LONDON — Josh Taylor’s tireless work ethic and variety of punches ensured him a victory in a close junior welterweight title unification fight against Regis Prograis on Saturday at the O2 Arena in London.
Taylor won by majority decision, earning scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 117-112 to add Prograis’ WBA belt to his IBF version. It was Taylor’s first defense of the title he won earlier this year against Ivan Baranchyk in the best win of his professional career.
Saturday’s victory also earned Taylor the Muhammad Ali trophy for three successive wins in an eight-man elimination tournament, the World Boxing Super Series.
Taylor and Prograis contributed to a back-and-forth, highly technical fight in which with both champions enjoyed moments of dominance. Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), 28, from Edinburgh in Scotland, never let Prograis settle and withstood a last-round onslaught with his right eye swollen shut.
Although Taylor unified two world titles, the debate as to who should be regarded as the world’s best junior welterweight will continue. Jose Ramirez strengthened his case to be considered the leader at 140 pounds with a sixth-round win over Maurice Hooker to unify the WBC and WBO belts on July 27.
A clash between Taylor and Ramirez for all four world titles will determine the division’s undisputed champion, but it will have to wait, as Ramirez is due to make a mandatory defense against former titlist Viktor Postol next, possibly in February on ESPN.
“I knew I could get to him. I don’t think he expected me to be able to switch it up so easily,” Taylor said. “I believe we saw the best of me. Prograis is a great champion, but the best man won.”
Prograis (24-1, 20 KOs), 23, had no complaints about the decision.
“It was a close fight. The better man won on the night,” Prograis said. “I thought it was pretty even up until the last few rounds.”
Prograis was physically smaller than Taylor and was experiencing the hostility of fighting outside the United States for the first time in his career. But this fight was won by Taylor for his work rate, piston-like jab and nonstop aggression as he continued to find openings like no one else had against Prograis.
The clash of two southpaws ebbed and flowed, with each finding openings. Taylor caught Prograis with a left hook in the first round as both tried to establish their authority.
Prograis, who won the WBA belt with a six-round win over Kiryl Relikh in April, was busier with the jab in the second round, but Taylor’s punches had more venom, and he landed a hard right hook also in the second.
Prograis was better in the third, catching Taylor with a right uppercut.
Prograis caught the eye with a decent combination to end the fifth round, but he was unable to get into a rhythm.
Taylor had a good fifth round, outworking and outjabbing Prograis and catching him with a clubbing right late in the round.
Taylor was on top again in the sixth as he walked Prograis back, leaving the fight evenly poised at the halfway mark.
Prograis returned to the front foot early in the seventh, but Taylor responded brilliantly with his snaking jabs and right hooks.
Taylor continued to be the busier boxer, but Prograis’ hand speed was a problem for the Scot, and the American landed flush with a swift left hand on the counter in the seventh.
The following round, it was Taylor who landed the better punches, catching Prograis with two big left hooks as he kept walking back his rival world champion.
Taylor’s persistent pressure earned him the 10th, and Prograis’ right eye was becoming increasingly swollen. Taylor was caught by an uppercut but hardly broke his stride as he resumed his attack in the 11th.
Prograis had Taylor in retreat with a combination in the 12th round. Despite finishing the grueling battle with his right eye swollen shut, Taylor weathered the storm.
Chisora stops Price in fourth round
Dereck Chisora clinically finished off rival English heavyweight David Price by fourth-round TKO to stay in world title contention.
The winner of Chisora-Price had been promised “a monster fight” by promoter Eddie Hearn, and Chisora ensured that he kept his recent momentum going with a furious assault in the fourth.
Chisora (32-9, 23 KOs), 35, who was born in Zimbabwe and has lived in London since childhood, could not afford another setback after fellow Londoner Dillian Whyte knocked him out in the 11th round in March 2018.
Chisora delivered when it mattered, finishing Price in style by landing two rights to the temple and a right uppercut to send him to his knees. Price’s corner threw in the towel after the Liverpool boxer had gotten to his feet and received a count of eight.
A seventh stoppage defeat leaves Price’s career in doubt at age 36, and once again, it was his punch resistance that betrayed him.
Chisora was more aggressive from the start, but both fighters finished a thunderous third round on wobbly legs.
Chisora came bouncing forward with his bobbing-and-weaving style and staggered Price with a left hook. Price looked to be in real trouble, but the 2008 Olympic bronze medalist buckled Chisora’s legs with an uppercut.
Price (25-7, 20 KOs) had his three-fight winning streak snapped Saturday.
Chisora now wants to face New Zealand’s Joseph Parker, the former WBO world titleholder who withdrew at the beginning of the month after being struck down by a spider bite.
“If we can get Joseph Parker ASAP,” Chisora said. “I’m ready to go. I hope he doesn’t get another spider bite. Let’s make that fight asap.”
Selby edges Burns by majority decision
Lee Selby outpointed fellow former world titleholder Ricky Burns by majority decision to win in a close but messy lightweight contest.
The victory gives Selby a lift after he lost his IBF world featherweight title to England’s Josh Warrington on points in May 2018.
Selby (28-2, 9 KOs), 32, from Barry in Wales, earned scores of 116-113, 116-112 and 115-115.
Selby got behind his jab early on and was quicker throughout. Burns (43-8-1, 16 KOs) attacked with lunging bursts and had his moments in a close bout.
Selby had a good fifth round, catching Burns with a left to the jaw. But Burns acted angrily and threw a punch after the bell after he felt Selby had landed late himself.
The fight was fought in good spirit, however, and Burns was better in the sixth and seventh rounds.
There was more holding in the latter rounds, and most of the clean blows came from Selby, who won for the second time since his loss to Warrington.
“I felt I did enough,” Selby said. “I want to become Wales’ first two-weight world champion.”
• Lawrence Okolie is looking for a world title shot in 2020 after winning the European cruiserweight title with an impressive seventh-round stoppage of Belgium’s Yves Ngabu. Okolie (14-0, 11 KOs), from London, left Ngabu on jelly legs when he planted a perfect right to his jaw to earn perhaps the best win of his career. Ngabu was making the third defense of his title.
• English welterweight Conor Benn (16-0, 11 KOs), son of former world champion Nigel Benn, stopped Belgium’s Steve Jamoye (26-8-2, 5 KOs) with a thudding right in the fourth round to improve his record to 16-0. Benn did some good work to the body but had a point taken off for a low blow in the fourth round before finding the finishing shot. Hearn called for Benn to challenge for the British title next.