By Frank Warren
WE RETURN TO trading in the currency of world title belts on BT Sport this Saturday with the headline act of Josh Taylor defending his WBA and IBF super lightweight belts against the unbeaten Thai Apinun Khongsong.
For the first time since lockdown was imposed, a men’s world championship fight is back on our screens and Taylor, in the eyes of many, operates at the elite end of the boxing marketplace and his eyes are firmly set on attaching the label ‘undisputed’ to his growing honours list.
I am delighted that Josh is taking care of mandatory business on our BT Sport production, not only because he is a widely acclaimed champion, but also because we have a particular interest in the division at the top end.
Our man, the 25-0 Jack Catterall, is the mandatory challenger for the WBO version of the world title and a fight with Taylor would carry huge appeal on both sides of the border should Jack overcome the WBC and WBO unified title holder Jose Ramirez.
The Californian Ramirez has been making noises about wanting to jump straight in with Taylor should the Scot prevail on Saturday, but Jack has got other ideas and we have forced the issue with the governing body on his behalf and the WBO have ordered the mandatory defence to happen next.
An all-British undisputed fight would be a massive event for boxing on the home front in 2021, a year in which we will hopefully get another one between Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua for a clean sweep of titles.
There is no doubting that Taylor is a quality operator and he has looked the part all along since his entry onto the professional scene. His closely fought victory over the previously unbeaten Regis Prograis in the World Super Series final confirmed his status as a genuine star of the sport.
However, he is stepping into the unknown in more ways than one at York Hall. It will be his first fight with new trainer Ben Davison in his corner, his opponent is a largely unknown quantity with a formidable record and high KO-ratio, while it will also be a first for both in slugging it out in front of just a television crew and no partisan support.
The little subplots make this mandatory an interesting one, plus the fact there is a growing school of thought that Khongsong’s style will pose more issues for Taylor than many of us first imagined. There are some respected figures in the game who suggest Taylor is in for a tricky night’s work.
We will have to wait and see, but Khongsong certainly won’t be intimidated by his surroundings, as he might have been had the fight taken place in Glasgow on the original May date.
The lack of crowds has been – to an extent – and could be a great leveller.
On what will be our seventh show since bringing boxing back to the small screen, I am thrilled to launch our new boy Charlie Edwards on his crusade for a second world title.
While his brother Sunny needs to campaign at flyweight to maximise his advantages, Charlie had completely outgrown the weight and was putting his health at risk by boiling himself down.
It is understandable not wanting to surrender a world title without a fight, but Charlie has got plenty left in the tank and moving up will afford him new opportunities and longevity in the sport he loves.
On Saturday he is testing himself out at bantamweight against a capable opponent in Kyle Williams, so we will see how he goes and I am sure he will keep his options open between bantam and super fly.
Our objective with Charlie is a straightforward one and it is to get him back in the world title mix as soon as possible and take him to being a two-weight world champion.
It would, of course, have been preferable to have the popular Charlie fighting in front of fans as he opens a new chapter in his career but we don’t want to delay his progress and have him out of the ring for longer than needs be with it already being over a year since his defence against Julio Cesar Martinez.
We are delivering the fights for our fighters despite the current restrictions and I am looking forward to seeing if two more of our young talents can grasp the opportunity to shine on a world championship undercard.
George Davey, the super welterweight stylist from York, will be having his third professional fight, while Northampton’s Eithan James, an outstanding amateur, will be having his fourth at super lightweight.
Both have a big future in front of them and they now have the chance to make a name for themselves in front of a TV audience. It is up to them to seize the moment and impress.
Catch all the action on Saturday from 7.30pm, live and exclusive on BT Sport 1