The good news for Josh Taylor is that he’ll walk to the ring on Saturday in Glasgow, Scotland, to a hero’s welcome as he prepares to defend his undisputed super lightweight title against mandatory challenger Jack Catterall.
The bad news is, there’s going to be plenty of these mandatories popping up in short order, and it’s going to take a heroic effort in order to keep the belts.
Normally, the mandatory challengers aren’t the fights fans are itching to see. And with no offense meant to the unbeaten Catterall, who is 26-0 with 13 KOs, few outside of his immediate family had been hoping to see Taylor defend against him.
It’s a problem that plagues boxing to the core, because if a champion wants to keep his belts, he often has to fight unappealing and less lucrative fights.
In November at the Michelob Ultra Arena in Las Vegas, Taylor was ringside as WBO welterweight champion Terence Crawford stopped Shawn Porter. Taylor was in demand by the media, and talked of his desire of moving up to face Crawford.
But these mandatories get in the way and prevent that.
“Yeah, it’s difficult,” said Taylor, who along with super middleweight Canelo Alvarez is one of only two undisputed champions in men’s boxing. “It’s a difficult one, you know, because you’re saying, I really want to chase some big fights, like super-stardom fights, and chase these other big names in the sport. But then I’ve got a mandatory coming up for the WBC, and then a mandatory for the WBA, and then a mandatory after that, WBO, and then the IBF.
“You can’t chase the fights that you want. You can’t really path out your own career because you’ve got these mandatories. Otherwise, you get stripped of their belts if you don’t take them. And they’re all after their sanctioning fees as well. You know that we have to make them money. So it’s hard to keep a hold of all the belts.”
Taylor (18-0 with 13 KOs) is from Scotland and fighting in his homeland for the first time in nearly three years. Since last he competed in Scotland, he’s defeated Regis Prograis and Jose Ramirez, unified the super lightweight belts and made himself one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
He should prove that against Catterall, who hasn’t fought anyone even close to Taylor’s level, which makes his glossy record a bit misleading. At BetMGM, Taylor is a -1400 favorite, with Catterall at +650 on the buyback.
It would be easy for Taylor to look ahead to some of the big fights that could be waiting for him, but if you believe that, you don’t know Taylor.
“I’m not thinking about anything else but what’s at this moment in time,” Taylor said. “You know, I’m dialed down. I’m only days away from making this defense. And you know, if it doesn’t go my way, these plans and options that I want to do are going to be a massive speed bump in the way.”
So beating Catterall is a must. And doing it in impressive fashion would help, because the more he can prove to people he’s an elite talent who can compete with the likes of not only Prograis and Ramirez but with Crawford and Errol Spence Jr., as well, the more money he’ll make.
Taylor, though, isn’t about to add any more pressure to his slender shoulders than already exists. Talking about knockouts and spectacular performances only heightens the expectations. While it’s good for business, it’s also ignoring the fact that these are human beings in there who often carry heavy burdens with them to the cage.
Taylor is in sync with the old boxing adage which advises, “Win this fight. Look good in the next one.”
“A win’s a win,” Taylor said. “As long as I get that W, that’s the most important thing. As long as I come out with that win and my hand raised and keep all the belts, that’s all that matters to me. I do think I can knock him out. I do. I really do think I can knock him out. …But I’ll not be going out looking for it, that’s for sure. If it comes, it comes. I’ll jump on him, and I’ll make sure I beat him to a pulp and get the fight out of there. If I see him hurt, I’ll smell the blood then that will get him out of there.”