Scottish super-lightweight Josh Taylor is feeling the love in London ahead of his headline contest against fellow unbeaten fighter Regis Prograis at O2 Arena on Saturday.
The pair were put through their paces during a public workout at Old Spitalfields Market and ‘The Tartan Tornado’ was given a fantastic reception in England’s capital.
Edinburgh-born Taylor won the IBF title in his last fight and Prograis holds the WBA and WBC belts, while this bout is the final of the division’s World Boxing Super Series Ali Trophy.
A lot is at stake and although the 28-year-old is a long way from Scotland, he knows he will be backed by a rapturous crowd in London this weekend.
Taylor told the PA news agency: “I can’t wait to get in there now. I got a great reception tonight and I can’t wait for Saturday.
“I’m a little Jock who has come down to the middle of London and I got a great reception, so it was really nice and warm.
“It feels like a home fight, it really does. It feels like I’m in Scotland. I’m feeling the love.”
Boasting a record of 15 wins from 15 fights, which includes 12 knock-outs, the Prestonpans boxer is no stranger to the big stage despite only turning professional four years ago.
A Commonwealth Games gold medallist at Glasgow 2014 – after winning silver at Delhi 2010 – Taylor has achieved notable victories against Ohara Davies, Miguel Vazquez, Viktor Postol and Ivan Baranchyk and expects to add Prograis to the list.
“I believe I can do it, 100 per cent. It is the biggest fight of my career to date, but I have had massive fights before and I’m just enjoying the moment and enjoying the roller coaster ride that is my career,” he said.
“A lot of fighters dream of being involved in these big fights and big events, so I’m loving every minute.
“I’ll look back on this in many years to come, after I’ve won on Saturday, and I’ll be able to say ‘I was part of that and I did it’ and I will be really proud.”
New Orleans fighter Prograis expects boos at the O2 Arena, but is confident he will turn the crowd by the end of the super-lightweight contest.
The unbeaten American has knocked out 20 of his 24 opponents and has been in England for the past three weeks in preparation for the bout.
Prograis said: “They will all be cheering after I leave, definitely. They will all be cheering. I won’t worry about people booing, that stuff doesn’t matter to me.
“I came here three weeks early. I was excited to come over here and show the people what I’ve really got.
“When I get in the ring, that is my home. I am more comfortable in there compared to almost anything else I do in my whole life, so when I get in the ring all this will be out the way and it will be time to work.
“I don’t really count on my experience for advantage, I count on me for advantage. My skill set, not experience. I don’t really believe in all that stuff.
“He is a good, quality fighter and world champion, you don’t get to be world champion for nothing, so I don’t think experience will be a factor. For me, I will beat him because I am better than him, not because of my experience.”
Dereck Chisora and David Price were among several other boxers to take part in the public workout, although the former decided to get the crowd involved.
Finchley resident Chisora invited two onlookers into the ring to take part in a press-up battle with the winner receiving VIP tickets to the event at the O2.
Matchroom’s Eddie Hearn added: “We have Lee Selby against three-weight world champion Ricky Burns.
“Of course you have Chisora against Price, everybody is talking about that and debating it. Then we have Prograis against Taylor, which I think is probably the best fight of 2019 so far.
“It’s a unification, a Scotsman against a loud mouth American who can really fight and punch.
“It’s the final of the Ali trophy as well, the Ring Magazine is on the card and there will be non-stop action from start to finish. It really is the card of the year.”