IF 2017 was the year that Josh Taylor made his name in the professional boxing ranks, 2018 could be the year that he becomes a superstar. The 27 year-old from Prestonpans enjoyed a quiet Christmas a few weeks ago knowing that he faced a number of severe tests over the previous twelve months – and he passed them all with flying colours. And it is this that gives him the confidence that he will be enjoying Christmas this year as a world champion.

Taylor’s first two fights of 2017 were relatively low-key, although his bout with Alfonso Olvera did see him make his Las Vegas debut. However, it was his match-up with Englishman Ohara Davis that saw Taylor begin to become a recognised name outwith boxing circles.

The build-up became a slagging match and while Taylor is usually adverse to any trash-talking, his personal dislike for Davis saw him make an exception for the Englishman. “The Davis fight was definitely a stand-out – it was all slagging and badmouthing which I don’t like doing,” he said. “But when you’ve got a guy there that you don’t like it makes it a lot easier.”

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But it was Taylor’s final fight of the year, which took his record to 11-0, which grabbed the attention of the boxing world and beyond. Many felt that Miguel Vazquez, a former IBF World Lightweight champion, would be too much for the Scot and Taylor admits that there were more than a few nerves from him ahead of his greatest test to date.

“Vazquez was a real step up,” Taylor told Herald Sport. “I was really nervous about him before the fight because there was quite a bit of expectation on me to do well and also expectation from myself.”

But Taylor confounded the doubters in thrilling style, dominating the fight and becoming the first boxer to stop the Mexican, while also enhancing his own reputation no end. The Scot enjoyed a well-deserved rest over Christmas and New Year and he admits that the break from the gym gave him time to reflect on his year, and he could barely be more satisfied with how he rose to the challenges presented to him. “In some ways, my fight in Vegas last January feels like ages ago but in other ways it feels like just last week,” the super lightweight said. “2017 flew in though because everything was absolutely crazy over the last year. When I had, time off, I just sat and had a think about my year - being in Vegas then fighting Joubert and Davis and then Vazquez. I’ve had four great performances and it was four very different fights as well.”

Taylor, who is managed by boxing legend Barry McGuigan and trained by his son, Shane, has long been touted as a potential world champion but his victory over Vazquez only served to strengthen the calls to have him fight for a world title soon. While some boxers would potentially get excited about the prospect of that, Taylor remains entirely unsurprised that his career has taken this trajectory. “I expected all of this to happen - although maybe not quite as fast as it has,” he said.

“I don’t want to sound big-headed but when everyone was really surprised that I beat Vazquez, I wasn’t - I knew all of this was going to happen. I’m not surprised about where I am because I believe in my own ability and I believed this was all going to come to me, I just didn’t think it was going to come this fast. But I’m really pleased with how fast it has all happened and I’m really pleased with the performances I’m putting in. The team around me - Barry, Shane and everyone else - are brilliant, they’re doing a great job so I’m really pleased with how everything is going.”

What is particularly impressive about Taylor is the way he has taken the increased pressure that is upon him in his stride. His long and successful amateur career, during which he won Commonwealth gold and silver as well as competing in the Olympics, set the London-based boxer up nicely to deal with the pressure he is currently facing as an up-and-coming pro and he did, he admits, learn much as an amateur about coping strategies which he is using to his benefit these days.

“I had a lot of pressure on me as an amateur - before the Glasgow 2014 had even started, loads of people were saying that I was going to get the gold medal and I was kind of the poster-boy of the boxing so I did feel the pressure there,” he said. “But I coped with that really well and I’ve learnt a lot from the Commonwealth Games which meant that coming into big fights like I’ve had over the last year, I’m able to deal with it so well.”

There are up sides to his rising profile though. He may not yet be at Kardashian level of fame but more and more, Taylor is being recognised in the street. While he admits that’s still a strange phenomenon, there are perks to be had when you are recognised. “It’s nice that people are recognising what I’m doing,” he said.

“And it’s great that they’re coming to support me at my fights. Being recognised is a little bit weird too though - before the Ohara Davis fight, people were recognising me in the shops and one guy gave me two free pairs of jeans. That was pretty crazy but I was like great, I’ll take that. People buy me pints and stuff sometimes too so it’s just really nice that people are appreciating what I’m doing.”

What sets out good athletes from great ones is their ability to learn from their mistakes. Taylor is renowned within the boxing community for his work ethic – indeed, his trainer, Shane McGuigan says he regularly has to hold him back for fear he is over-training – and his desire to continue improving is obvious. “There’s always things you can work on – you’re never the finished article,” says Taylor. “Keeping my composure is one thing I need to work on – in the Vazquez fight, I lost my head a wee bit because I was missing him so that was getting me frustrated. So I need to learn to keep the poker face better when things aren’t going my way. But I’ve learnt from last year and I’m just hoping that I can continue the momentum – and if this year goes as well as 2017 did, it will be another great year.”