Taylor and Catterall ready for long-awaited rematch

Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall collide in one of the biggest grudge matches in recent British boxing history when they meet in Leeds on Saturday.

The rematch has been over two years in the making following a controversial first fight in Glasgow in February 2022.

That night Catterall appeared to most observers to have outboxed Taylor and done enough to dethrone the undisputed light-welterweight champion, only for the judges to award victory to the Scot.

Now the bitter rivals will finally settle the score in a showdown promotor Eddie Hearn has described as “by far the biggest British fight of the year”.

The form guide - ring rust a factor?

Inactivity has been a blight on both fighters since their first bout.

Taylor has been in the ring only once since then, a points defeat at the hands of American star Teofimo Lopez in New York in June last year.

It has been three years since Taylor performed to anything like his best - when he beat Jose Ramirez in Las Vegas to become the first undisputed champion from Britain in the four-belt era – and we are left to wonder if the 33-year-old is still capable of reaching his previous heights.

Catterall has fought just twice since the loss to Taylor, with points victories over Darragh Foley and a 37-year-old Jorge Linares falling firmly into the solid rather than spectacular category.

Analysis - end of the line for loser in Leeds?

Make no mistake, this is a crossroads fight for both fighters. Since scaling the heights to become undisputed 140lbs king in 2021, Taylor’s career has hit the skids.

Two poor performances against Catterall and Lopez and a host of injury problems have made the last three years a struggle.

The opprobrium that accompanied that points decision in the first Catterall fight brought a deluge of criticism down on Taylor and, reputationally, it would arguably have been better for him had Catterall’s hand been raised instead.

Now the Tartan Tornado has a chance to prove that was indeed just an off night and remind those who have sought to diminish his accomplishments just what a terrific fighter he is.

Catterall has had a long time to stew on what he believes was a grave injustice, missing out on the chance to claim all four world title belts in one go.

The Chorley man is a reserved, humble character, but that inherent decency does not always sell in the ego-driven world of professional boxing. It’s the extroverts, the outrageous characters willing to say and do anything that tend to draw the most attention and the greater opportunities.

Catterall has the talent to become a world champion, of that there is little doubt, but only by avenging the solitary defeat of his career to Taylor will he attract the sort of attention that demands recognition on world level.

As so many have said in the build-up, the options for the winner will be plentiful. For the loser it is hard to see a route back to the big time.

What they said

Josh Taylor: "He’s talking knockout, he's going to come out aggressively and try and be more engaging, which is great.

"I've seen a lot of gaps in his offence game. He leaves a lot of gaps and a lot of holes for him to walk onto a nice sweet shot and it will be a Goodnight Vienna.

"The last fight was a stinker from both of us. Jack was doing a lot of holding and spoiling, slowing the pace down. I was very poor as well.

"I believe the two of us can be a lot better and it will be a better fight for the fans. It’s going to be a barnstormer."

Jack Catterall: "It's a fight that's been talked about way before the first fight and then two years in the aftermath, so our names have been linked.

"I thought I beat him and I thought I did it comfortably.

"In a roundabout way, it's good for boxing and it's good for us, the rivalry that we've created, but to win convincingly, draw a line under it and move on with my career, that'll be good."

Joe McNally (Taylor's trainer): “I truly believe hand on heart, the best Josh Taylor turns up, the best Jack Catterall, Josh wins. But we cannot settle for anything other than vintage Josh Taylor.

“He'll perform and maybe could stop Jack between eight and nine. I think it could be up there with winning his undisputed championship. I know that's what it means to him.”

Jamie Moore (Catterall's trainer): “Nobody at this level should be overlooking someone like Josh Taylor and going, ‘I hope he's not as good as he was’.

“It's insane especially because he's coming off a loss to someone like Teofimo Lopez - an absolutely phenomenal fighter.

“Everyone's getting carried away hoping that Josh's past his best, or people at least who want Jack to win. They're hoping that he's got a lot of injuries, but I've got to take it on, coach Jack and get him ready for the best Josh Taylor.

“I'm still confident that Jack can beat him because I believe in his ability over Josh Taylor's.”

More boxing from the BBC