When Josh Taylor traveled to the bright lights of Las Vegas and defeated José Ramírez in May 2021, he was on top of the world.
After comprehensively outpointing Ramirez to become undisputed light welterweight world champion, the Scot wrapped himself in gold when he left Sin City.
The Tartan Tornado had spent the previous three years laying waste to everyone in the light welterweight ranks, taking the sport by storm.
As the first British fighter to unify a division in the four-belt era, it remains his finest hour. In his own words, Taylor had climbed his Everest.
The fact that he had reached the top of the sport after only 18 fights as a professional spoke to the remarkable pace at which his career had progressed.
Jack Catterall grabbed Josh Taylor by the neck during a promotional event for their rematch
When he returned to Scotland to fight Jack Catterall in February 2022, it was billed as Taylor’s big homecoming.
It was his first fight at home in three years. But, deep in his heart, Taylor knew something wasn’t right.
This was a matchup that didn’t get the juices flowing. For the first time in his career, he had allowed a sense of complacency to wash over him.
“Before the last fight, I was coming down from the top of Everest,” Taylor said yesterday as he and Catterall squared off in their typical explosive style.
‘I had just climbed my Everest and I had all the belts.
“There was talk about moving up and fighting Terence Crawford and all that kind of stuff. I was obviously excited about all that, then I came back and fought Jack Catterall.
“He hadn’t fought with anyone. I just thought, “I’ll get in shape and beat this guy.” That’s probably the mistake I made. I underestimated him and I underestimated how competitive he could be.
“This time I will not make that mistake, neither mentally nor physically. This time we are going to see the best version of what I can do as a fighter.
Their recent matchup was almost a carbon copy of their 2022 weigh-in.
‘Obviously it should have happened immediately and it has been a long time coming. But it’s already here. Better late than never.’
Taylor and Catterall were in Edinburgh at a promotional event for their long-awaited rematch in Leeds on April 27.
Unlike two years ago, when all of Taylor’s belts were on the line, this time there is no gold on the line. This is simply a grudge match more than anything else.
Taylor is not the hot ticket he was two years ago and lost his last remaining belt when he was defeated by Teofimo Lopez at Madison Square Garden last June.
However, he insists there was a lack of recognition for what he had achieved. Unifying a fiercely competitive division at 140lbs remains one of the great feats of any British boxer of the modern era.
“That’s always been the case; I’ve never really had respect for my achievements in sport,” he said.
‘Even before the fight with Ohara Davies (in 2017), people were saying: “Oh, maybe this is a step too far?” But I tore it to pieces.
Then the same thing happened with Viktor Postol. He was fighting some of the best in the world, and beating them, after only 12 or 13 fights.
“I have never had the support I deserved, given my achievements in sport. But it doesn’t bother me.
‘I’m not in this sport to get a pat on the back. I’m in this to be the best I can be. I want to be the best in the world. That’s why I’m still in the game.
The bitter rivals will fight on April 27 in a rematch of their fight in 2022, where Taylor won.
I could retire tomorrow and walk away a happy man. I have had a career that is one in 65 million.
“I’m the only undisputed champion the UK has had in recent years. I’m the first in the UK four-belt era to do so.”
Taylor, now 33, needs to set the record straight against Catterall after prevailing via a hugely controversial split decision in their first fight.
The pair have been at odds on social media, egging each other on and trading insults for much of the past two years.
Taylor admits that some of the exchanges have been in poor taste. But he believes it’s easy for people to point fingers when they don’t know the full extent of the abuse.
“It’s been going on for a couple of years and the online hate and abuse I’ve had has been unbelievable,” the Prestonpans puncher said. ‘It’s not just me. I can not stand it. But receiving threats against my family, my wife and my little sister, putting their workplaces online and threats of violence. That is not activated.
‘It’s a sport; Families should stay out of it. Educate yourself if you want, but keep the families out of it. It’s hard to see how it affected them.
“It’s a different game then, and that’s when I got defensive and started giving back.”
‘They didn’t like it but suddenly I’m the idiot or the bastard. Wait a minute, you just threatened my wife.
‘I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but when it affects your family, it irritates you.
The 33-year-old wants to set the record straight after a controversial split decision in the first fight.
‘Some southern media agitated him after the last fight. They talked about corruption and brown envelopes, all that nonsense, and that’s when I started to understand it.
‘I saw the nature of the abuse changing. It was “you’re corrupt” or “you’re bribing people.” It was just nonsense.’
Security had to intervene to separate Taylor and Catterall at yesterday’s press conference, where they were joined by promoter Eddie Hearn.
The fight will be heavily promoted by Hearn and his company Matchroom, and DAZN will have exclusive rights to show the fight, although it will not be pay-per-view.
Catterall tried to cheer Taylor up by posing in a Hearts shirt, but the Hibs fan gave it short shrift.
“Jack’s not even smart enough to bother me or insult me,” Taylor said. “He Apparently he has a Hearts shirt or someone gave it to him.”
“Apparently his manager knows Andy Halliday or something, but I honestly couldn’t care less.
‘You can turn up in a Hearts top all you want. Lee McGregor is one of my best friends and he is a Jambo.
‘I don’t give a damn who supports who. I like to watch football sometimes and I go watch Hibs from time to time when I get the chance.
‘But that’s all. This isn’t Hearts vs Hibs or Scotland vs England. It’s Taylor against Catterall… and I’m going to break his head.
Taylor is hoping to reignite his career and silence what is likely to be a boisterous pro-Catterall home crowd.
Taylor looks to bounce back from the first loss of his career to Teófimo López (left)
The Englishman hails from Chorley in Lancashire, and Leeds is considered neutral ground, but it is much more of a home fight for Catterall than it is for Taylor.
“It doesn’t really bother me,” said the Scot. ‘I’m used to going to other people’s places and countries of origin.
‘I’ve been all over the world and I’ve been in hostile environments. In any case, I will enjoy it.
“I’d love to be the bad guy there, but I’ll still have an army of fans coming with me from Scotland.”