It seems strange to talk of an unbeaten world champion needing to prove a point, but that’s where we are with the Edinburgh born super-lightweight champion, Josh Taylor (currently 19-0 as a pro). A former holder of all four of his division’s major belts, he is, in many ways, coming off a loss. Taylor may have technically ‘won’ his last fight against the unlucky Jack Catterall, in February 2022, but few believe he deserved to.
What perhaps made matters worse, was the way Taylor responded to being given a gift by the judges – a gift which saw one of them, Ian John Lewis, be suspended from officiating because of his scorecard. Unable to do the sporting thing and give Catterall even a crumb of credit for a fight he clearly won, the ‘Tartan Tornado’ was petulant, snarky and defensive. Public demand for a rematch was sky high but ultimately denied when Taylor took this fight instead.Embed from Getty Images
As a result, the WBO champ finds himself in a strange position. He entered that Glasgow ring to fight Catterall as a bonafide British superstar, a unified champion with fans up and down the UK. The events that followed and then the sixteen-month layoff have curdled that. A sore loser is one thing, but it’s nowhere near as bad as a sore winner.
In seeking to rebuild his career and reputation, Taylor will need to return to the electrifying performances which saw him ascend to the top in the first place. Standing in his way is New York motormouth, Teofimo Lopez, a guy whose PR strategy steadfastly revolves around the ‘all publicity is good publicity’ mantra.Embed from Getty Images
It’s only two and half years ago that Lopez was lauded as the world’s leading lightweight and a even a pound-for-pounr contender, after sensationally beating Ukrainian maestro Vasily Lomachenko. Yet he lost the titles he won from Loma in his first defence, then moved up to super-light and has looked relatively uninspired since. There is a feeling he may have been a flash in the pan. That the Loma fight was his zenith and his career has now stagnated. In combination with that, he has done himself few favours with extreme verbal outbursts. Speaking on May 31st he declared,
“I said it like it is. I want to kill Josh Taylor… You’re probably going to lose your life… This is what we sign up for.”
In a sport in which death and serious injury hover like evil spectres, such talk is never welcomed. A loss on Saturday could well see the end of his elite career.
World In Sport Prediction
With the fight at Madison Square Garden, Lopez has home advantage, but it is unclear whether the move up to super-light has suited him and he is boxing a big super lightweight in Josh Taylor.
For Taylor’s part, he has been inactive for a long time and is coming off the Catterall controversy. Despite his outward defiance, he must have been affected by it, psychologically. He lost, really, and in his quiet moments he must know he did.
Taylor blamed his rather pedestrian Catterall performance on making weight and his first excuse in not giving ‘the cat’ a rematch was that he was leaving super-light behind and moving up to welterweight. That never ended up happening. But if there was truth in it and he is tight at 140 lbs, that could well give the ascendancy to his opponent.
It’s a tough one to call, with many of the deciding variables, especially those related to mindset hidden from the public eye. In a fascinating match-up, between two men with far more to lose than they have to win, expect to see Taylor with his hand raised, in a hard-fought points victory.