Top Rank lands another big fish, brings unified champion Josh Taylor to ESPN

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
Boxing - Regis Prograis v Josh Taylor - WBSS Final & WBA World, WBC Diamond, IBF World & WBC Silver Super-Lightweight Titles - O2 Arena, London, Britain - October 26, 2019   Josh Taylor celebrates winning his fight against Regis Prograis   Action Images via Reuters/Andrew Couldridge
Josh Taylor, who received the Muhammad Ali Trophy for defeating Regis Prograis in the finals of the World Boxing Super Series' super lightweight tournament in October, signed with Top Rank on Thursday. (Andrew Couldridge/Reuters)

Top Rank now has both of the winners from the most recent World Boxing Super Series under contract after inking super lightweight Josh Taylor to a promotional deal, bringing the unbeaten southpaw to the ESPN platform in the U.S.

Top Rank signed bantamweight winner Naoya Inoue to a promotional deal in November after Inoue defeated Nonito Donaire in Japan. Inoue was chosen as the 2019 Yahoo Sports Fighter of the Year and his bout with Donaire was chosen as the Yahoo Sports Fight of the Year.

Signing Taylor, the IBF-WBA 140-pound champion, is a big move for Top Rank in a number of ways. Top Rank has promoted WBC-WBO champion Jose Ramirez since he turned pro out of the 2012 Olympics and the signing provides a direct path for a unification fight between the two. Ramirez is scheduled to defend his titles in China next month against Victor Postol.

There is also a lucrative rematch with Regis Prograis that could be made. Taylor defeated the previously unbeaten Prograis in the finals of the WBSS.

It’s important for Top Rank as well in its battle with DAZN, the online streaming service which has used majority owner Len Blavatnik’s huge checkbook to land a number of the sport’s top fighters to its platform.

But Top Rank has five of Yahoo Sports’ Top 10 pound-for-pound fighters in the world under contract — No. 2 Terence Crawford, No. 3 Vasiliy Lomachenko, No. 5 Inoue, No. 8 Artur Beterbiev and No. 9 Ramirez — with Taylor just missing out.

Along with lineal heavyweight champion Tyson Fury, that gives it a deep roster of major stars and/or elite boxers to put on ESPN and its streaming service, ESPN+.

“A new year, a new decade with lots of new beginnings, and I’m starting this new decade with a big bang,” Taylor said. “2019 was a huge year for me, but 2020 looks set to be even bigger and I’m delighted to have signed a deal with Top Rank and ESPN and an advisory contract with MTK Global. I believe I am with the best team to take my career to the next level. I couldn't ask for a better partnership, and I know the future looks bright with this team [leading] the way.”

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