JOSH Taylor saw off the challenge of Sam Ball to take the 64kg light welterweight title at the 2014 Boxing Scotland Finals in Glasgow.
In a fiercely-contested bout, the East Lothian boxer claimed victory on a split decision. Ball (Greenock) put in a determined effort but ultimately lacked the finesse and accuracy of Taylor (Lochend).
Taylor, 23, paid tribute to his opponent. "There was a lot on social media saying I was going to walk the fight but I was never thinking that," he said. "I was training hard and working in the gym on tactics how to beat Sam. He did deliver a good, really tough fight. I have a lot of respect for him."
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Taylor was able to draw on the wealth of international experience, including competing at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, as he faced his 18-year-old opponent in front of a raucous Emirates Arena crowd.
"I knew he wasn't landing clean punches, but when I was on the ropes and he was throwing the punches his fans were making a lot of noise so I thought that might influence the judges," he said. "Maybe it did with the split decision. I didn't think it was a split decision, I thought I'd done cleaner work and hit him more often than he hit me. But it was a close fight."
For Taylor the victory marks the final steps towards selection and confirming his place in Team Scotland for Glasgow 2014. "I had to win that fight because if I didn't it would have looked bad on me and they would maybe have had to make a different decision," he said. "It was an important fight for me."
Only moments after stepping out of the ring, Taylor was already looking ahead. "It's back to the gym now and working on things I didn't quite execute in there," he said.
He travels to Portugal on April 8 for a warm weather conditioning camp before going to Australia in May.