Josh Taylor on the dark arts – mind games, prying eyes, psychological warfare, the intimidation factor… | boxing news
Josh Taylor knows he can smash an opponent before they even throw punches at them.
He is the master of the dark arts of boxing. No one is more astute in the days leading up to battle, no one is more comfortable in the midst of chaos. No one thrives more when a rivalry escalates, when it gets personal, when it threatens to cross a line.
Jack Catterall, his challenger for the undisputed welterweight championship on Saturday night in Scotland, live on Sky Sports, could be going through a grueling few days before the fight even begins.
It’s all part of Taylor’s unique and vicious way of winning inside the ring.
“Two or three days before the fight, I change and transform into a completely different character,” he says.
His friends call him “Hank” after the angry character of Jim Carrey in Me, myself and Irene.
In boxing circles, it’s called “flicking a switch” – the moment when a fighter abandons their usual persona and transforms into a new version of themselves.
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“Sometimes my mindset changes when I know I’ll see the opponent,” Taylor says. “I don’t want to talk to the guy, I want to hurt him.
“I want to get my hands on him and give him a leather.
“When my mindset changes, I start attacking things to piss him off.
“I always had a feeling during fight week that I wanted to beat him.”
The first time Taylor used these psychological tricks was in a grudge match with Ohara Davies. He insists their first face-off revealed Davies’ inner weakness.
“It was the first argument I had where there was bad blood between us,” he says.
“I knew straight away. From the first time we met, I knew.
“When our fight was announced he came to Glasgow for a press conference. I knew straight away I was beating him.
“It was his body language. I could tell right away by his actions and how he looked at me.
“I can tell if they’re intimidated, confident or shy.
“So I can feed on it.
” In person ? He was like a mouse. He is brave online but not in person.
” I’m not like that. So when did I meet him? I knew right away that I would beat him.
There was an incident where Taylor approached Davies at an airport, which he also drew strength from.
“I approached him. I confronted him because of what he was saying online. I don’t respect spokespersons.”
Regis Prograis was another undefeated world champion and Taylor’s rival in the World Boxing Super Series finale.
“I thought he was nervous on The Gloves Are Off,” Taylor says.
“I could just see, before the cameras were on, his body language.
“I don’t put on a character. What you see is what you get. I don’t have an alter-ego.”
Jose Ramirez, like Taylor, was undefeated and held two world championship belts. They would face off in Las Vegas to decide undisputed supremacy.
But Ramirez’s reputation as a quiet, respectable man who worked tirelessly for charities made it difficult for Taylor to stir up a rivalry.
“It’s different because I knew he was a nice guy,” he says.
“So I had to find something that I didn’t like.
“I ended up getting annoyed with the way he spoke when he spoke! I just had to come up with something!
“I thought to myself that I didn’t like the way he spoke.
“But Wednesday of fight week, I hated the guy. No matter who was in front of me, I hate them and want to hurt them.”
Taylor looked deep into Ramirez’s eyes and managed to intimidate him during their confrontations: “I saw that he looked pale, sucked and dry-eyed. I felt he was a little nervous.
“I told him, ‘You’re struggling to gain weight, but don’t use it as an excuse.
“I got into his head and beat him mentally.
“In all aspects of mental battles, I beat him.
“The final nail in the coffin for him was when I won the coin toss to see who got in the ring first and last. I chose to go last. I thought : ‘I beat him in every battle of the week’.”
The most memorable occasion took place in a hotel lobby when an ugly clash broke out – Ramirez was surrounded by his people, Taylor’s crew was much smaller.
“His brothers and his friends started insulting me,” Taylor says. “I pressed the elevator button. Ramirez walks up to me and punches me in the chest.
“They ambushed me.
“There were hundreds of Mexican fans there.”
Taylor convinced himself he was in Ramirez’s backyard and was an outsider with a point to prove.
“In America, I felt everything was against me. It said ‘Ramirez vs. Taylor’ on the poster. Why? I know now it’s a small thing.
“The three judges who were selected were all Americans. Then the referee was Kenny Bayliss – he was the only referee I didn’t want.
“The odds were against me, so I wanted to hurt Ramirez.”
It will be different this week – Taylor’s title defense against Catterall is his return fight in Scotland, but expect the same shenanigans in the days leading up to the battle.
“There are psychological games all the time,” he warns.
“I never think, ‘That’s my game plan to do it’.
“But you try to beat them mentally before you get in the ring.”
Can he get into Catterall’s head?
“It’s on a case-by-case basis. I never go into a fight thinking, ‘How can I play mind games?’
“But you assess them. Analyze them.”
Taylor learned these hustles from childhood and has now come full circle.
“It’s me. It’s who I am. If someone sticks it to me, I’ll defend myself whether there’s a camera or not.
“It’s growing up. I was a shy kid, I would never ask for what I wanted. I would do everything I could to avoid confrontation.
“But I would defend myself. And I have a hot temper.
“I’m calm and kind, and I hate confrontation, believe it or not! If I know there’s going to be an argument, I’d rather walk away. But if it’s about me…”
Josh Taylor will defend his undisputed welterweight titles against Jack Catterall in Scotland on Saturday February 26, live on Sky Sports Action and Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm.