One of the most hotly anticipated fights in British boxing has been delayed yet again. WBO super lightweight kingpin Josh Taylor’s March rematch with Jack Catterall has been cancelled due to a foot injury for the champion. The news came in the wake of the pair squaring off at the Manchester Arena while they attended Liam Smith’s fourth-round TKO win over Chris Eubank Jr.
The return bout has looked doomed, with neither man having fought since their initial bout last February. That bout ended in a split decision victory for Taylor, who retained his undisputed world championship. Almost all observers beyond two of the three scoring judges believed Catterall had done enough to win the fight. The result has come to be viewed as one of the most controversial boxing decisions of recent times.
‘The Tartan Tornado’ initially refused to give Catterall a rematch. While Taylor was brutally maligned in the court of public opinion for this decision, his reasons did make sense. Britain’s first four-belt undisputed champion had endured an almighty struggle make weight ahead of the Catterall fight and had long spoken of wanting to move up to welterweight. A controversy-free victory over ‘El Gato’ would likely have seen Taylor mixing it at 147lbs. But, with questions to answer, Taylor opted to stay at the lighter weight.
Remaining on course to face Catterall has cost Taylor in other ways. An undisputed champion the last time he stepped into a boxing ring, only his WBO title remains. The WBC, WBA and IBF all stripped him of their titles for opting for a rematch rather than face their mandatory challengers. If and when the rematch takes place, just one sanctioning body belt will now be on the line.
But this issue transcends titles. The bad blood spilled over at ringside on Saturday, as the pair exchanged threats while watching the Boxxer pay-per-view in Manchester. What felt like an intriguing aperitif for March’s scheduled scrap turned into a glimpse at what could have been in the hours that followed.
Taylor pulled out of the fight, due to take place at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow, due to a torn plantar fascia tendon in his foot. The expected recovery time for such an injury is around eight weeks. The long-delayed fight has not been given a new date as of yet but we know it will be well beyond a year after their first bout took place.
It is a shame that their controversial first bout seems to have derailed their careers. For all the furore surrounding the result, it was a thoroughly engaging scrap between two world class British boxers. Such occasions should be celebrated and the rematch would likely have been a wonderful night for the sport.
The fight taking place would also end the long period of inactivity both are experiencing. Catterall has been reluctant to take other avenues, knowing his rightful rematch awaited. That stance is completely understandable. In a dangerous and precarious sport, why risk the opportunity by taking a lesser fight? But it is sad that two of Britain’s premier boxers have been on the sidelines. Fighting is a short career and it’s a shame both men are letting precious time ebb away even if it is through little fault of their own.
The main thing both Taylor and Catterall need is closure. Whether that looks like a win or a loss for either man, the primary benefit both men would enjoy from a rematch is a chance to move on. You haven’t heard one’s name without the other in nearly twelve months now. A clear winner, a clear loser and diverging paths are needed for Taylor and Catterall. But for that to happen, this most beleaguered of fights needs to happen.
Hopefully it does. Let’s pray Taylor’s foot injury is the last stumbling block this cursed fight reaches. A controversial fight last February confined these two to purgatory. There’s no way out of the wilderness without fighting each other. But please, no trilogy fight.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change