Reflecting On Taylor vs. Catterall
Boxing's habit of creating controversy for itself returned this past Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland. The Hydro was the venue as undisputed light-welterweight champion Josh Taylor defended his belts against Jack Catterall of England.
When the final bell rang, it seemed to me like Taylor's homecoming would be an unsuccessful one. Over the course of the fight, the Scotsman lacked energy, composure, and seemingly a tactical battle plan. On the other hand, Catterall was well prepared by Jamie Moore and Nigel Travis and looked comfortable executing the counter-punching, trap-setting game-plan put in place to upset the favourite.
I was very surprised when it was announced that ringside judges Victor Loughlin (113-112) and Ian John-Lewis (114-111) saw the contest in Taylor's favour. Howard Foster's card was 113-112 for Catterall, but the scoring of his colleagues gave Taylor victory by split decision.
Many former boxers have slammed the verdict – Carl Frampton, Alex Arthur, Luke Campbell, and Johnny Nelson, to name just a few, have all voiced strong disagreement with the decision. The British Boxing Board of Control (BBBoC) announced on Monday that they would investigate the scoring.
This will be of little comfort to Catterall, though the result will stand. BBBoC General Secretary Robert Smith had this to say: “It was a close fight with some of the rounds going backwards and forwards. I don't think it was a robbery. Regarding the scores, Howard and Victor, I can understand because it was tight. I am very surprised at Ian's score. We can't change the decision; two judges went for Josh, and one went for Jack. We need to do something. I'm not too sure what that is at the moment. The first thing is we need a full explanation, and I need to go through the scorecards one by one.”
These comments indicate to me that Smith is accepting of what transpired on Saturday night. I suspect the only outcome of this investigation will be that Ian John-Lewis takes a four-week break from judging fights.
We have all witnessed worse scoring in past boxing matches, but it shouldn't excuse the fact that the wrong man was handed the win in this bout. How wide of the mark does the scoring need to be before it is considered “robbery?” Catterall should currently be the undisputed 140lb champion. He was robbed of that achievement and moment at the weekend.
The pattern of the fight was established early. Looking like he was suffering after making weight, Taylor was flat and lethargic. Josh Taylor fell well below the standard we know he is capable of. To compound matters, the Scotsman wasn't working his jab or threatening Catterall with his signature body shots. Catterall deserves praise for much of this, as his footwork allowed him to control the distance the fight was taking place at. Jack was countering nicely off the back-foot, often landing two blows before removing himself from danger. The challenger demonstrated technical and tactical superiority – surely building a commanding lead on the cards.
As the fight moved into its second half, Taylor perhaps sensed this. His work was now becoming reckless as he desperately tried to make some kind of breakthrough. This careless approach led to Taylor hitting the canvas in round eight. With the champion off balance and in an awkward position after another failed attack, Catterall connected with an overhand left counter. Taylor's equilibrium was completely reset as he touched down and took the standing eight count. This development made the prospect of Taylor winning on points even more unlikely.
The final four rounds were scrappy as the two southpaws clashed heads, and both indulged in some fouling. Both men had one point deducted by the referee.
Taylor received minimal direction or help from his corner throughout the night. Trainer Ben Davison seemed a bit perplexed. Boxing observers noted that it is not the first time a Davison-trained fighter has lacked direction from the corner when a fight isn't going to plan. Something for Taylor to chew on moving forward.
Speaking of trainers, it was interesting to hear Shane McGuigan's thoughts on Saturday's contest. McGuigan trained Taylor for five years and spoke to Boxing Social on Sunday: “I thought Catterall won. Disappointed in Taylor. We did five years of fantastic work together, and honestly, it frustrates me to see him boxing like that. He is a high-paced pressure fighter that's fantastic on the inside, but his hands were down, and he was walking into punches and getting his head jabbed off. He needs to be better than that.”
Something else that needs to be improved upon across boxing is judging. For too long, the three-judge system has thrown up questionable results. It does leave the door open for the sport and those working in it to be accused of corruption. For the record, I don't think anyone involved on Saturday is corrupt – I do think the way fights are judged needs to be revamped, though.
I don't have a solution, but perhaps it's time to borrow from other sports. Most major sports now utilize the TV cameras covering fixtures to look again at debatable moments. For boxing, this could mean simply having a panel of judges watching the TV feed, sound off, of course, and scoring from the coverage provided. Average scores could then be used to determine a winner between the TV and the ringside judges.
While it was an honour for Scotland to host an undisputed title fight on Saturday, the fallout may make it harder for big fights to be hosted here in the future. If the perception in the boxing world is that fighters won't get a fair shake from judges, then the reality is that future Josh Taylor title fights will take place on foreign shores.
Moving forward, it seems that Taylor has fought his last fight at light-welterweight. Speaking yesterday, he said: “My days at 140 are numbered. My future is at welterweight. Jack Catterall deserves another title shot as soon as possible. I've never ducked a challenge in my career, and I'd be happy to fight Jack again, but it would have to be at welterweight.”
It remains to be seen exactly what happens next, but Taylor's insistence that he is moving up suggests that making 140lbs hurt him more than he will admit publicly.
Since Saturday, Jack Catterall has not spoken to any media. It will be of little consolation to him that he has gained many admirers after his showing in Glasgow. If Taylor moves up and vacates the light-welterweight titles, hopefully, Catterall gets to fight for one the next time he gloves up.
It's doubtful that all the marbles will be available to fight for in one night again during Catterall's career. He hinted at this in an Instagram post: “Nothing will ever change how I feel about Saturday – I won that fight. I came to the champion's country and gave him a lesson. The decision doesn't sit well with me, and I don't think it ever will – they stole a moment in my life I'll never get back.” Powerful words.
As boxing fans, we all have our favourite fighters, and we want to see them perform well and be successful. The majority of fans in the sport are fair-minded, though – more important than our favourites prevailing all the time is that the correct fighter is declared the winner at the end of contests requiring the scorecards. Regrettably, in Glasgow on Saturday, this wasn't the case.
You can follow Colin on Twitter @Morrie1981.