Given the omnipresence of world boxing titles, varying from the interim to the super and the gold to the silver, it’s a surprise that one has not (yet) been attached to Saturday’s (May 25) super lightweight rematch between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall. After all, the last time these pair exchanged dukes a little over two years ago there was not one but four on the line with Taylor assuming the role of undisputed champion to Catterall’s unfancied challenger.

We all know what happened in February 2022. Taylor was dropped in round eight and, from the point of view of almost all in attendance and those watching at home, Catterall deserved the decision once the gritty and gruelling battle reached its end. Absolutely everyone, however, agreed that the very least the man from Chorley merited was an immediate return after Taylor’s arm was raised.

How Did We Get Here?

It’s frankly ludicrous that after a verdict so contentious not one of the alphabet groups had the gumption to demand a sequel and eternally frustrating that, after all this time, we still blindly follow their policies and, by championing the ‘four-belt era’, legitimize their control. 

In his next bout, in June last year, Taylor was outscored by Teofimo Lopez in New York with only the WBO belt at play. Even though the Scot had previously and painstakingly achieved ‘undisputed’ status he predictably found himself shedding trophies thanks to the politics and impossible demands from the sanctioning bodies. While loath to poopoo the achievements of undisputed champions it’s yet another example that proves the status can only ever be a temporary deal; the haste with which the organisations strip titles make a complete mockery of the extraordinary effort put forth to win them. That will likely provide scant consolation to Catterall for being cruelly denied his moment as king, however.

Though Taylor has been painted as the villain of the piece – Catterall will likely be the sentimental favourite this weekend – none of the mess was really his doing. It wasn’t his fault that two judges favoured him 27 months ago nor should anyone really blame him for pursuing a money-spinning, potentially legacy-enhancing scrap with the hyped Lopez in Madison Square Garden – the site of Taylor’s idol Ken Buchanan’s finest hours – instead of going over old domestic ground, particularly when given the green light by the WBO to do so. 

Catterall hasn’t exactly busied himself in the interim. Though he’s won two fights, handily outpointing Darragh Foley (May ’23) and Jorge Linares (October ’23), the cloud of controversy from February 2022 ultimately didn’t benefit him either.

Therefore, though there have been whispers that the 30-year-old could have been positioned in a title fight of sorts, this rematch with Taylor – even though fans had long since given up on it ever taking place – was surely the most lucrative option for both.

What’s At Stake?

Though it is indeed a surprise that no belts will be won or lost in Leeds’ First Direct Arena it’s a welcome one and proves that not every meaningful contest needs a belt hanging off it to make it even more so.

Because there is plenty at stake here.

For Taylor, one can argue that his entire career hinges on this performance. And never doubt the severe implications of such a juncture; the 33-year-old has spent his entire adult life and much of what came before being defined by his violent trade. A loss here, particularly a convincing one, might leave him questioning all that he stands for and that, for a boxer, is one of the ugliest reflections to face. Add to that the backlash he's endured since 2022, not least from Catterall himself, and the undoubted stripping of pride, then it follows that a dark abyss could follow.  

Though it would be untrue to say Taylor dined out on his reputation as undisputed champion it is fair to assume that once he’d reached the mountain top he likely felt that a land of opportunity would open up in front of him; with fights against the likes of Terence Crawford being mentioned, and after beating Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez, Catterall – then the WBO mandatory without really proving himself as world class – was a distraction Taylor openly admitted didn’t excite him. Suddenly, he now not only needs to beat that pesky imposter to move forward, he needs to win to prove he still belongs. 

For Catterall, the rewards should be obvious. A win over Taylor proves what he’s known all along – that he’s an elite operator deserving of far more than he’s thus far received.

Where Do They Stand?

Taylor is rated by only one sanctioning body at 140lbs but is placed in the welterweight rankings (third by the WBC, just behind Conor Benn, and 12th by the IBF) even though he’s yet to compete in that weight class. Taylor’s sole super lightweight ranking is No. 5 with the WBO, where he sits one place above Catterall (no longer promoted by Frank Warren, who engineered Jack’s initial rise to the top of that body’s ratings), third with the IBF and fifth with both the WBC and WBA. 

For better context on this matchup, the independent TBRB place Catterall as the fifth-ranked 140lbs contender and Taylor sixth. Ring Magazine put Taylor second (behind world champion Lopez and No. 1 Devin Haney) with Catterall at seventh. 

The winner, then, can certainly claim to be among the very best in the division. That Taylor is still competing in the class is another surprise, however.

In the aftermath of the first contest the fighter from Edinburgh insisted making weight had drained his reserves and he would be moving up to 147lbs in his next fight. Though some labelled it an excuse it could also be deemed as perfectly valid when one considers how long Taylor had spent at super lightweight.

Yet the contest with Lopez was also set for 140lbs. Taylor started well in that bout but was visibly exhausted by halfway and did well to hear the final bell. He complained of tiredness afterwards, explaining that his legs felt heavy. It has since emerged his preparation for that bout was hampered by injury. 

The weight, even though Team Taylor insist it won’t, could play a huge part in this contest.

Where Will This Be Won And Lost?

Conventional wisdom goes something like this: If both fighters are in the same physical condition as Part I then Catterall wins so, therefore, Taylor needs to resurrect the relentless form of his peak if he’s to triumph.

Catterall – a long-time disciple of excellent coach Jamie Moore – is exceptionally effective, both when he chooses to attack and defend. He can slow the pace and then control it, shift into a higher gear when his opponents least expect it and then move back down before they can react. One of his greatest strengths is his ability to nullify those of his rival and, in fight one, he countered with authority to both frustrate and hurt the aggressive Scot. In truth, Catterall performed so well in 2022 it follows that he’d have been – and might still prove to be – a nightmarish proposition for even the best of Taylor.

But that Taylor always found a way to win. His engine was one of the most impressive in the sport and though it might now be tempting to unfairly downplay his victories over the likes of Prograis and Ramirez considering their subsequent blotchy form, one would still lean towards the 33-year-old should he somehow find that version of himself once more.

Tenacious in the extreme and adept at raiding upstairs and down with such ferocity that mistakes from his rivals were all but guaranteed, one suspects the Taylor of circa 2019-2020 would simply be too busy, accurate and tireless for Catterall over the course of 12 rounds.

Joe McNally, who replaced Ben Davison as Josh’s trainer after the first Catterall bout, insists that Taylor is now injury free for the first time in years and he’s made weight the right way so there wasn’t the usual late dash to crash. It is not beyond comprehension that Taylor – 33 not 43 – turns in the kind of showing most expected from him the first time round.

Even so, though we have seen the very occasional return to form from a fighter in their mid-thirties, such turnarounds are rare for good reason. Far more commonplace is further evidence of deterioration, regardless of how forcefully we’re informed that they are, in fact, better than ever before.

With all of that in mind, while considering the problems that Taylor simply couldn’t solve two years ago, the showing against Lopez and the fact that it’s been three long years since the former champion last convincingly defeated a world class opponent, the pick must be for Catterall to win, and this time, for the judges to agree. 

Final Point(s) To Consider

Ah, the judges. The scrutiny they will face, after the furore in the first fight, could lead to over-thinking, second-guessing, and some interesting scores at the end. But let’s not worry about that just yet.