Outrageous reaction to Josh Taylor vs Jack Catterall demands balance and sane answers

A distraught challenger was seen storming back to the dressing room after the controversial decision reached by two of the three judges ringside in Glasgow

Steve Bunce
Sunday 27 February 2022 16:46
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<p>Josh Taylor (left) and Jack Catterall react to the decision after their undisputed world title fight in Glasgow </p>

Josh Taylor (left) and Jack Catterall react to the decision after their undisputed world title fight in Glasgow

Jack Catterall was the innocent victim on Saturday night in Glasgow when he lost in his childhood dream to become the undisputed champion of the world.

Catterall dropped a split decision after 12 hard, dirty, bloody and bad-tempered rounds to Josh Taylor for all four of the recognised belts at light-welterweight. The verdict will lead to some outrageous comments and it demands some sane answers. The debate now, which is not the same as an online lynching, must have an equal number of facts to balance the lunacy of the claims.

If the verdict could be simply explained as the result of corruption, incompetence or senility – the trio of reasons that men and women have been suspended in recent years – it would be nice. However, I know it is not that simple.

Taylor is still unbeaten, he was considered the best fighter in Britain, a rare owner of all four of the recognised boxing belts, a global operator backed by Bob Arum’s Top Rank organisation and he was fighting in his beloved Scottish homeland; those are some of the simple facts in a fight of deep mysteries.

Catterall was the massive underdog, the nice kid from Chorley and he was in Glasgow for a big payday. Well, that was the easy script, but it was obvious from very early in the fight that Catterall was not an insignificant other.

Catterall pressures champion Taylor at the OVO Hydro

Both have close links to MTK, the management and promotional company that was once run by Daniel Kinahan, the controversial Irishman who lives in exile in Dubai.

In Glasgow, late on Saturday night, the depths of the misinformation were matched only by the heartbreak of Catterall and the men and women who care for and love him.

Make no mistake, the wrong man won.

At the end, the scorecards were a moveable feast, but the numbers seldom lie and what seemed like a shocking verdict was, with a little bit of sensible analysis, a very close affair. All those screaming and howling about fixed fights, brown envelopes and corruption need to take a little look at the way the fight was scored.

For the record, I had Catterall a winner by seven rounds to five, but even that simple tally fails to take into account the intricacies of a scoring system which is now under scrutiny. Sadly, many of those – both in the business and outside – placing the system in the dock have no idea how the damned thing works.

When sport is corrupt, it is usually very easy to trace the roots of the dirt and solve the mystery of a verdict or a score. It happens in figure skating; it happens in any sport where men and women offer a vote and any sport where a competitor can change the result by not trying – that was certainly not the case in Glasgow.

In obvious cases of corruption, the officials or athletes are often suspended, their character, their bank accounts, their lifestyles are analysed. Think about the betting coups in golf and cricket and tennis. They have not existed in boxing since the “mob” ran the sport in the late Fifties. In boxing, there is no need to fix fights, we have matchmakers and they can do legally what no hidden cabal of gamblers could possibly manage; matchmakers can get any boxer beat and get any boxer a win.

There was no criminality in the ring on Saturday night in Glasgow, just two of the three men delivering a verdict that very few people agreed with. The three have judged in excess of 1,250 fights during the last 25 years. There was no planned larceny, but still, it feels very wrong.

Josh Taylor and Jack Catterall react to the decision for their undisputed world title fight in Glasgow

The British Boxing Board of Control will no doubt invite the three men – Victor Laughlin, Ian John-Lewis and Howard Foster - to a meeting to discuss their scores. Yes, even Foster, who voted for Catterall by a slender single point, will be asked to explain how he got to that score.

If the other two buy a Roller, a fur coat for the wife and instal a rooftop jacuzzi before that meeting, the board will know.

Sadly, the intensity of the fight has been ignored in the chaos the verdict received. And that is a great pity.

Catterall was sharp all night, brilliant at times, his timing perfect and his plan exceptional. He has been out of the ring for 15 months and, it is often forgotten, he made Taylor’s dreams come true last year when he agreed to step aside and allow Taylor to beat Jose Carlos Ramirez for all the belts. Catterall revealed last week that he was not paid for stepping aside.

The first four rounds were tight, nip and tuck, as they say, and two of the three scored it 2-2 after four.

However, Catterall was just sharper, his counters were cleaner and Taylor was untidy; in round eight, Taylor was dropped by a short left. He was hurt, but survived the round. It was dirty, make no mistake, with heads, shoulders, forearms all being used. It looked like Taylor’s decade-long struggle with the scales had left him drained; he looked bad at the weigh-in, but many top, top fighters look bad at their weigh-ins.

In round 10, Catterall was deducted a point for holding; it looked like Taylor was slightly fresher, but in round 11, a round Taylor won, he lost a point when he hit Catterall after the bell. It meant a point off Taylor’s score and surely, a point closer to defeat.

This was not an easy fight to win and it was clearly not easy to score.

The final scores were clustered, tight and met with disbelief by Catterall. Loughlin went 113-112 for Taylor, Foster went 113-112 for Catterall and John-Lewis went 114-111 for Taylor. The men agreed on 10 rounds, five for Taylor, four for Catterall and one even. The John-Lewis score needs to be looked at.

However, it is not the scoreline from a corrupt fight, trust me.

This is not an apology for a bad decision in a hard and gruelling fight, it is just a bit of balance to accompany the usual screams of outrage. Catterall will get a new world title fight and Taylor will be a different fighter when he moves up and gains a few pounds. It’s simple boxing, trust me, and I know that does not always make it acceptable.

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