|Venue: Madison Square Garden, New York Date: Saturday, 10 June|
“We never took anything off him. We just supported him and gave him goals. And he’s still doing it.”
Every day for three years, a young Josh Taylor bounded into Terry McCormack’s Lochend Boxing Club in Edinburgh.
He came to the gym as a 16-year-old part-time pool attendant, but McCormack remembers a kid who had “nothing” except talent, enthusiasm and a determination to be a fighter.
Sixteen years on, Taylor – Britain’s first undisputed world champion in the four-belt era – puts his WBO title on the line in a dream bout with Teofimo Lopez at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
Here, McCormack tells BBC Scotland about the kid Taylor was, and the man and superstar he has become.
‘He smashed every single goal’
Two years before Taylor’s first day at Lochend, he sat in on one of McCormack’s training sessions with former world champion Alex Arthur.
Even though in McCormack’s own words, “you would miss Lochend if you blinked” – an understated hut in the middle of a housing estate – Taylor must have seen enough that day to know it was the place for him, with the Prestonpans fighter going on to become one of the many boxers to come off the club’s talent conveyor belt.
“We gave him goals to achieve,” says McCormack. “Box for Scotland, be the national champion, travel the world, make the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India, make the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.
“He smashed every single one. His hunger and eagerness let him do that.”
The eagerness that allowed him to hit those targets could also set the Scot back in his early years.
McCormack remembers the times when his development was coming on so quickly that they had to source local British champions for him to spar with.
“He was sparring with British champions at 17 years old because he was so good, and he would try and beat them up,” he explained.
“He would get angry too easily if something didn’t come off for him. He felt like everything had to be perfect. That was the hardest part at the beginning, controlling his drive to win and the emotion.”
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“He’s not changed one bit. There’s nothing put on, he’s just natural.”
These are not the words you would particularly associate with someone who is regarded as a national sporting icon.
“He’ll walk in that gym when the kids’ class is on, the ladies’ class or the mixed class. It’s the same Josh Taylor that strolls in like he was 17,” McCormack says.
“He talks the same to them all, he’ll help them out if they need it and if anything needs signing he’ll do it.”
The grounded personality of Taylor – as well as his world-class ability – is not just a positive trait of the individual, but it’s also a glowing endorsement of the club.
McCormack believes that can provide inspiration to not just Lochend, but to Scotland’s boxing community as a whole.
“It just shows kids in Edinburgh and Scotland that you can achieve anything,” he says.
“He’s showed them the blueprint. You can touch him, you can speak to him. You’re not reading it in a magazine about someone from America or Russia and thinking that’s because they have it better or easier than us. Josh has ripped that up and said ‘go for it kids’.”
‘He’ll be remembered forever’
Taylor’s Super Series win against Regis Prograis in 2019 elevated the Scot into the nation’s sporting elite, as the 29-year-old claimed both the Muhammad Ali trophy and WBA belt while retaining his own IBF title.
Taylor continued to push the boundaries and made British boxing history in May 2021, defeating Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas to add the WBC and WBO belts to his name.
Everything Taylor has achieved, McCormack feels he has done it the hard way.
“He’s got to be up there with the all-time greats,” he says. “The opponents he’s faced up until now have been top drawer, they are all in the top 10 in the world.
“It’s not like he has got a padded record and a promoter that is setting him up against nobodies, Josh is fighting the pound-for-pound bests in the division. Right from number one to number 10, he’ll just fight the best.
“He’s a real champion. He’ll be remembered forever.”