Reports have emerged suggesting the long-awaited rematch between WBO super lightweight champion Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall will take place on 4th February. The pair contested a controversial bout in Glasgow in February of this year, with Taylor being awarded a split decision that many feel he didn’t deserve. The pair have engaged in a social media back-and-forth for most of the year and finally look set to settle their differences in the ring.
The first bout didn’t so much split opinion as pitch Taylor into an awkward public flogging. The decision was highly debatable, sure. But it was hardly the most controversial verdict ever delivered by a trio of boxing judges. Heck, if the decision had befell Manny Pacquiao rather than Chorley’s Catterall, it would only have been the third-worst judge’s decision in the Filipino’s career.
But ‘The Tartan Tornado’ was vilified all the same, as if he had scribbled the scores with his own gloved hands. Taylor’s own defiant reaction didn’t help matters as the supremely confident champion insisted he’d won. But what else was he supposed to do? Apologise? He didn’t write the cards, he just turned up and did his job. How well he did it is up to your interpretation of boxing. But Taylor was paid to arrive, box and leave and that’s what he did. Too often the ire of the boxing public is aimed at the cogs of the machine rather than those operating the controls.
For his part, the Scotsman has moved mountains to make this rematch happen. Taylor became Britain’s first ever four-belt undisputed champion when he beat Jose Ramirez in May 2021. He defended that designation against Catterall. However, as he has chosen to pursue a rematch rather than any of his mandatories, he has been stripped of three of his four belts. Only the WBO championship will remain on the line. The fact that Taylor eschewed his life’s work to give Catterall, and the fans, this rematch speaks to his character.
Equally, Catterall has not been given anything here that he doesn’t deserve. The former British champion fought the fight of his life in their initial bout. He gave one of British boxing’s modern greats his toughest night in a professional ring. On another night in front of other judges, he may have even won. Catterall might even feel hard done by that he has to travel back to Taylor’s native Scotland for his redemption. The proposed bout is set to take place back at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow, site of the first bout.
So what happens this time? A lot of question marks surround the weight. BBC’s ‘Josh Taylor: Portrait Of A Fighter' documentary showed the struggles the champion had in making 140lbs for the first bout. Taylor has spoken in the past about wanting to move up in weight and at one point looked likely to do so in the Catterall aftermath. But his stance has softened, after initially dismissing a rematch. Could one last ride at super lightweight be a gamble too many?
It’s a gamble for Catterall too, albeit less of one. Initially thought of as a domestic level fighter, fans now see him as Taylor’s equal off the back of their first bout. It was a stunning performance for sure, but fail to replicate it and the climb back to the top will be long. Will Catterall prove he belongs at world level once and for all, or will he echo the journey of George Kambosos Jr? The Australian shocked the world when beating Teofimo Lopez last year, but was promptly punched back down to earth in back-to-back losses to Devin Haney. A one-off performance doesn’t last forever. Boxing is the most “what have you done for me lately?” of all major sports.
It is these varied ingredients that make this fight so compelling. An oft-forgotten fact is that, controversy aside, their first battle was a stirring affair. Their styles meshed brilliantly into a fine contest that was sadly marred by the judging. Hopefully the officiating meets the commendable in-ring standards this time. Whomever our winner is needs to be a rightful one. After a year where we’ve had the Conor Benn debacle and Tyson Fury and Anthony Joshua’s clumsy back-and-forth that went nowhere, British boxing needs this. Fluffing its lines again on the big stage could be fatal.
*18+ | BeGambleAware | Odds Subject To Change