World titlist Josh Taylor signs deal with Top Rank

Unified junior welterweight world titlist Josh Taylor, coming off winning the World Boxing Super Series tournament in October and one of boxing’s hottest fighters, has signed a multi-year promotional agreement with Top Rank, the company announced on Thursday.

Terms of the deal, which will see Taylor’s future bouts broadcast on ESPN platforms, were not disclosed but it is a hugely significant signing for Top Rank, which also recently inked unified bantamweight world titleholder Naoya Inoue, the winner of the WBSS tournament in that weight class.

“A new year, a new decade with lots of new beginnings, and I’m starting this new decade with a big bang,” Taylor said. “2019 was a huge year for me, but 2020 looks set to be even bigger and I’m delighted to have signed a deal with Top Rank and ESPN and an advisory contract with MTK Global. I believe I am with the best team to take my career to the next level. I couldn’t ask for a better partnership, and I know the future looks bright with this team lighting the way.”

The signing of Taylor, a southpaw from Scotland, paves a smooth road to make one of the most significant fights in the sport, an undisputed 140-pound world championship bout between Taylor and fellow two-belt titleholder Jose Ramirez, who is also with Top Rank.

“Josh Taylor is one of the world’s best fighters, and he is a fight fan’s fighter, a tough guy willing to fight anyone we put in front of him,” Top Rank chairman Bob Arum said. “Whether it’s Jose Ramirez in a fight for the undisputed junior welterweight title or any of the welterweights out there, he’s ready for the biggest challenges. I want to thank Josh’s advisors at MTK Global, who have the same goal as us, which is to make him an international star.”

The signing did not go over well with Cyclone Promotions, the United Kingdom-based promotional company headed by former featherweight champion and International Boxing Hall of Famer Barry McGuigan.

“We are very disappointed to read the news that Josh Taylor has signed a promotional agreement with another promotional company. Josh Taylor is under an exclusive worldwide promotional contract with Cyclone Promotions,” Cyclone Promotions said in a statement. “We have successfully brought Josh to the pinnacle of the sport from the day that he turned professional, including working alongside other stakeholders in boxing to deliver him to the biggest fights.

“More recently, Josh became IBF world champion in May 2019 then unified champion in October 2019, and we have been working since then to plan the next stage of his career. We are saddened that Josh has felt the need to attempt to break his contract in this manner and frustrated at those who have caused him to do so.”

Top Rank declined to comment to ESPN on Cyclone Promotions’ insistence that Taylor is still under contract.

Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), who turned 29 on Jan. 2, was a 2012 Olympian who did not turn pro until 2015. But has had a quick rise to the top of the sport.

Taylor, known as “The Tartan Tornado,” notched his first big win in June 2018 when he dropped and easily outpointed former world titlist Viktor Postol. Then Taylor entered the World Boxing Super Series, where he really raised his stock.

He dropped Ryan Martin in a one-sided seventh round knockout victory in a one-sided fight in the quarterfinals; then knocked down Ivan Baranchyk twice and won a unanimous decision to take his world title in the semifinals last May; and capped off his tournament run by winning a majority decision in a hellacious back-and-forth battle with Regis Prograis to unify two belts in the October final.

“Josh Taylor was the 2019 fighter of the year (for some outlets), winning the World Boxing Super Series in fantastic fashion with his win over Regis Prograis. Now linking up with Top Rank and MTK Global, his sights are solely set on unifying the division and becoming a global star,” said Jamie Conlan of MTK Global.

An eventual undisputed title fight with Ramirez certainly looms. But Ramirez (25-0, 17 KOs), who unified two belts in July by knocking out Maurice Hooker in the sixth round, first will face mandatory challenger Postol on Feb. 1 at Mission Hills Haikou in Haikou, China, and Taylor, according to Top Rank, likely will make his debut for the company in the spring. The undisputed fight would not take place until at least after those two bouts are in the books and they each retain their titles.

“Both guys want it desperately,” Top Rank vice president Carl Moretti said. “The obvious fight for Josh is a Jose Ramirez unification fight and maybe eventually a move up to 147. But whatever fights he has, Josh is another example of a guy who wants to fight the best. Jose Ramirez is the same way. A lot of our guys are like that — Shakur Stevenson wants to fight Josh Warrington, Teofimo Lopez wants to fight ‘Loma’ (Vasiliy Lomachenko), who also wants to fight him.

“We have enough fighters at Top Rank but what we want are men who want to go out there and prove they’re the best in their respective divisions and we have that with guys like Josh Taylor, Jose Ramirez, Inoue, (Emanuel) Navarrete, Shakur, (Miguel) Berchelt, Loma, Teofimo, Terence Crawford, (Artur) Beterbiev and Tyson Fury.”