THE beast of Belarus and the pride of Prestonpans in the same room. It is a sight some of us thought we might never see. But here these two unbeaten warriors were, at a smartly kitted out boxing gym in an upstairs room in Lanarkshire: IBF World Champion Ivan Baranchyk – a man once rumoured to have exited the World Boxing Super Series in protest at having to defend his crown in Glasgow - and Josh Taylor, the man who has made it his mission to forcibly removed that belt in front of a patriotic 6,000-plus crowd at the SSE Hydro this Saturday night.

Freddie Roach, Baranchyk’s illustrious trainer, is more used to Hollywood than Holytown via his long-term connection with Manny Pacquiao and others but his presence on the pads only made the occasion more remarkable. Roach was clad in Scotland T-shirt, complete with a picture of a Highland cow, as Taylor sized his man up carefully from the back of the room. For all the abortive nature of the build-up to the fight, both these men appear to have reached the end of their preparation in immaculate condition, but even if they hadn’t the heat in that crowded, sweltering upstairs room would have helped them make the weight.

Baranchyk has long since swapped his native Minsk for Oklahoma but he still likes to go fishing and hunting in his spare time. Taylor’s fans hope he is the Pride of Prestonpans’ prey on Saturday night but this unbeaten 25-year-old packs a punch and reckons his power can present Taylor with something he has never seen before.

While Taylor has two inches in height and an advantage in reach, Baranchyk can do some damage with that chunky frame of his. Just ask Anthony Yigit, the Swede whose eyebrow was dangerously swollen as he was stopped in their World Boxing Super Series quarter final.

“I will win,” said Baranchyk. “One hundred per cent. Either I knock him out or I will put him down so many times that there is no doubt. The Scottish people have been very nice but Taylor has never run into a beast like me. This is going to be new experience for him, something he’s never seen before. Let’s see how he handles it. I know how I will handle it, I’ve been in this situation before.

“I have a lot of respect for Josh Taylor,” he added. ‘I think this will be my toughest fight yet because both me and Josh are very tough fighters, really strong. But for me it’s always better to knock the opponent out. Saturday night, there will be no need for the judges.

“I love to fish and I love to go shooting, hunting. Maybe, if I win on Saturday night, I can go and have a break here in Scotland – and do some hunting and shooting here, after I win the title!”

While Baranchyk has gathered a fair following back home, the Hydro on Saturday night promises to be something different entirely. Taylor’s chance to be crowned Scotland’s first world champion since Ricky Burns surrendered the WBA title in this weight class to Julius Indongo in April 2017 has captured the imagination, with countless others set to tune in to watch the fight on Sky Sports.

“I am not used to being the bad guy!” said Baranchyk. “In the States, I have a big following, a big crowd. So this is the first time I’m really going to be the outsider, coming to a hostile environment. But I don’t mind coming to Glasgow for my first defence. It’s not tough for me. I’m comfortable, I’m excited and there is no problem with being here.

“The reason it took me so long to come here was nothing to do with me. That was my manager. I would fight any place, any time. This will be the most hostile crowd I’ve fought in front of. I’ve never fought in an arena where everybody wants me to lose! But I love that. It motivates me. I might not be popular, or famous here in Scotland. But I want to be famous here. I want the Scots to become my fans, and to have fans all over the world.”

If Taylor has the greater scalps on his resume, Baranchyk hopes to emulate one of his heroes Terence Crawford, who hasn’t looked back since taking care of Ricky Burns here. “I love Terence Crawford,” said Baranchyk. “He is my favourite boxer right now – second only to Mike Tyson on my all-time list. Crawford is pound for pound the best fighter. Every time he fights, he progresses. I want to be like him, to get better every time I step in the ringI have too many great fighters I admire. Golovkin, Manny, Crawford Freddie has fixed my mistakes, taken me to a different level. He’s such a great coach. Maybe he has a surprise in store. We’ll see in the ring. It’s a secret!”