Josh Taylor retains titles after controversial win over Jack Catterall | Boxing

Boxing’s endless capacity for controversy and drama resurfaced again late on Saturday night in Glasgow when Josh Taylor was awarded a shocking split-decision victory over Jack Catterall and retained all his world super-lightweight titles. But the undisputed nature of his championship reign has been ruined by an absurd decision. Amid uproar and fierce dissent each fighter was judged to have won by a score of 113-112 while the third official thought Taylor had won by a scarcely credible 114-111.

Catterall knocked Taylor down heavily in round eight and he was clearly the better boxer. The bruised and cut state of the fortunate champion’s face told a very different story to the scorecards even though Taylor insisted that he had done enough to win the decision. An understandably distraught Catterall immediately left the ring in disgust as another dubious decision stained the already tarnished reputation of British officiating.

With both men fighting out of a southpaw stance it was an often messy and even ugly scrap and the referee Marcus McDonnell deducted a point from each fighter. He also warned Catterall and Taylor repeatedly for the roughhouse nature of their brawl – but most of the clean and precise work was done by the impressive Catterall.

The opening round was cagey but Catterall landed the first meaningful blow when a straight left tagged Taylor and rocked his head back. There was little sign of nerves from the challenger as he dominated the early rounds behind his sharp jab and crisp combinations. Taylor tried to close the distance but Catterall kept hurting him – as he did again in the fifth round when a sweet left hand was immediately followed by a crunching right. Blood seeped down the champion’s face from a cut which a Catterall punch had opened just below his right eye.

Catterall was warned by the referee in the seventh and, after an ugly round, Taylor raised his hand as if to suggest he had finally found a foothold in the contest against his skilled opponent. McDonnell called both fighters to the centre of the ring before the next round as he urged them to fight cleanly and curb their excessive grappling. Catterall unleashed, seemingly, the defining moment of the fight when he dropped Taylor with two sharp left hands.

Jack Catterall lands a right on Josh Taylor.
Jack Catterall lands a right on Josh Taylor. Photograph: Steve Welsh/PA

Ben Davison, Taylor’s trainer, urged him to find “a championship mentality” after that damaging round. The 31-year-old Scot was typically tenacious and gritty but he could not come close to the knockout all his supporters believed he needed to cling on to his titles. They each lost a point as McDonnell’s patience ran out but the fight ended with Catterall landing the cleanest punches yet again.

The decision in his favour seemed a formality until the astonishing verdict was announced.

Asked after the fight to explain their scrambled emotions, Catterall’s trainer, Jamie Moore, looked visibly upset. “It’s difficult to put into words,” Moore said. “You’re talking about a kid who has worked all his life for that moment, who waited three years for that opportunity, and stepped aside to allow a unified champion because it was the right thing for boxing. He then performs like that and beats the champion in his own backyard – and gets absolutely robbed.”

Catterall made his debut in 2012 and has laboured in relative obscurity for his entire professional career. The 28-year-old Englishman had been the WBO’s mandatory challenger for 936 days, and had not boxed since November 2020, before he finally got the opportunity to fight for all the titles. Catterall had also struggled financially while waiting for Taylor to finally fight him for he had agreed to step aside and allow the Scot to unify all the titles against José Ramírez in Las Vegas last May. But, contrary to most expectations, Catterall revealed recently that he not received any money for agreeing to wait to fight the winner. Such patience is a virtue outside the ring as well as beneath the hot lights of a world title fight against a supposedly supreme champion.

Taylor had been considered the best boxer in the country and one of the top five pound-for-pound fighters in the world but Catterall, who showed great poise and determination, came agonisingly close to victory. The champion’s last six opponents had all been unbeaten and, between them, they boasted a perfect 133-0 record. It was expected that Catterall, like all those before him, would fall at the final hurdle for he had not faced anyone remotely near the calibre of Taylor in his previous 26 fights. But he and his trainer had warned, in quiet and unobtrusive ways all week, that Catterall had simply been denied the opportunity to fight at world-class level. He took his belated chance with admirable resolve – only for two judges to rob him of his rightful victory.

But Taylor was exposed badly by Catterall. He was clearly distracted by future fights which is always a dangerous flaw in a business as unforgiving as boxing. Taylor also looked horribly gaunt and dry at Friday’s weigh-in and, after some harsh battles in the ring, he struggled against Catterall who seemed so much fresher and more settled.

Victory against Catterall in his last outing as a super-lightweight world champion was meant to be just one more stepping stone on Taylor’s carefully plotted road towards potential boxing greatness. But Catterall, nickamed El Gato, or the Cat, shocked him with his sharp and predatory instincts. Catterall will demand a rematch and another crack at the glory and the riches which he has been denied for so long. A relieved Taylor would be best advised to have a long, hard think as to what he does next in the ring because, weight-drained and hollow-eyed, he was extremely lucky to survive this ordeal at home in Scotland.

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