02 ARENA, LONDON — Josh Taylor defeated Regis Prograis by the slimmest of margins on Saturday, but in doing so becomes a unified lightweight champion, the World Boxing Super Series winner, and a new face of British boxing.
Prograis and Taylor were fighting for the right to be the WBA and IBF champions, the World Boxing Super Series winner, and an unbeaten athlete made millions of dollars richer as a result.
Both had their styles, evident from the opening bell. Prograis boxed with a distinctive guard in which his left glove protected his chin and his right stayed loose, and he southpaw jabbed Taylor, boxing cute, showing superior activity in the early stages of the contest.
Taylor, in contrast, threw less but had superior power, inspiring raucous applause from the partisan crowd whenever he landed a single chin-crunching uppercut. The Briton's defense differed to the American's, keeping both his forearms high to provide a double-gloved shield against Prograis's incoming patter.
Through four, it was hard to split a winner. The fight, the merging of two champions, always promised to be a technical affair with elite boxing skills on show, and it did not disappoint on the night with both men setting a high pace.
A stamina battle broke out. One decided by who could out-last who. And who could inflict so much misery with their gas-depleting body shots that they'd end up sluggish, with a more porous defense than they had established at the start. Their arms weakening … that defensive guard loosening — an invitation for a quick-fire attack.
That man with the endurance, through six at least, appeared to be Taylor, with Prograis struggling to match the higher tempo. Sensing a shift in work-rate, Taylor worked his way into a higher gear, throwing combinations and attacking Prograis with more purpose than he had shown in the first half of the fight.
While Taylor asserted an authority on the fight in the middle rounds, Prograis won a vital eighth, meaning the final four rounds could be essential in deciding a winner in what was a tight, edge-of-your-seat thriller with war wounds developing. For Taylor, it was bruising on the right eye — a swelling so large it was close to sealing shut. Prograis, meanwhile, had a busted, bloody nose.
See the damage Prograis did to Taylor here …
—DAZN USA (@DAZN_USA) October 26, 2019
… but see Taylor's superior power here:
—Sporting News Fights (@sn_fights) October 26, 2019
The championship rounds were not kind to Prograis as blood rushed out of his nose like a waterfall of claret decorating his lips. Neither fighter escaped injury free and will likely be waking up for days to come, wandering into their bathrooms bleary-eyed, looking in the mirror and seeing the damage, then cursing each other aloud.
But after 12, despite a competitive fight between two athletes at the top of their game, there was only one winner — Taylor, whose majority decision victory was confirmed by the ring announcer Michael Buffer with scorecards of 114-114, 115-113, 117-112.
World Boxing Super Series champion status propels Taylor to the big time
The World Boxing Super Series is the most prestigious tournament in boxing. Each tournament is worth approximately $25 million in prize money for its competitors combined and forces some of the best fighters in the sport into an easily-consumable product for fans, media, and broadcasters.
At the end of each season, there are world titles at stake, career-high paydays, and a torso-sized and spiralized Muhammad Ali trophy.
It also provides a massive platform for the competition winner to go forth into even bigger fights, with the most famous success story from the cruiserweight edition last year, Oleksandr Usyk, recently moving into the heavyweight division where he is eventually expected to provide a reasonable challenge against the best, biggest, and baddest boxers on the planet — Deontay Wilder, Tyson Fury, and Andy Ruiz Jr.
Each of those bouts will be worth millions to Usyk, financially teeing up the charismatic and eccentric Ukrainian for the rest of his life.
The newest recipient of the Ali trophy, the teak-tough Taylor, has all of this to look forward to. A new potential Usyk who has cleared his division of many of its best competitors, ushering in a new lightweight star.