In what was meant to be a celebratory homecoming Josh Taylor’s reign as undisputed super-lightweight champion carries on after a night of controversy inside The SSE Hydro, Glasgow.
Taylor now goes back home to Edinburgh with all four belts once again following a highly contentious split-decision win over Jack Catterall.
Judge Howard Foster scored it 113-112 for Catterall, Ian John Lewis had it 114-111 for Taylor and Victor Loughlin’s card read 113-112 for the champion.
It was to many a bizarre trio of scores after a first half of a fight which clearly belonged to Catterall. The opening round was cagey with plenty of feints but within the first 30 seconds the man from Chorley, in Taylor’s adopted back yard of Glasgow, landed a left over the top which was a signal of his intentions. Once that had landed Catterall’s radar was switched on and knew how to catch the Scot.
The second kicked off a multitude of warnings for both from referee Marcus McDonnell with the home fighter first told off. The Catterall jab began working not long after while Taylor’s plans appeared to back up his opponent with feints and then unload or out muscle him on the inside. But throughout the fight neither appeared to work for him due to Catterall’s awareness and reflexes. The Catt’ who’s moniker is actually ‘El Gato’ began firing one-twos which had the fervent home support worried, but their man got into the round in the final few seconds.
Catterall’s left over the top worked again in the third and he was willing to have a strongman contest up close with Taylor. Taylor would land a right hook, but undeterred Catterall returned fire. Taylor’s jab was still missing often even though his foe’s nose was bloodied.
Taylor started the fourth strong and landed a short right on the inside. Catterall showed early signs of losing his shape, but he regained his composure and saw a long uppercut just about find the Taylor chin. An eye-catching combination which finished to the champion’s body was the sign for Catterall to start letting his hands go. His confidence was growing, and the crowd packed into the Hydro knew it too. One of Scotland’s greatest ever fighters was in trouble.
The fifth and sixth sessions were repeats of the first four with Taylor looking to drain Catterall as the two locked up. And the most telling sign that things were not going the former Olympian’s way was near the end of the halfway point when he was nailed with a left hand which left him visibly frustrated.
Ringside and online most scorecards appeared to have the Englishman 6-0 up or at worse 5-1 ahead.
Catterall began the second half with a warning for holding. Taylor was showing signs of life as he began to evade the jab coming his way. The huge favourite was surely going to have a turning point in this fight and that looked like being the moment, but it wasn’t to be.
Both fighters were warned by the ref for their various shenanigans ranging from holding to punching to the back of the head. That was the beginning of the eighth which saw Taylor look out of sorts once again. Making that 140lb limit was taking its toll. Nothing appeared to be working from a man universally recognised as one of the best fighters on the earth regardless of weight class. If it looked like his grip on the titles were loosening, then they almost dropped into Catterall’s lap when the WBO mandatory challenger went to work on Taylor and dropped him with a left hand moving downwards that clipped his man and dropped him for the eight count which he survived.
Catterall’s confidence was for all to see but through grit and getting the better on the inside with some notable single punches Taylor was able to eek out the ninth on this card. Then in the tenth Catterall was deducted a point for holding. It looked and felt like a momentum shift, but it also seemed like too little too late.
In the final two rounds Taylor looked to use pressure as success but the untidy theme of the fight eventually ended with both men on the floor. And when the round ended Taylor threw a shot to Catterall’s mid-section which earned him a point deduction. It might have seemed harsh but by that time McDonnell had seen enough of the naughty stuff.
Taylor caught Catterall in the last round with a couple of big lefts but as it ended Catterall had the face of a man who knew he had done his job away from home. Taylor raised his hand but that is another of a fighter’s reflexes even when things aren’t going his way.
Before the scorecards were announced there was a definite expectation we would hear ‘And the new…’ but instead we heard ‘And still…’ Boxing let itself down once again tonight. Not through the fault of the fighters and their efforts but by the three individuals scoring ringside. It is a recurring theme that is killing the enjoyment for those that pay their money to watch. The winners won’t care and nor should they but the two judges who scored it for the champion have killed a fighter’s dream tonight. They have taken away something that not only did Jack Catterall earn and deserve but simply put he was the better man on this night.
“He caught me with a couple of shots, I’m not gonna lie,” Taylor told Sky Sports afterwards and insisted he had deserved to win the fight.
“It wasn’t my best performance. I put a hell of a lot of pressure on myself with the homecoming. It showed in the first half of the fight but once I got my rhythm, I started catching him with the bigger shots. I believe I got the win 100% but Jack did very well.
“I know I won the fight. It was close. Overall, I scored the bigger shots, the better shots, the more meaningful fights but I knew I won the fight.”
Catterall’s trainer Jamie Moore was clearly angry about the verdict. “It’s difficult to put into words. You talk about a kid who’s worked all his life to wait for that moment, who stepped aside, waited three years for his opportunity. He stepped aside, done the right thing for boxing to allow an undisputed fight (between Taylor and Jose Ramirez). He gets the opportunity, he performs like that, beats the champion in his own backyard and gets absolutely robbed. It’s disgusting.”