Catterall aims to spoil Taylor homecoming

Josh Taylor & Jack Catterall
Four-belt unified champion Josh Taylor puts his titles on the line against unbeaten Jack Catterall this Saturday
Venue: Hydro, Glasgow Date: Saturday, 26 February
Coverage: Full live text commentary on the BBC Sport website and app

Blockbuster fight nights are back in Scotland – and Saturday is as big as it gets.

In the build-up to WBA, WBC, WBO and IBF super-lightweight champion Josh Taylor’s last bout on home soil, he was yet to win a world title.

Thirty-three months and four fights later, he has them all – and the Prestonpans fighter throws every belt on the line against an undefeated Jack Catterall at a packed Hydro this weekend.

“It feels like what a fight week should be like,” Taylor told BBC Sport at Thursday’s final press conference.

“The last couple years haven’t been quite the same, empty halls and only essential people there. It’s great to be back to normal. I feel like I’m in a big fight.”

Confident champion predicts ‘great’ homecoming

The pre-fight preparations are a far cry from the subdued scenes athletes have become accustomed to throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, with both fighters and their entourages ushered around packs of media from all over the globe.

Taylor’s previous two bouts have seen the 31-year-old unify the division against Jose Ramirez in front of a restricted Las Vegas crowd last May after securing a first-round stoppage over Apinun Khongsong behind closed doors eight months prior.

But Saturday’s four-belt title showdown has coincided with a return to a more normal way of living, with a sell-out crowd expected at a fever-pitch Hydro, and Taylor is ready to treat his fans to a stellar homecoming display.

“They can expect a great performance,” the champion says. “The mindset’s changing. It’s been a long week because I’ve not trained, but I’m ready to get in and do my job on Saturday.

“I don’t see a way Jack can beat me. The game plan he’s got isn’t going to work. If he comes to fight, it’s a one-way fight. If he comes and meets me in the center of the ring to dash it out, there’s only one winner – that’s me.”

Taylor v Catterall tale of tape

Composed Catterall ready to upset party

There are no guarantees this will be a happy homecoming for Taylor, not by a long way, and the champion acknowledges the challenger’s threats.

Despite being three years younger than his opponent, Catterall has competed in 26 bouts – eight more than Taylor – winning them all, with 13 by knockout.

Taylor, also unbeaten, believes the Chorley-born man is yet to fight anyone close to this level. The Scot may be right, but the mandatory challenger, who stepped aside to allow Taylor to unify the division against Ramirez, has bided his time for “a shot at the jackpot.”

“There’s always going to be a transition period [in your career]this is mine,” Catterall told BBC Sport.

“Fortunately for me, it’s for all the belts. I’ve beaten everybody domestically quite comfortably and I’ve been training and sparring at a world-class level, I’ve just got to produce that on Saturday night.”

With fight night nearing, Taylor’s teeth have begun to show, verbally poking and prodding Catterall by suggesting there are more English fans traveling up to see the champion.

But the fighter nicknamed ‘El Gato’, Spanish for cat, has refused to bite – remaining calm and collected in his demeanor while firm in his belief that his time is now.

“I know this is Josh’s homecoming fight,” Catterall tells BBC Sport. “He’s going to have a lot of support, we expect that, but I’m just buzzing to be in an electrifying atmosphere.

“Once the bell goes, it’s just me and Josh in the ring. The fans can do what they want outside, it’s irrelevant. When you’re focused on something you truly want, the rest doesn’t mean a thing.”

‘It could be a showcase Taylor performance’

While the vast majority of a raucous Glasgow crowd will undoubtedly be roaring in the favor of the undisputed champion, the Taylor camp is aware of the Scot channeling the atmosphere in the right way.

Taylor’s trainer Ben Davison, former coach of WBC heavyweight title holder Tyson Fury, says it is vital his fighter controls his emotion and uses the support to his advantage.

“It’s important Josh doesn’t get carried away with the crowd early,” Davison adds. “But I also think the crowd can become the ’12th man’ as football fans would say.

“I believe there’s a huge difference in the levels when they both get up close, but it’s important Josh’s transitions are smooth and not reckless. If all that is followed to plan, it could be a potential showcase performance from Josh.”

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