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Dillian Whyte warning puts Josh Taylor on red alert as hunt for undisputed status continues against Apinun Khongsong
Unified super-lightweight world champion Josh Taylor says Dillian Whyte’s dramatic defeat to Alexander Povetkin last month proves nothing can be taken for granted when he faces Thai challenger Apinun Khongsong live on BT Sport on Saturday 26 September.
Was it a once-in-a-lifetime shot – or a perfectly-executed game plan?
In the end, all that matters is Dillian Whyte was out cold before he hit the canvas, felled by a ferocious uppercut delivered by the hand of his unfancied opponent Alexander Povetkin last month.
Povetkin had the ability, most agreed, but Whyte rightly entered the bout as the heavy favourite to retain his interim heavyweight championship and keep his dream of challenging one of the big boys alive.
The similarities between that and Josh Taylor’s upcoming showdown are not lost on the Scotsman, who pointed to Whyte’s shocking knockout loss as a reason to refocus his energies on forthcoming foe Apinun Khongsong.
"I keep getting asked about the [Jose] Ramirez fight, unification fights, moving up to 147 and fighting Terence Crawford and Manny Pacquiao, but that's all down the line," Taylor told BBC Scotland.
"I've got to fully focus on Apinun Khongsong because, if I don't, something like what happened to Dillian Whyte could happen to me. That would throw my career, my goals and ambitions up in the air.
"Khongsong is coming here to whip away my belts - it's the chance of his life to get two belts. He'll be coming here to give it his all, but I'm fully focused on him and there is no way I'm going to overlook this guy."
A relative unknown to the casual fan, Khongsong comes into the bout with a perfect 16-fight record, boasting an eye-catching 13 knockouts along the way.
At just 24, the Bangkok-based fighter has already worked his way into a mandatory challenger spot with the IBF governing body, forcing Taylor to face him ahead of the many more glamorous names in the division.
This is what I live for
- Josh Taylor
When Khongsong makes his ring walk at the old York Hall, it will be his first time fighting outside Asia and only his second bout outside of his native Thailand – but despite his relatively low profile, Taylor revealed he had been analysing his opponent closely in the build up.
Speaking to BT Sport from ringside as he watched Anthony Yarde take on Dec Spelman at the same venue recently, he said: “Khongsong is a good fighter who punches right through the target and has power in both hands, but we’ve studied him a lot and we think we can expose things on fight night.”
The sense of intrigue around Taylor’s return has been magnified by his decision to leave former trainer Shane McGuigan, the man that guided the 29-year-old to achieve his life’s dream of becoming a unified world champion, and join forces with Ben Davison.
Davison, who famously helped engineer Tyson Fury’s miraculous return to action in recent years, has emerged as one of the most talented trainers in the boxing world despite his relative youth at just 28.
“Josh has come off a fantastic win and it’s not about overlooking information,” Davison explained to BT Sport earlier this month, when talking about what he is hoping to see from his man on 26 September.
“There are just little adjustments and fine tuning to make. Things are starting to come together at the right time and it’s all about peaking on the night.”
The fight had originally been set to take place at the Glasgow’s SSE Arena in May before being shelved due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, meaning the fight will now take place behind closed doors in the more intimate surroundings of York Hall.
But far from prove a distraction for his man, Davison believes the absence of the crowd gives Taylor the perfect opportunity to showcase his development as a fighter.
“It was good to go to the venue and get an idea of what to expect. This isn’t going to be a fight where Josh needed the backing of the crowd, as we want him to have a smart approach,” he said.
Agreeing with his new trainer, Taylor added: “This is what I live for. The big nights and the big stage is what I dreamed of and there is no way I’ll let the pandemic and no crowd have an impact on my performance.
“I’m going to take this opportunity with both hands and keep hold of my belts, and then we’ll move onto bigger and better things.”
Watch Josh Taylor v Apinun Khongsong exclusively live on BT Sport 1 HD and BT Sport Ultimate from 7.30pm on Saturday 26 September.