LAS VEGAS – The two knockdowns Josh Taylor scored Saturday night enabled him to make history.
The two-point advantage Taylor gained by dropping Jose Ramirez once apiece in the sixth and seventh rounds represented the difference on all three scorecards in their 12-round, 140-pound title unification fight inside The Theater at Virgin Hotels Las Vegas. Judges Tim Cheatham, Dave Moretti and Steve Weisfeld scored their fan-friendly fight exactly the same, 114-112 for Taylor.
The Scottish southpaw survived a troublesome third round, recorded those two knockdowns and withstood Ramirez’s rally in the championship rounds to win this battle of unbeaten junior welterweight champions by unanimous decision.
Taylor, of Prestonpans, Scotland, remained undefeated (18-0, 13 KOs) and dealt Ramirez (26-1, 17 KOs) his first defeat since the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. The 30-year-old Taylor also retained his IBF and WBA belts and won the WBC and WBO crowns from the 28-year-old Ramirez, of Avenal, California.
The victory also solidified Taylor as just the fifth fully unified champion in any division during boxing’s four-belt era. He joined former middleweight champions Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, ex-junior welterweight champ Terence Crawford and onetime cruiserweight champ Oleksandr Usyk in that elite group.
“I’ve got nothing but love for Ramirez,” Taylor told ESPN’s Bernardo Osuna after his victory. “I mean, all this week, this week was no disrespect. It was all just part of the mind games to get in his head, to make him more eager to jump in at me, to use his aggression against him.”
The unofficial CompuBox statistics indicated their fight was just as close as the scorecards showed.
CompuBox counted only 11 more punches overall than Ramirez (145-of-530 to 134-of-584). According to CompuBox, Taylor connected on 13 more power punches (129-of-362 to 116-of-388) and Ramirez landed two more jabs (18-of-196 to 16-of-168).
“I thought the scorecards were a little bit tight,” Taylor said. “I thought they were well wider than that. You know, and I wasn’t too happy with the selection of the judges, but I wasn’t gonna moan because I was so confident in winning this fight anyway.”
Ramirez mounted a comeback on the cards in the ninth, 10th, 11th and 12th rounds.
Cheatham scored each of the last four rounds for Ramirez, who won three of the last four rounds on the cards of Moretti and Weisfeld. It still wasn’t enough to overcome what Taylor accomplished in the earlier rounds.
Ramirez landed a short, left hook inside about 1:10 into the 12th round. Ramirez blasted Taylor with a right hand with about 35 seconds to go in their fantastic fight.
Taylor mostly used his legs and initiated clinches during the final round, and didn’t land many punches.
Ramirez’s right landed in an exchange with about 1:10 on the clock in the 11th round. A short, left hook by Ramirez buzzed Taylor with just over 40 seconds remaining in the 11th round.
Taylor moved and held to recover from that shot.
Taylor split Ramirez’s guard with a straight left just after the halfway point of the 10th round. Ramirez landed a left hook that forced Taylor to hold about 30 seconds later.
Ramirez’s right hand backed Taylor into the ropes with just over 20 seconds to go in the 10th round. Taylor retreated, but he landed a straight left before the 10th round ended.
Ramirez landed a hard jab after the midway mark of the ninth round, but Taylor spun away from Ramirez and reset his feet. Ramirez landed a hard left to Taylor’s body late in the ninth round.
After suffering knockdowns during the sixth and seventh rounds, Ramirez seemed to have his legs under him throughout the eighth round. He landed a straight right that forced Taylor to hold him with under 10 seconds to go in the eighth round.
Taylor stung Ramirez with a straight left barely a minute into the seventh round. Ramirez landed a left to Taylor’s body with about 1:15 remaining in the seventh.
A crushing left uppercut by Taylor out of a clinch sent Ramirez to the seat of his trunks again with just under 30 seconds to go in the seventh round. Ramirez was hurt more by that shot than the short left that knocked him down early in the sixth round.
Ramirez made it to his feet slower this time, but he proved to Bayless that he could continue. Taylor tried to finish him in the final 10 seconds of the seventh round, but he ran out of time.
A short, left hand inside by Taylor caught Ramirez flush and dropped him in Taylor’s corner less than 10 seconds into the sixth round. A surprised Ramirez reached his feet quickly and nodded to let his corner men know he was OK.
A little more than a minute later, Ramirez drilled Taylor with a straight right that made Taylor retreat. Taylor caught Ramirez with a straight left with just less than 10 seconds to go in the sixth round.
Bayless had to separate Taylor and Ramirez from multiple clinches in the opening minute of the fifth round. Taylor’s right hook connected with just under a minute left in what amounted to an ugly fifth round.
Taylor bled from a cut around his left eye in the fifth round as well.
Taylor nailed Ramirez with a straight left 45 seconds into the fourth round. A left hook by Ramirez made Taylor hold him again about 1:10 into the fourth round.
Taylor hit Ramirez behind his head later in the fourth round, which made Ramirez turn away from him. Taylor tried to capitalize on the vulnerable Ramirez, as Bayless allowed the action to continue.
Ramirez landed a left hook and then a hard jab about 55 seconds into the third round. Ramirez continued to hit Taylor with right hands thereafter, as Taylor tried to hold him.
Taylor had difficulty handling the bullish Ramirez for the remainder of the third round, as Ramirez hammered him with straight rights and dominated those three minutes. Taylor did sneak in a flush right hook as Ramirez came forward, with his hands down, late in the third round.
Ramirez’s right landed at the same time as Taylor’s left about 45 seconds into the second round. Taylor landed a left to Ramirez’s body about 1:15 into the second round.
Ramirez’s right hand made Taylor hold him briefly with about 45 seconds to go in the second round. They each landed shots during an exchange a little later in the second round, which drew a loud response from the pro-Ramirez crowd.
Ramirez’s right hand landed as Taylor moved backward with about 1:20 to go in the first round, but Taylor quickly spun away from Ramirez and didn’t allow him to follow up. Taylor’s straight left caught Ramirez with just under 30 seconds remaining in that opening round.
Keith Idec is a senior writer/columnist for BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.