Ringside report: Taylor sublime as Burnett left ruing freak injury
Andrew Harrison reports from ringside at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow as Josh Taylor utterly outclasses Ryan Martin and an unfortunate injury puts paid to Ryan Burnett's World Boxing Super Series ambitions...
On a windswept Saturday night in Glasgow, Scotland’s Josh Taylor laid down a marker with a sublime seventh-round stoppage win over American Ryan 'Blue Chip' Martin to progress to the semi-finals of the super-lightweight tournament mounted by the World Boxing Super Series (WBSS) - the self-styled ‘Champions League of boxing’ that has proven a most welcome innovation.
Martin, who brought with him an unbeaten 22-fight record and an easy confidence that suggested he might pose more of a threat than he ultimately delivered, was so thoroughly dominated that even referee Victor Loughlin’s premature stoppage seemed acceptable under the circumstances.
At the final press conference on Wednesday, Martin had spoken about fulfilling his obvious potential, about “putting everything together” on the big stage. Yet from the opening bell, the Tennessee man seemed to freeze in the face of an exceptional talent. Taylor (14-0, KOs) weighed Martin up over the opening minute before lashing him with a concerted body attack supplemented with world-class footwork and movement.
Trainer Abel Sanchez had touched upon Martin’s lack of a mean streak in a pre-fight promotional documentary. There was no such deficiency in the man from Prestonpans. As Scottish anthem ‘Flower of Scotland’ frittered around the SSE Hydro, the shimmering arena alongside The Clyde, Taylor tore into the visitor in the second with spiteful volleys of punches.
Martin was left following Taylor around the ring, shaking out his arms repeatedly as though they’d malfunctioned. As he searched desperately for a way to get started, Taylor was ratcheting up his attacks in search of a finish. After building in uppercuts and right hands alongside stabbing lefts to the ribcage to sweep the third, Taylor went up another gear in the fourth.
'The Tartan Tornado' simply ran away with the fight with a mini-boxing masterclass: switch-hitting, power-punching, feints, movement – it was a delight to watch. After suffering a cut over his left eye in round seven, Martin began looking sorry for himself and after catching a booming hook behind his left ear, he sank headfirst to the canvas – in protest rather than unconsciousness – inviting the hasty Loughlin to rescue him for another day.
At the post-fight press conference, Taylor explained how he expected a tougher fight than he was presented with. “In all honesty, I never got out of second gear,” he said. “I was relaxed, I was flowing and the fight was easy for me.
“I’m coming into my prime now, I’m feeling on fire at the minute. I really don’t think there’s anybody going to stop me – especially after that performance.”
“You talk about fighters who have innate talent,” said promoter Barry McGuigan. “He’s the epitome of that. He just has something extra that you can’t articulate, you can’t talk about. He just has it.
“It’s almost unspeakable.”
With Taylor, you feel the conversation has just begun.
In the co-main, Ryan Burnett (19-1, 9 KOs) suffered a hard-luck defeat to veteran Nonito Donaire (39-5, 25 KOs) in the quarterfinals of the bantamweight tournament. At the end of four intriguing rounds Burnett threw a right hand and immediately dropped to his knees in agony after appearing to damage his back. Though the Belfast man bravely dragged himself up on to his feet and attempted to battle his way back from the brink, his title reign was over, as was the fight.
After returning to his stool at the bell, Adam Booth pulled his man out and Burnett was left staring across the ring, heartbroken, as both his world title and his chance of winning the Ali Trophy disappeared from his grasp. Just like that. Later reports suggested Burnett had suffered from a slipped disc.
Donaire, soon to be 36, looked a rejuvenated fighter after dropping back down to 118lbs. for the first time in seven years. The more powerful of the pair, he repeatedly pinned Burnett into the corner before letting rip with left hooks to the body and booming right hands up top.
Burnett was able to pick his shots better from range, yet under orders from trainer Kenny Adams going into the fourth, 'The Filipino Flash' began to establish his jab to force the Ulsterman on to his back foot. It was warming up into a fascinating fight before the freak finish.
As classy as ever in victory - postponing his celebrations as Burnett was stretchered out of the ring – Donaire’s reward is a date with the fearsome South African Zolani Tete in the semi-finals with promoter Kalle Sauerland favouring an Asian venue in the immediate aftermath.
“You saw today how powerful and how fast I can be,” Donaire said post-fight.
“This didn’t come out the way we wanted it to but a victory’s a victory and we’re so grateful for this opportunity. The WBSS is just amazing, you know. I’m excited. Tete’s next.”