WBO & Ring Magazine light-welterweight world title: Josh Taylor (19-0) v Teofimo Lopez (18-1) (Madison Square Garden, Sunday, 3am, live on Sky Sports)
YOU can tell when the rivalry is genuine and this one is. The lava in Josh Taylor’s volcanic heart is never far from the surface on fight week and Lopez’s long rambles have had the ‘Tartan Terror’ spitting with rage.
Taylor follows in the footsteps of his late, great countryman Ken Buchanan by fighting at New York’s famous ‘Garden’. Buchanan was box office there in the early 1970s and he was favourite against Roberto Duran in 1972 but the Panamanian – with the help of a few head butts and low blows – stopped him in the 13th of the 15 rounds.
Taylor can avenge that defeat. He hasn’t fought since he got a debatable decision against Josh Catterall back in February last year. He needs a win, and a performance, to erase the memory of that night in Glasgow and beating the man who beat Lomachenko will give him that.
“He means what he says and I mean what I say,” said Taylor.
“There is genuine dislike here. He’s been disrespectful and I’m going to make him pay for his words on Saturday. I can’t wait to get in there. You will see a Josh Taylor win, possibly by KO, and nice and early as well.”
Despite his obvious distaste for Lopez’s banter, he has due respect for his skills and adds: “I know he’s a good fighter.
“The version that beat Lomachenko is a very good fighter and that’s the version I’m preparing for. It’s all about your preparation. I’ve prepared diligently and to the best of my ability. You’ll see the best of me on Saturday night.
“This is dream come true. You always dream of coming stateside and fighting in venues like this. This is the 'Mecca of Boxing', Madison Square Garden. I can’t wait to get in there to make this dream become a reality, and this clown here is in my way.”
Born and bred in Brooklyn, Lopez has fought at The Garden eight times and he became world champion at the famous Manhattan venue in December 2019 when he headlined a bill that included Michael Conlan’s vengeance against Olympic Games nemesis Vladimir Nikitin.
‘The Takeover’ unified his titles by beating Lomachenko but lost the belts on split decision against George Kambosos junior. This weekend he steps up to light-welterweight against Taylor.
“What is ‘The Takeover’ if he doesn’t take over the guys that are the kingpins of the division?” asked Lopez.
“So, when it comes to Josh Taylor and the junior welterweights, he is the guy. That’s the guy that you have to beat to be the greatest. That’s what we aim for all the time.
“I worked my a** off. Eleven weeks of camp. This is going to be the best version of me. Practice makes improvement. We’ve improved since my last fight. We’re ready to put on a show. I’m going to be a two-time lineal world champion.”
“I’m excited about this. This is like a dream come true. What more can you really shoot for? Nobody has really called out Josh Taylor. Who knows why? Maybe because he beat everyone already. But I’m here. I’m here to come in there and take everything that you’ve got.”
A terrific fight that isn't getting the media attention it deserves, Taylor will need to be back to his best against a fighter who has beaten the best. Worth setting your alarm clock for.