Last night at the Virgin Hotel in Las Vegas Josh Taylor became the sixth fighter to unify all four sanctioning body titles. This was a fantastic match up on paper and the fight was a highly skilled contest with plenty of grit mixed in. Going in I expected a toe to toe war with each fighter throwing one thousand punches and having a dramatic fight to the finish. The actual bout was more of a chess match with both fighters patiently taking turns trying to exploit weaknesses. The first few rounds of the fight were very competitive and closely matched as my scorecard and Andre Ward’s scorecard were polar opposites after four rounds. I had Taylor ahead 39 to 36 whereas Ward had Ramirez winning 39 to 36. Viewing the official scores from Steve Weisfeld, Tim Cheatham, and Dave Moretti revealed an interesting variation in the awarding of rounds. Though my card saw Taylor take a big lead after seven rounds the fight was very competitive with both fighters connecting with their power punches in every round.
The fight took a dramatic turn in the sixth round when Ramirez came out on the attack and Taylor slipped to his left and came back with a short left hand to the jaw that dropped Ramirez. Ramirez did not appear to be hurt and came back strong in the round with a nice three punch combination with a hard left hook to the ribs. Robert Garcia was very upset with Ramirez when he returned to the corner and instructed him to bend more at the waist when coming in and to be first. Taylor was the more active fighter and I think that this activity is what carried the day for him. The seventh round was a strong round for Taylor and with twenty-six seconds to go Ramirez was floored on the inside with a short left uppercut. Ramirez fell backwards and rolled to his side and he stumbled momentarily when trying to get up. Ramirez was in serious trouble as referee Kenny Bayless studied his body language to see if he could continue. Ramirez appeared to be one well placed punch away from being knocked out. Bayless, who is normally a reliable and consistent referee gave Ramirez a very long break as Jose hit the canvas with twenty-six seconds remaining and when the action resumed there were only ten seconds left. Bayless took his time observing Ramirez in the sixth round but it was not as big of a delay and his condition was a lot better. Had Ramirez gotten the decision it is possible that this may have been viewed more controversially but at this moment ESPN, CBS Sports, Boxing Scene and Bad Left Hook were not critical of Bayless’s handling of the count. Following back to back 10-8 rounds Taylor had built a commanding lead on Cheatham’s scorecard as he led by five points and held a comfortable three point lead on Weisfeld and Moretti’s cards.
Ramirez followed up the loss of momentum with a strong eighth round and took over the back half of the fight as Taylor seemed to coast. All three judges had Ramirez win the majority of the final five rounds with Cheatham scoring the final four rounds to Jose. With the fight appearing to tighten it was surprising to see a passive final round as neither pressed the issue in making a final statement to seal a victory. All three judges had the fight scored for Taylor 114-112 or six to six in rounds with the two knockdowns being the difference. I had the fight scored 115-111 and Andre Ward also had it wider than the official judges. In the media CBS Sports and Bad Left hook saw Taylor’s win at a larger gap and fans posting comments appear to agree that the judges scored it too close.
With the victory Taylor became the first Briton to win all four titles and the first undisputed Scottish Champion since Ken Buchanan wore the lightweight belt during the early 1970’s. At thirty years-old Taylor advances to 18-0 with 13 knockouts and extends his title fight record to 4-0. He now sits atop the 140 lb. division and his immediate options are to have a rematch with Ramirez or go up in weight to challenge Terrence Crawford whose best options in Manny Pacquiao and Errol Spence have agreed to meet. Taylor does have a mandatory challenger he has to face in Jack Catterall so it is likely he will have to take care of that obligation before taking on the bigger fights. Taylor impressed me with a lot of his inside work and he is a very crafty fighter. He was able to jab and counter punch effectively on the outside while at the same time out wrestling his opponent on the inside. Taylor pushed down on Ramirez’s head repeatedly and landed some good inside left hands when they were breaking from clinches. In brief pauses Ramirez let his guard down like he expected Bayless to yell break and have them step back but Bayless would let them work their way out. When Ramirez paused, Taylor threw. Ramirez got frustrated by a rabbit punch and was spun around and landed on. Little tricks and bending the rules all worked in his favor to slow Ramirez down and take control. The only real criticism in his performance is the coasting which I believe he learned a lesson about because he felt the scores were too close. Fortunately, he won but it should be an eye opener for him to not do it again.
Ramirez fought a strong performance in his own right despite the loss. With the defeat he falls to 26-1 with 17 KO’s and at twenty-eight years-old the Californian may have lost his belts but we should see him back in the world title mix. He performed well enough to deserve a rematch or a crack at his old belts if Taylor does move up to welterweight. I feel that Ramirez lost the activity game and was out worked by Taylor who had only fought one round in 2020 and it was possible he could enter with some ring rust. Ramirez struggled inside as he was countered and Taylor was able to slip inside and under a lot of his punches. Ramirez scored several strong right hands down the middle and left hooks to the body that had their effect. I think the tactics employed by Taylor slowed his attack down and had him hesitant when he needed to be more active. A rematch could be a very good fight and I think they should do it in the near future.
Overall, these are the type of match ups that boxing needs to grow with a wider audience. Two undefeated title holders in their primes met on a non pay-per-view telecast and delivered a highly skilled and competitive match up. There were knockdowns, blood, and some bad blood antics from both fighters. Despite all of this ESPN and Top Rank did not give a big media push behind this fight. I am curious to see how it performed as far as viewership is concerned.