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August 28, 2020

Post-Fight Report: Prograis vs. Taylor

by Matt O'Brien

An edited version of this article was originally published on on October 27th, 2019:

In a gruelling twelve-round finale to the World Boxing Super Series, Josh Taylor emerged a deserved majority decision winner over a game Regis Prograis. Tactically absorbing yet action-packed, the contest lived up to everything boxing fans were hoping for, with both men having moments of ascendency and pushing each other to the last bell.

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 connected with two lefts over the top and followed it up with a right hook to the body, in 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 out his own jab more regularly. Taylor’s tighter guard was serving him well and he looked the better man whenever they got close, his longer arms doing the tidier work with shorter hooks. Prograis showed good head movement and threw out some more jabs, but it was Taylor who seemed to be landing the crisper, scoring shots.

Prograis was slightly busier in a good third round, jabbing well and utilizing superior head movement again. Taylor was starting to look like the physically stronger man on the inside, scoring with some neat hooks and uppercuts and landing a solid right hook at the bell, though Prograis shaded the round for me.

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 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 on and letting the heavier shots go, and Taylor jabbing and finding his distance more towards the end. The Scotsman landed a great counter left hook near the end of the stanza and they punched right to the bell once again. A quick warning from referee Marcus McDonnell followed at the beginning of the sixth before the fighters got back down to business, exchanging more hooks to the body. 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 the first signs of tiredness and the effects of battle on his face, but a bump was developing over Taylor’s right eye, too. Prograis was throwing harder shots from the outside and landed flush with a big left as Taylor was coming in, a peach of a shot and his best 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 took 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, with Prograis’ jab obviously getting through and doing some damage.

The pattern of the previous few rounds continued in an excellent tenth round, Prograis circling on the outside and Taylor pursuing, jabbing and looking to close the distance. Taylor landed another beautiful hook at close range; his jab was more accurate, his defence tighter and he’d found a home for his left hook over the top of Prograis’ right.

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’s face 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 round. 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 until to the final bell. Prograis fought doggedly over the last third of the fight and took the last round on my card, but it looked as though Taylor had still taken the fight 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). As Michael Buffer announced the final card it was perhaps a bit wide at 117-112, but it could have only gone in Taylor’s favour.

The Take Away

The World Boxing Super Series has promised much, and despite a few bumps behind the scenes, the fights in the ring have absolutely delivered – and this was very probably the best serving so far. The two embraced and offered their respect after the winner was crowned, and Taylor 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 140lbs fighter in the world and one of Scotland’s finest fighters.

“Ramirez, let’s do it!” called out the new unified IBF and WBA champ to his WBC and WBO counterpart, Jose 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 the Taylor-Ramirez fight to be booked right away, but no other fight matters now at 140lbs. Having had all four belts unified by Terrence Crawford at the same weight just two years ago, it would be amazing if Taylor were to repeat the feat – and 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, “and 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 options for both men at 147lbs if they choose to move up, with huge potential fights with the likes of Terrence Crawford, Errol Spence and Manny Pacquiao awaiting in the higher division. A bout between either man and Mikey Garcia moving back down to 140 would be another mouth-watering clash.

In the end, Taylor won the fight and will walk away a deserving tournament winner, but both men’s stock rose and they can hold their heads high for delivering a thrilling contest that produced everything boxing fans had hoped for.

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