started moving my head. But he won – I give no excuses,” said the former champ. “Hopefully we come back and do a part two and make twenty million dollars.”
Once Ramirez is out of the way, there certainly won’t be any fans complaining about the prospect of a return bout. There are also other options for both men at welterweight if they choose to move up, and a bout between either and Mikey Garcia at 140 would be another mouth-watering clash.
In the end, Taylor won and will walk away a deserving tournament winner, but the stock of both men rose and they can hold their heads high for delivering a thrilling contest that produced everything fight fans had hoped for. Expectations were high for Prograis vs Taylor but they were met and then some, thus giving the World Boxing Super Series, and the sport of pugilism, a major victory. — Matt O’Brien