Josh Taylor has been warned by promoter Frank Warren at the potential danger of defending his world titles without fans on Saturday.
Scotland’s WBA-IBF world super lightweight champion is due to defend his belts against Apinun Khongsong at a crowd-less York Hall in East London, the fight will air on ESPN+.
Fans have not attended professional boxing events since March, due to government restrictions in the United Kingdom to stop the spread of coronavirus.
Promoter Frank Warren, who is staging Saturday’s event, says the lack of a partisan crowd could benefit Khongsong (16-0, 13 KOs), 24, who has not fought outside his native Thailand or Japan but is the IBF mandatory challenger after recording stoppage victories in his past six fights.
“The fight between Josh and Khongsong is not going to be easy for Josh, it’s a tough one,” Warren told ESPN.
“What you see at these [behind-closed-doors] shows is there’s no away fighter, and that makes a difference to the fight in the red corner. You are getting more out of the away fighters. You don’t get fans booing them, or getting behind the home fighter.”
Josh Taylor celebrates victory over Regis Prograis at The O2 Arena in October 2019. Photo by Stephen Pond/Getty Images
But Taylor (16-0, 12 KOs), 29, from Edinburgh, says boxing behind closed doors will not be a problem for him in making a successful second defence of the IBF belt, and first of the WBA title, after points victories over Ivan Baranchyk and Regis Prograis last year.
“It was a straight forward decision whether to box now or wait until crowds are back,” Taylor told ESPN.
“Ideally it would be good to get crowds in but I’ve got bundles of experience from my amateur days when no one was there in the venue, so it shouldn’t make any difference for me. We have been assimilating the lack of atmosphere when I have been training at the gym, so no music or noise.”
Taylor has not fought since October 2019, but says the delay to his career has allowed him to adapt to new trainer Ben Davison, who previously worked with WBC world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury.
“I’ve been training with Ben Davison near Harlow in Essex [England],” the Scottish fighter said.
“This delayed period because of coronavirus has allowed us to settle in nicely, get to know how each other works. Nowhere was open during lockdown, so we went over to Spain for five weeks, we had a gym we could work at and spent some key time getting to know each other, and we’re happy with how it’s going.
“There’s been myself and [WBO world super-middleweight champion] Billy Joe Saunders and a couple of prospects. Billy was too big for me to spar, and he’s a completely different style to the guy I’m facing anyway.”
Taylor hopes victory sets up a huge clash with Jose Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs), 28, for all four world super lightweight titles next year.
Both are promoted by Top Rank with WBC-WBO king Ramirez (26-0, 17 KOs), who successfully outpointed Viktor Postol last month, also keen.
“Khongsong has a high knockout ratio, he’s as tall as myself, and punches through the target with quick hands so I’m expecting a tough 12 rounds, but I’m looking to go out and put on a dominant performance, I want to show I’m No.1 in the division,” Taylor said.
However, the WBO has informed Ramirez he must make a mandatory defence against Taylor’s British rival Jack Catterall (25-0, 13 KOs) in his next fight.
Warren added: “Taylor-Ramirez is a big fight but Jack Catterall is the mandatory challenger for the WBO and we have to make sure he gets it, so we have to wait to see what happens. Jack was guaranteed a shot before and he wants his shot. He’s a young man and he wants to fight for the world title, it’s going to be his choice.”