Editor’s Letter: Forget all the pushing and shoving, the real stories can be found in the minds of Taylor and Catterall

By Matt Christie

THE early headlines surrounding the eagerly awaited Josh Taylor-Jack Catterall rematch will be based solely upon what we see and hear. The threats dripping in machismo, the poking and strangling, the perceived injustice of the first fight and the promises of out and out war in the next.

For now, it’s all just noise. It’s mere window dressing. What lies beneath is where the real battles are taking place.

Full credit to Taylor, now 33 years old, for granting Catterall this long overdue return (on April 27 at the First Direct Arena in Leeds). At this stage of the Scotsman’s career, with that contentious first fight and the sobering loss to Teofimo Lopez the only action he’s seen in the last three years, one could classify a contest with such a bitter enemy as the last thing he needs.

It may also be, at least in terms of earning potential, the only thing he could get. Taylor, not so long ago the finest fighter of them all in Britain, finds himself in that inevitable and unenviable position of being one loss away from comparative oblivion. Therefore, don’t underestimate the mental fortitude behind the scenes that will be required to win this fight.

Life moves fast at the best of times. One minute you’re 17 years old, proud of that fluff on your chin for starting to thicken, and the next you’re in your mid-thirties, acutely aware that your forehead is growing by the day. Getting older can be tough, particularly during the onset of middle-age, when the future comes into stark focus and all you can see is uncertainty. For the boxer who for so long has been conditioned to believe they’re invincible, it can be an excruciating experience.

Taylor, though we’ll no doubt hear that he’s never felt better and can’t wait to rip off Caterall’s head, will unquestionably have wondered in quieter times if his best days are behind him. Worse, it’s reasonable to assume that they are. A long amateur career quickly became one of the best-managed rises through the professional ranks we’ve seen in Britain. The steepness of that trajectory means there would have been plenty of wear and tear endured along the way. There’s also the psychological effects of that opening bout with Catterall, which was followed by the first loss of his career, to consider.

Those effects are yet to be known. The temptation is to presume the worst. But don’t forget how much Catterall has annoyed Taylor in recent years. That alone, irrespective of Taylor being driven by a need to prove to everyone that he’s far from finished, might be all he needs to roll back the years. For some boxers of a certain age, being written off is all they need to rise again. Think Carl Froch flattening George Groves or Azumah Nelson terrorising Jeff Fenech, for example.

Three years younger and yet to believe in his heart that he’s lost a professional fight, Catterall won’t have to deal with the same demons. Consumed by injustice and at times drunk on the widespread belief that he was the victim of it, Catterall himself will need to work hard to ensure his mind is focused at the sound of the opening bell. Last time, he was the underdog that nobody was picking to win. This time, the outlook is different. There is newfound expectancy on his shoulders. Over-confidence can play havoc with that.

Both fighters will wonder about the judges, certainly more so than they would have done heading into fight one. Given the storm of controversy last time, Taylor will have concerns that every close round might now go the way of his opponent. Catterall, long haunted by what led to that storm, might be pressured into straying from his normal style to make sure on the cards.

This is one of those rare bouts that doesn’t need selling. It’s a genuine grudge match that can’t be called with any confidence. Expect the animosity to grow, perhaps to even more distasteful levels. Ultimately, the insults exchanged at press conference tables won’t matter. And while we’re on that, there is no need for managers or trainers to get in on the act to add further spice or soundbites. This is only about Taylor and Catterall. And it is in the private thoughts and fears of those two men where the real stories lie, and where the fight might ultimately be won and lost.

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