WBA and IBF junior welterweight champion Josh ‘The Tartan Tornado’ Taylor 16-0 (12) know exactly what is on the line when he faces Apinun Khongsong 16-0 (13) at York Hall in Bethnal Green, London on September 26.
One slip up and a potential fight with WBC and WBO 140-pound champion Jose Carlos Ramirez 26-0 (17) will evaporate.
The 29-year-old Scottish southpaw saw what happened to Dillian Whyte when the British heavyweight suffered a shock fifth-round knockout loss to Alexander Povetkin last month after having the Russian veteran on the deck twice in the previous round.
“I keep getting asked about the 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.”
Taylor will be returning to the ring for the first time in 11 months following his epic win over Regis Prograis 24-1 (20) in the final of the World Boxing Super Series with new trainer Ben Davison in his corner.
“It always does make it that little bit tougher knowing there’s a big fight round the corner,” said Davison, who masterminded the comeback of Tyson Fury.
“I’ve had it before when big fights are looming. As much as you do everything to make sure the fighter’s mind is on the job, sometimes the mind can stray a little bit towards what’s to come. But it’s important we remain focused, particularly with the fight being behind closed doors.
“Going into a fight behind closed doors when you’re used to selling out arenas with a big crowd behind you, and I know all of Scotland gets behind Josh, that can have an impact.
“He can’t be walking in there thinking it’s a comfortable spar. This is a world title fight and something Apinun Khongsong will have worked for his whole life. It’s important that Josh has his mind on his job.”
Taylor signed with American promotional powerhouse Top Rank earlier this year in the hope of securing a four-belt unification bout with Ramirez.
Top Rank boss Bob Arum has said the fight could yet take place in Scotland.
“It’s a massive fight,” Taylor said. “Outside the heavyweights – Joshua, Fury and Wilder – and maybe Canelo’s next fight, I think it’s one of the biggest fights in boxing.
“It doesn’t happen often in the game that you get a fight for all the belts. I do think it’s one of the biggest fights in boxing at the minute, a mouth-watering fight. There’s only one winner though and that’s me.
“That’s why I signed with Top Rank because all these fights should be easy to make. They’ve also said fighting in Scotland is not off the table, so that’s what I want to do.
“To see my name in bright lights at the MGM Grand or Madison Square Garden, every fighter dreams of that.
“But having a fight at Edinburgh Castle or Easter Road would just be amazing for Scottish sport. Especially a fight at the Castle with that backdrop, it would be an iconic moment in Scottish sporting history.”