Josh Taylor came into the weekend riding one of the best waves in boxing, winning the World Boxing Super Series before finishing unification at Jr. welterweight last year with a commanding performance against Jose Ramirez.
Jack Catterall didn’t give a damn about any of that.
The debate about the decision will rage for a while. Some think Catterall was robbed and with one of the official scores coming in at eight rounds to Taylor, they have ammunition. After an eighth round knockdown of Taylor, Catterall should have been ahead but he’d not swept the first two thirds of the contest.
Should Catterall have been ahead enough?
Watching on Saturday, it appeared Taylor did enough to win the last four rounds. Several of those were close. On the official cards, it was where an often ugly bout was decided. Taylor won all four on both cards where he won the fight. A questionable deduction against Catterall in the tenth erased any advantage Catterall might have gained when Taylor was fairly deducted a point the next round and the scoring of the final round decided the bout on two cards, one for Taylor and one for Catterall.
Catterall gave a tremendous effort but his fate was still in his hands late and it slipped away.
Futures: Taylor said he’ll be moving up in weight but that doesn’t mean we won’t see this again someday. What Taylor does, if and when he moves to welterweight, will determine the future. After Saturday, the idea of Taylor challenging Terrence Crawford for a welterweight belt is less attractive but it’s not precluded.
If Taylor moves up, Catterall earned a chance to fight for the WBO belt that will be vacated. Catterall was their mandatory Saturday and had a case for winning. He deserves to factor into the fate of at least that belt going forward.
A Delivery in Three
While Taylor remained champion at Jr. welterweight by the skin of his teeth, two other favorites this weekend couldn’t hold their place on what turned out to be a fantastic tripleheader on Showtime. Long reigning Jr. bantamweight titlist Jerwin Ancajas lost his belt in an early leader for Fight of the Year to Fernando Martinez and Chris Colbert took a one-sided beating from an engaged Hector Garcia. Of the favorites on the night, only Gary Antuanne Russell found the winner’s circle but he was made to work for it until the final seconds.
Futures: Martinez’s win over Ancajas further signals a time of transition in what has been one of boxing’s crown gems in recent years. Jr. bantamweight has delivered for fans over the last half decade with one of the great four-way rivalries ever witnessed. One piece of that pie, Carlos Cuadras, was defeated weeks ago by Bam Rodriguez. Ancajas never worked his way into the rotation and now takes a step backwards, if not a move upward in weight. Next weekend, Roman Gonzalez will attempt to hold off youthful flyweight titlist Julio Cesar Martinez. Will we end with a hat trick of new blood at 115 lbs?
Colbert’s loss was colored in less glory than the valiant effort of Ancajas. Colbert was well behind after a seventh round knockdown but dug in his heels and appeared to be going for it in the ninth. It turned out to be a last stand. Colbert, who has made some headlines for big talk outside the ring, chose not to engage in the last two rounds. The only way he could win was a knockout. Colbert chose a strategy that would ensure he didn’t get knocked out.
His reputation could suffer for a time for the choice. Colbert accepted the loss with grace in post-fight interviews, but those last six minutes in the ring were acceptance without passion. Colbert is a talent, but it raised questions talent can’t answer. Garcia was the opposite. A late replacement with the chance of his fistic lifetime, Garcia fought with fire, desire, and will from the outset. Garcia’s is the more interesting career from here.
Finally, between those two upsets, Russell got his first real test and passed. It wasn’t easy. Former Jr. welterweight titlist Viktor Postol, fighting under the cloud of conflict in his homeland Ukraine, battled back in the mid rounds nearly evened matters up with two of ten rounds to go. Russell adjusted and turned the tide back, even hurting Postol in the final minute. The stoppage was absurd in real time, and slow motion, especially when compared to the damage witnessed in the first and last bout of the night. Postol deserved better. Russell still deserved, earned, the win and now must be taken very seriously as a contender at Jr. welterweight.
While Okolie-Cieslak was hardly an artistic triumph, it was another solid win for Okolie and his ceiling still hasn’t reached. Okolie challenging lineal king Mairis Briedis in what would be a title unification bout would be a best-case scenario for cruiserweight…Guillermo Rigondeaux may have hit the end of the road. Suffering a knockdown that made the difference between a loss and draw, the 41-year old Cuban lost his second in a row to Victor Astrolabio and it’s hard to see much path forward. Rigondeaux’s legs aren’t what they were and neither is his offensive timing. The fighter who made a whole half decade of Jr. featherweights, following a win over Nonito Donaire, decide they didn’t really want to see if they could be the very best in their class likely saw his window close for good. He remains the nominal holder of history’s crown at 122 lbs. But the world moved on from that a long time ago and time appears to have moved on from the talented but unfortunate Cuban maestro.