Sports

Can Jack Catterall challenge the top 140-pound fighters?

LEEDS, England — The rematch between Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall was a thrilling battle, cheered on by an emphatic crowd Saturday night, but the outcome still leaves plenty of questions for both fighters to answer.

Catterall, 30, of Lancashire, England, earned a unanimous decision victory, but controversy has reared its head again. Taylor’s promoter, Bob Arum, blasted the scorecards of 117-111, 117-11 and 116-113 as a “disgrace.” Even Catterall’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, agreed they were wide in favor of his fighter.

The bout was enthralling from the first bell to the last, but neither fighter could pull too far in front of the other. Maybe it’s just a case of they have each other’s number. After 24 rounds, opinion will still be split as to who the better of the two actually is.

In the lead-up, Hearn labeled the bout as career defining. So where do the bitter rivals stand at the end of it all?

Catterall (29-1, 13 KOs) proved the first clash between the two, which many say he deserved to win, wasn’t a one-off performance. He has more than shown he can hold his own with a top opponent and doesn’t shy away from the bright lights. He used his jab with great effect in both clashes, controlling the pace and distance while frustrating Taylor (19-2, 13 KOs). There’s no doubt he hurt Taylor; however, he couldn’t finish the job, and the bout was closer than the cards suggested.

Talk of a trilogy in the immediate aftermath has been quickly quashed by the Catterall camp. He has waited for too long and performed too well to wait for a shot at a belt any longer.

And Catterall knows who he wants.

“Lopez,” Catterall said during the postfight news conference, referring to WBO titleholder Teofimo Lopez. “I was mandatory for the WBO for what felt like a lifetime. He beat Taylor before I did, we’ve both had the win over him, and I want to prove that I’m better than him. I believe I’ve got the style to beat Lopez, and that’s the fight I want.

“A world title has always been the dream. We didn’t get the undisputed, that’s fine, that chapter’s been writ now. But I’m in a great position, Eddie’s got a great stable at 140, and I want that world title fight.”

Hearn also floated IBF champion Subriel Matias and WBC champ Devin Haney, both of whom he works with, as potential opponents.

“One thing we know is a massive fight will be next. If I had the choice it would be for a world title,” Hearn said. “Of course, people talk about the trilogy, for me I’ll always look at the biggest fights out there, but it’s about now the career of Jack Catterall. He should have been undisputed world champion. We need to try and position him now for a world championship fight. When you have a performance like that when you have a night like that, positioning someone is a lot easier to do, because people want to see it.”

Hearn also took aim at Lopez’s next fight against Steve Claggett, scheduled for June 29 in Miami.

“I don’t want to be disrespectful to Steve Claggett, but it’s a f—ing disgrace, it’s a joke. Teofimo Lopez coming off a good win against Josh Taylor, says he’s the best 140-pounder in the world, it’s a joke. This is the guy [Catterall] who should be fighting Teofimo Lopez. We believe he’ll beat him all day long.”

There might be another level between the current champions and Catterall, but the Englishman passed the test against Taylor and deserves his chance.

As for Taylor?

He showed he still has fire in him. He looked much better than in the first fight, when he conceded he took Catterall lightly. This time he looked fitter and more focused, but he couldn’t fully control the momentum. Whenever he thought he had Catterall in a corner, the younger fighter swerved the most brutal shots and came back firing.

In a division as strong as junior welterweight, there are big fights to be made, but two straight defeats does leave Taylor, 33, of Edinburgh, Scotland, with some work to do.

Does he have the hunger to climb the mountain again? Does a move to welterweight finally come after years of contemplating it? Would he prefer a trilogy?

“I think I’ve just nicked the fight there to be honest. But listen, fair play to Jack, he won the fight and listen, let’s do a third one. Why not? That was a good fight,” Taylor said. “If he wants to go on and challenge for bigger fights, he deserves it. He won the fight, but I think that’s one apiece. So, let’s do it. Let’s do that. Let’s do a challenge.”

Whatever he decides, Taylor’s legacy has already been cemented. An undisputed world champion and one of the best fighters Scotland has ever produced, the “Tartan Tornado” deserves all the respect in the world.

Whether that means he’s still in the mix with the elite, or even wants to be, only time will tell.

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