Catterall recalls first fight with Taylor: 'A complete crash of feelings'

Jack Catterall celebrates what he thought was a victory over Josh Taylor in February 2022 at the OVO Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland. Steve Welsh/PA Images via Getty Images

Jack Catterall was basking in what he assumed was the afterglow of victory following his undisputed junior welterweight title clash against Josh Taylor in February 2022.

Catterall was being paraded around the ring sitting on the shoulders of one of his trainers, Nigel Travis, at the SSE Hydro in Glasgow, Scotland, after producing a startling, career-best performance.

Catterall (28-1, 13 KOs), of Lancashire, England, went into the fight under the radar, unknown to a lot of fight fans beyond the United Kingdom. But he emerged from it a revelation after he floored Taylor in Round 8 and outboxed the champion for large parts of the fight.

Most people thought Catterall, 30, was about to be awarded the decision in his first world title fight. But during a long wait to discover how the judges scored it, Catterall sensed something wasn't quite right.

Controversially, the judges scored the fight in favor of the champion by split decision (114-111, 113-112 and 112-113), and Taylor (19-1, 13 KOs), of Edinburgh, Scotland, held on to his belts. There was an outcry and an investigation by British boxing authorities into the scoring, and we have had to wait until Saturday for the British rivals to meet again -- this time with no titles on the line -- at the First Direct Arena in Leeds, England.

Catterall described to ESPN, in his own words, how the first fight against Taylor, 33, unfolded, his emotions on the night and mindset for the rematch.

Editor's note: Catterall's comments have been edited for brevity and clarity.

The buildup to the fight

I remember it clearly, like it was yesterday. I had been over to Las Vegas to watch the undisputed title fight between Josh and Jose Ramirez, on the promise that I would get the winner.

It was a frustrating time because I had waited over three years for my world title shot as the WBO mandatory challenger. After he beat Ramirez, I thought I had a good chance of getting the fight, because we were two Brits, and when my team called me to say it was happening, I was thrilled to get a shot at all four world title belts in my first world title fight. Few fighters get the chance to fight for all four world titles. It was massive for me at that time of my career, when I just wasn't getting the big fights.

I hadn't fought for over a year, but I had trained hard and believed in my ability. I had been in the gym and prepared well for the fight. I just tried to block out all the outside noise from a lot of people, and some people hadn't even heard of me. During fight week, people talked about him moving up in weight to fight the likes of Terence Crawford. It was like I didn't even exist.

Strategy on fight night

Josh Taylor knocked down by Jack Catterall but manages to defend titles

Josh Taylor gets knocked down but still manages to grab the win and defend his titles against Jack Catterall.

It was a hostile crowd. He was fighting at home, I had to deal with that, and it was my first time fighting for a world title. But I felt I dealt with the situation and occasion well, and acquitted myself well in the ring. I thought I won nine out of the 12 rounds, and put him down. I did everything I said I would.

I put a lot of pressure on myself going into the fight to perform, and looking back, it was a big learning fight for me against someone who was the boy of the division at the time. I showed accuracy, speed and power, but I made mistakes, and I've been working on them.

The strategy was to nullify his tactics and close the distance. I'm a strong believer that timing beats speed. It was about closing the distance between us, picking my shots correctly and making sure I wasn't putting myself in his line of fire.

I had watched Taylor for years. I knew what he was good at and how he liked to box. I slowed him down early with the left hook to the body and the left uppercut. In Round 8, I remember he was coming forward and I caught him clean. He went over for a count, and looking back, I should have stepped on the gas to close out the fight.

There seemed to be a lot of frustration from him and his corner during the fight, and I could hear them shouting instructions to him in between rounds. I didn't allow him to carry out those instructions. Taylor fights with a lot of emotion, which can be a good and bad thing. That night, it worked against him.

He didn't trouble me in the later rounds. Perhaps I was so confident that I got into autopilot mode, and I could've been more focused on closing the fight out instead of letting him win a few rounds.

I believe I'm the better all-round fighter and that was the difference between us on the night. Yes, he was undisputed champion, but I believed in my ability. I just never had the opportunities and the title fights like he had.

I've sparred with many great fighters, including Floyd Mayweather, Canelo Alvarez, Amir Khan and Kell Brook, and it was a privilege to share the ring with those guys. It was a great learning experience for me. Those sparring experiences added a lot to my arsenal, which I showed on the night against Taylor.

It goes to the scorecards

When the bell went to end the 12th round, I remember my trainer Nigel Travis putting me on his shoulders. It was a feeling of euphoria. I had won all the belts in boxing. People said I wouldn't even last two or three rounds with him.

It took ages for the scorecards to come out and there was a weird feeling about the place. A lot of the Scottish fans were leaving while my fans were making a lot of noise. When the scorecards were read out, it was like going from the top of the mountain to six feet under. It was a complete crash of feelings.

When the decision was announced, I looked at him and saw the shock and relief on his face. He came over and said, 'I won the fight'. I just couldn't believe it. In his interview afterward, he was trying to convince himself and everyone else that he had won the fight. He handled it terribly.

I like things fair and will congratulate the winner if I lose fairly. He said a lot of things after our fight and he has had to stick to that, but I'm not sure he truly believes he won the fight.

Loss of momentum

There was a lot of anger afterward. I think there's a picture of me on the runway leaving the arena to go back to the changing rooms with my middle finger up. I couldn't sleep that night, so I drove home the next day with my missus and little one. It went crazy online, but it didn't change the outcome of the fight, and a few days after, I just said, 'Let's just get on with it.'

If I had won the titles, it would have given me big fights, but because of that decision, I had to start over again. My career lost a lot of momentum. It's been a s--- show. The public put a lot of pressure for the rematch to happen. I got asked about it every day. It was probably the same for Josh.

He talked about stepping up a division, then he started relinquishing belts and went in another direction. There's been a lot of contradiction from his side -- he was struggling at the weight, he was going to move up, but now he's not. He ended up fighting and losing to Teofimo Lopez after our fight and I thought I wasn't going to get the rematch. During that time, I was also going through promotional contracts, so I was in a s--- situation for a time. I signed with Matchroom and I got asked about the rematch because the demand was still there.

Finally, the rematch

The rematch will go like our first fight -- but only better for me. I have improved since our first fight, but he has lost and he didn't look great. When you have fought someone once, you know each other. I expect a tough fight, but I'm confident I will get the win this time.